Byron Allen challenges Madison Avenue to spend with Black-owned media, or else: Tuesday Wake-Up Call

Welcome to Ad Age’s Wake-Up Call, our daily roundup of advertising, marketing, media and digital news. If you’re reading this online or in a forwarded email, here’s the link to sign up for our Wake-Up Call newsletters. Power suit

Byron Allen is taking matters into his own hands. Tired of pledges from advertisers to diversify their ad spend without actually following through, the owner of a production company and eight cable networks, including the Weather Channel, is insisting agencies and brands shift 2% of their ad spend to Black-owned media—and he’s backing up that demand with legal action.

Allen “says he has engaged in conversations with chairpeople and CEOs at agencies and holding companies as well as brands about investing more in Black-owned media. But one year later, Allen says he has not seen any real progress,” writes Ad Age’s Jeanine Poggi. Diversity efforts, he adds, usually focus on businesses owned by women, and he blames “the racism on Madison Avenue” for the perpetual lack of improvement.

Allen has proven he’s willing to go the distance to make his point. Earlier this year, he settled a $10 billion suit with Comcast and Charter that went all the way to the Supreme Court. We’ll see if that level of pressure is what’s required to effect change.The year of living dangerously

The ad spend numbers for 2020 are mixed. Traditional media of course took a hit, but $9 billion in political spending kept things from getting even worse. (You can thank just two people, Michael Bloomberg and Tom Steyer, for $700 million of that. Neither is president.)

“COVID-19, its associated lockdowns and fear of contagion sent consumers home and kept them out of stores,” writes Ad Age’s Kevin Brown. “Automotive advertising in traditional media (down more than 25% for the year), travel (down more than 50%) and non-digital retail advertising (down more than 20%) were key categories in 2020’s advertising spending decline.

But worldwide digital ad revenue jumped 14.5%, with Amazon, Snap and Facebook raking in the biggest spikes in spending.Moving pictures

For the first time in history, two women are up for Best Director at the Academy Awards. “Nomadland” director Chloé Zhao is also the first woman of color to be nominated, and Lee Isaac Chung’s nod for “Minari” means more than half the nominees in the category aren’t white men.

Nearly half of the best actor nominees are people of color, including Steven Yeun and Riz Ahmed, who are the first Asian American and first Muslim to be nominated, respectively. “Judas and the Black Messiah” became the first film with an all-Black producing team to pick up a nomination for Best Picture. The news comes just a few years after #OscarsSoWhite, a backlash to all-white best actor slates that also shed light on how The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences selects nominees.

It’s a useful illustration of how a group of individuals may not specifically set out to be discriminatory, yet time and again reaches discriminatory conclusions. On their own, each of the more than 7,000 filmmakers submits nominees. But with no one taking an overarching view of the full list of potential nominees, it falls to individuals to call out people of color, women and other often overlooked groups for consideration. Each academy member who leaves that anti-racism work to someone else becomes part of the entrenched problem.Consulting creative

Former Ogilvy and Y&R chief creative Leslie Sims is joining Deloitte Digital as chief creative officer, beefing up the consultancy’s creative chops (and becoming the latest agency vet to bail on that holdco life for techier waters).

“Sims says that marketing’s focus has shifted over the past 10 years from advertising to engaging the consumer on the end-to-end journey from acquisition to purchase and retention,” writes Ad Age’s Judy Pollack. “At Deloitte, working with Nelson Kunkel, global chief design officer and chief creative officer for India Ayan Pal, her team will have access to what she calls a ‘Star Wars bar’ of all the firm has to offer, from user experience to ad tech, martech, performance analytics, business strategy and more, to shape creative and bring humanity to the products and services it builds for clients.”

Before Y&R, Sims spent 16 years at McCann, where she worked on brands including Nature Valley, Avis and Mastercard, and created the Staples Easy Button.You must be technoking

Some agencies revel in silly titles for executives, and the industry has hired its fair share of “ninjas,” “natives,” “prophets” and “geniuses.” But Tesla founder Elon Musk is going several steps further. His new title is “Technoking of Tesla,” though he also retains the position of CEO.

Chief Financial Officer Zach Kirkhorn also becomes the “Master of Coin,” likely because the company bought $1.5 billion worth of Bitcoin last month. At least that moniker is grounded in a job description. We all know there’s only one true Techno ’King.Just briefly

In the market: Retail investors could plow $3 billion of stimulus money into stocks as soon as they receive their checks, Business Insider reports. Movie chain AMC’s share price, which has been a popular pick among online traders, began rising on Friday, the day checks began showing up in some Americans’ accounts.

Growing up is overrated: Toys “R” Us is making a comeback, CNBC reports. Owner WHP Global said it is planning to open retail stores in the U.S. before the winter holidays. The brand still exists in brick-and-mortar incarnations in 25 other countries. For now, all purchases from the Toys “R” Us site redirect to Amazon.

Veni, vidi, venti: In a win for accessibility, Starbucks in the U.S. and Canada will offer Braille menus, Delish reports. Large-print menus will also be available, and blind or visually impaired customers can also use a third-party app called Aira to access menu information.

That does it for today’s Wake-Up Call. Thanks for reading and we hope you are all staying safe and well. For more industry news and insight, follow us on Twitter: @adage.

From CMO Strategy to the Ad Age Datacenter Weekly, we’ve got newsletters galore. See them all here. 

Subscribers make the difference. Individual, group and corporate subscriptions are available—including access to our Ad Age Datacenter. Find options at

Previous Post

Musk adds ‘Technoking of Tesla’ title and CFO Is Coin ‘Master’

Next Post

Tacos for $187,336 and digital basketballs for $69,000 … the crypto-bubble comes to marketing

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *