TGRG’s Managing Director Juanita Rosenior reflects on the loss of the groundbreaking publication and how the UK advertising industry could have sustained it and benefited from its exisitance.
Scrolling through Instagram on Friday, I came across a post that really broke my heart. After eight years gal-dem, a leading publication for young people of colour and inclusive of all especially of people from the LGBTQA+ community, announced it was coming to an end.
At the time of writing this, their Instagram post had received over 33,000 likes and almost 2000 comments filled with shock and disbelief including my own. gal-dem paved the way for a new wave of Black media creating a lane of Black-led publications never seen before.
Its demise reinforced something that has always been in my heart but became urgent earlier in the year: there is a disconnect between Black media and the wider advertising world. In their statement, gal-dem makes it clear that its end wasn’t influenced by the lack of talent (we all know they had that in spades), the lack of management (you don’t survive eight years in this industry without strategic know-how) but finances. And here is where gasoline is poured onto an already raging fire for me.
gal-dem explained “The hard decision to close the business has come from difficulties we’ve faced stabilising our position both financially and structurally. Keeping a small, independent media company that is reliant on partnerships afloat for the last three years has been increasingly challenging” and here is where I am annoyed that this even had to be a consideration for the team.
According to statista.com, the UK’s advertising industry was worth £31.92bn in 2021 and this was despite the fact it had slowed down significantly due to the pandemic. Just 1% of this money could fuel the Black media ecosystem significantly, however, the industry doesn’t seem to appreciate that a Black media ecosystem even exists. From print to digital to radio to activations there are a number of excellent, top quality media houses that produce content for Black audiences and beyond. What’s missing is that even if advertisers want to consider them for a campaign they don’t always know where to find them nor where to begin their search. This is reflective of the fact that the industry tends only to employee people from a talent pool that doesn’t include many – if any – Black and Brown faces.
What frustrates me is that the advertising industry continually and consistently leaves money on the table when it comes to their segmentation of their campaigns. Highlighted by the Black Pound report completed by the team at Backlight, a cultural agency run by Lydia Amoah, the Black community alone is worth £1.1bn in spend and yet the anecdotal impression given by some Black creatives who work in industry is that agencies place no real value in targeted campaigns and simply expect to pick up Black coins through their standard channels.
This is a mistake.
In this time of austerity where everyone is having to get savvy with their budgets as they’re slashed, there is a greater need for more targeting where you know that spend is guaranteed. We’re a community that appreciates travel, hair care, fashion to name but a few segments as much as anyone else and according to the Backlight report we’re likely to spend significantly more than our white counterparts in those areas too. There is untapped value in audiences such the Boomer generation that are hungry to be spoken to and are looking for a safe space to spend where they are valued.
Agencies are ‘playing safe’ by using the same tried and tested channels they know will garner results but are shooting themselves in the foot by not stepping outside the box and targeting Black communities directly. Seasoned professionals know that you are more likely to get a quicker and economical return on your investment with more targeted advertising. Publications like gal-dem have the ability to make this outcome easier.
I am not ignoring the fact that effort is being made by agencies to be more inclusive and diverse in their advertising. There has been a notable increase in adverts containing Black people, however, whilst this might be a stepping stone towards representation it is certainly not where the work ends.
People approach my agency, TGRG, not only because my talent are phenomenal but because they also tick the diversity box too. However, the strategy is only partially complete because to truly gain traction and reap the rewards of a Black audience, you also have to place money in advertising in the places where people consume and that’s not always in the mainstream you’re familiar with.
Audiences are not stupid and brands and advertisers need to show a much deeper and ongoing commitment to inclusive outreach of these communities, a connection that will take time but is a completely worthy and, importantly, lucrative investment but more in industry need to be smart and really commit to taking this route. It’s actually not as complicated as people think if they just allow Black agencies and professionals the scope to show them how its done.
Gal-dem didn’t need to close. So many brands would have benefited from its ‘cool’ and edgy content, its placement in its community and the engagement it had cultivated. A valuable outlet has been lost not only by its readership but by the advertising industry as a whole.
TGRG Media launched in January 2023 with the mission to support and connect Black media houses to advertisers. Visit our website to learn more about how we intend to work with industry.