A Black-owned media group took out a full-page ad in this past Sunday’s edition of The Detroit Free Press requesting a one-hour Zoom meeting with General Motors CEO Mary Barra to discuss the automaker’s advertising strategy.
The letter, titled “General Motors Chairman and CEO Mary Barra refuses to sit down with Black Owned Media Companies,” was written by Byron Allen’s Allen Media Group and signed by the leaders of some of the largest Black-owned media companies in America. In the letter, the media group points out that GM spends billions of dollars in advertising each year, but “less than 0.5 percent goes to Black Owned Media.” The group is calling for Barra to change this and dedicate at least five percent of the automaker’s marketing budget to advertise in Black-owned media companies.
“Mary, true leaders must lean in and personally address the real issues in our society and in business,” the media company said in the letter. “We are publicly asking you to stop the systemic racism by General Motors against Black Owned Media companies. We are requesting a one hour Zoom meeting with you and several of your key board members and us, the largest Black Owned Media companies in America, so we can resolve this very important issue and have a long-term partnership that’s mutually beneficial for General Motors and the African American consumers.”
Signatories of the letter include Ice Cube, rapper, co-founder of pro-basketball league BIG3 and founder of film production company Cubevision, along with Nu Vision Media CEO Roland Martin, Black Enterprise CEO Earl Graves Jr. and Central City Productions chairman and CEO Don Jackson, among others.
GM had responded to an earlier request from the media company and granted it a face-to-face with GM’s current Chief Marketing Officer, Deborah Wahl. This letter indicates the group does not want to speak to Wahl, however, as they were unimpressed with her efforts to diversify the marketing of her previous employer, McDonald’s.
“Mary, you have asked us to meet with your Chief Marketing Officer, Deborah Wahl. We have absolutely no interest in that because when Deborah was Chief Marketing Officer of McDonald’s, in our opinion, Black Owned Media was, once again, severely neglected, minimized and discriminated against,” the letter says.
The letter also calls on Barra to resign from her role with GM if she does not agree to meet with the Black-owned media leaders.
“If you continue to hold the position that Black Owned Media doesn’t deserve meaningful economic inclusion and we are not worth meeting with, then you should resign, effective immediately,” the group said.
In response to the letter, GM spokesman Pat Morrissey said the automaker has made strides to diversify its advertising in recent years and plans to continue this going forward.
“We have increased our planned spending with both diverse-owned and diverse-dedicated media across our family of brands,” said Morrissey.