A Report from the 2009 African American Interent Marketing Summit

Current Affairs / Friday, November 20th, 2009

I attended the second annual African American Internet Marketing Summit yesterday in Chicago at the downtown Wyndham hotel. I didn't attend last year and was excited about this year's topical focus on Internet Marketing. Ken Smikle does a great job of organizing this event and Interactive One was one of several outstanding sponsors. I met a few folks that I will continue to network with and all-in-all the information that was presented was quite helpful.


The summit caters more to marketing professionals who are working with companies that have realized the need or are aspiring to improve their connection with the large and lucrative African American consumer via online platforms. The summit doesn't quite hit the mark in addressing the unique needs of African American internet marketers who are using online tools to sell products and services or in educating aspiring marketers in the tools of the internet marketing trade. You get a bit of that but it's more of a session for dealing with the big guys and successfully executing profitable marketing campaigns that serve our community and provide a financial return for advertisers. It's difficult to meet every need and African American Online Marketing is a fairly broad theme. The focus of the summit is appropriate for the audience and the industry speakers and presentations are spot on. I'll probably attend again next year, but there is still a need for educational seminars for African American internet marketing entrepreneurs who are serving the needs of small businesses and/or not-for-profit organizations who need to establish an online presence.


  • The Latest Research on African-Americans, Social Media and the Internet: Oveda Brown, Manager of Multicultural Marketing for Arbitron gave a presentation on The Latest Research on African Americans, Social Media and the Internet. It was obvious to everyone in the room that the digital divide has closed and that African Americans are over-indexing in many categories of internet use when you factor in mobile devices that have internet access capabilities. We are huge users spending six hours a week several times a day visiting dating sites, looking for jobs and downloading movies among other things. We're also getting much more comfortable making significant purchases and lead all categories in mobile usage.
  • Chaos or Opportunity: How to Navigate Economic Uncertainty. Kevin McFall, President of Red Clay Digital and Co-Founder/VP of RushmoreDrive.com and Angela Benton, Publisher of BlackWeb 2.0 provided an excellent panel discussion regarding the challenges and opportunities for Black media platforms as they related to advertising funding and corporate support. They shared their belief that targeted African American online media platforms can be viable whether black-owned or otherwise but they must be clear about their purpose, their marketing strategy, and the real extent of their reach as a basis for financial backing. The African American market is a niche and there are many niches within the niche. Content producers must be comfortable in knowing that the size of their audience may not be a big enough draw for significant advertising revenue and a different funding model may be required.
  • Digital Decisions: Is Your Content Audience or Advertiser Driven? Smokey Fontaine, Chief Content Officer for Interactive One gave a great presentation about what Interactive One is doing to provide effective marketing solutions for African American marketing while superserving our community via radio, television, print and online media. It was an excellent presentation and Interactive One has come a long and successful way since it's humble beginnings in Washington DC with Cathy Hughes providing visionary leadership all the while.
  • The Advertiser's Perspective: What Clients are Looking For. The summit ended with a presentation featuring key industry perspectives from advertising executives. The panel included senior leaders from industries that continue to struggle with the relevance of online marketing to African Americans despite clear and convincing data that indicates the profit potential for those who get it right. Among the speakers were Don Moore, President of Burrell Digital; Brian Anderson, President Energi; and Sherman Wright, Co-Founder of Commonground Marketing. There was an outstanding exchange on what the giants of search, radio and other industries could learn and where opportunities remain for those who can effectively and convincingly make the case for targeted marketing to our niche. Don's presentation of Burrell's work with American Airlines on Black Atlas was especially enjoyable.


I drove up to the summit from Indianapolis. The
summit began at 9:00 am and I was a few minutes late because I did not
plan for rush hour traffic even though I left Indy at 6:30 that
morning. Note to self: next time, drive up the night before.

intended to play it low key, wanting to get a sense of the kinds of
professionals in the room and the quality of the content. Both were
excellent but again, not quite specific enough to my interests in this
niche. There were a number of senior executives from marketing firms
along with sales consultants, buyers, publishers, media directors, and
designers. These are folks responsible for managing the goals and
execution of client campaigns intended to create awareness and drive
purchases for their brands. There was great information shared but on
an order of magnitude that is more of a case study material for
maverick entrepreneurs and less of the brass tacks discussion and
demonstration of what works and how to get it done. Again, much respect to Ken Smikle of Target Market News for an outstanding summit.

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