Media and fashion mogul Sean Combs entered the debate over General Motors’ ad spending with Black-owned media, threatening on Thursday to “weaponize our dollars” within the African-American community if the automaker doesn’t respond favorably.
In an open letter to corporate America entitled “If You Love Us, Pay Us,” Combs hit back at GM for using his media company, Revolt, as an example of a partnership with Black-owned publications.
“While REVOLT does receive advertising revenue from GM, our relationship is not an example of success,” Combs wrote. “Instead, REVOLT, just like other Black-owned media companies, fights for crumbs while GM makes billions of dollars every year from the Black community.”
Combs’ letter comes after a group of leading Black media owners recently posted full-page ads in national newspapers accusing GM of “systemic racism,” and demanding that CEO and Chairman Mary Barra “resign” if she didn’t boost ad spending.
GM responded by setting up meetings with an array of Black-owned media executives while also promising to quadruple ad spending.
The exact size of GM’s advertising is a tightly kept secret. Government filings indicate the company spends $3 billion annually on marketing, but that includes auto shows and product debuts.
In an interview with NBC News last month, Byron Allen, owner of the Weather Channel, and one of the signatories of the ads, said Black media leaders want a $200 million annual commitment for Black-owned media, rising 5 percent annually.
Allen estimated GM spends just 0.5 percent of its ad budget with black-owned media. The automaker contends that figure is 2 percent. In its response on April 1, GM said it was prepared to increase spending to 8 percent. While the company It wouldn’t reveal a specific dollar amount, based on figures used in the advertising trade media, that would reach around $180 million.
For his part, Combs seeks substantially more.
“If the Black community represents 15 percent of your revenue, Black-owned media should receive at least 15 percent of the advertising spend,” he said in his letter. “Like the rest of Corporate America, General Motors is telling us to sit down, shut up and be happy with what we get.”
While he declined to say what might happen if GM falls short of expectations, Combs suggested that, “The same way you understand the power of our dollars, we understand our power to take them away from any corporation that doesn’t give us the economic inclusion we deserve. We are prepared to weaponize our dollars.”
Combs found himself enveloped in his own controversy by stepping into the ad debate. Artist Jessica Fyre responded with a tweet accusing Combs of “hypocrisy,” claiming she was recently asked to host a show on the Revolt network “without pay.”
Last year, rapper Mase accused Combs of business practices that “purposely starved” artists represented by his label, Bad Boy Records.
“Our own race is enslaving us,” Mase wrote in an Instagram post. “If it’s about us owning, it can’t be about us owning each other. No More Hiding Behind “Love”. U CHANGED? GIVE THE ARTIST BACK THEIR $$$. So they can take care of their families.”
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