General Motors has canceled Thursday’s planned meeting between CEO Mary Barra, Byron Allen and other leaders of Black-owned media companies and will instead host a series of individual meetings with the executives over the coming weeks.
Earlier this week, Barra agreed to a Zoom meeting with Allen and the leaders of several other Black-owned media companies to discuss the automaker’s advertising spending strategies. The group had taken out a full-page ad in this past Sunday’s edition of The Detroit Free Press accusing the automaker of spending only 0.5 percent of its marketing budget with Black-owned media corporations and lambasted Barra for refusing to meet with the group over the matter.
The group then ran the same advertisement Wednesday in the Wall Street Journal, Washington Post and Michigan Chronicle, despite the fact that Barra had agreed to meet with the group Thursday. Byron, who owns Allen Media Group, later received an email from GM Chief Marketing Officer Deborah Wahl Wednesday night indicating the meeting would be postponed in favor of individual meetings with Black media executives.
“This approach allows us to extend the conversation to more media organizations, keep the groups small enough to have meaningful dialogue and also allows us to extend the conversation to include our existing Black-owned media partners,” GM spokesman Pat Morrissey told the Free Press in an interview. “We view this as a win-win for all.”
Morrissey added that the group is trying to “advance a narrative of factual inaccuracies and character assault against our CEO, Mary Barra,” with the letter and said the decision to continue running the ads this week is “particularly perplexing given that the paid advertising appears after the GM team has had repeated meetings with Mr. Allen and his team.”
GM this week also pledged to increase its ad spending with Black-owned media companies from its current level, which is actually two percent, to four percent in 2022 and eight percent in 2025.
Allen expressed frustration over GM’s decision and is hopeful Barra will change her mind and agree to meet with the group he represents.
“Once again we are extremely disappointed that Mary didn’t live up to her word and show up for a one-hour Zoom meeting that she scheduled with Black-owned media, who wrote her an open letter,” he said.
The group includes the following media executives:
- Byron Allen: Founder, chairman & CEO of Allen Media Group
- Roland Martin: CEO of Nu Vision Media, Inc.
- Todd F. Brown, PMP: Founder, Urban Edge Networks and HBCU League Pass
- Don Jackson: Founder, chairman and CEO of Central City Productions
- Earl “Butch” Graves Jr.: President and CEO, Black Enterprise
- Ice Cube: Owner and founder of BIG3, Cubevision, CWBA
- Junior Bridgeman: Owner of Ebony Media, publisher of Ebony Magazine
It is currently unclear when the first of the planned individual meetings between GM and the media executives will take place.