Friday, December 30, 2011

One Step Forward ... Two Steps Back

By: Michael Steele, President and CEO 
Advantage Communications, Inc.

For years, I’ve been a proud innovator of multicultural marketing. In fact, I can remember when this discipline initially birthed itself upon the shoulders of consumer equality pioneers such as D. Parke Gibson, author of the legendary $30 Billion Negro and $70 Billion in the Black: America’s Black Consumers. Mr. Gibson was a revered pillar amongst African American and business communities as he was not shy about voicing his expertise on the need to diversify corporate America. As a result, he essentially revolutionized the art of marketing. 

Beyond Mr. Gibson, several advocates have spoken up on behalf of diverse audiences including Hispanics (now the largest ethnic consumer segment), Asians and the LGBT community – all in keeping with the need to adhere to diversity in the marketing arena. 

At its early inception, multicultural marketing was centered on speaking to the needs of diverse communities, which were at the time called “Special Markets” or “Market Development”. As time progressed, several organizations and corporations witnessed substantial growth within these consumer markets and began to realize that such growth could greatly affect their bottom line. 

Today, multicultural audiences represent billions of dollars in total consumer spending. According to The Buying Power of Black America, “In 2009, black households spent an estimated $507 Billion in 27 product and services categories.” (See chart to left.) 

As of 2010, black buying power equated to nearly $836 Billion. Hispanic consumers also hold significant spending power. According to a whitepaper published by Mercury Media entitled The Power of the Hispanic Consumer, “By 2017, the Hispanic consumer’s disposable income will have grown 76% to $1.83 trillion.” 

I would be remiss to not mention that the Asian market is also growing at a rapid pace in its current and forecasted purchasing power. According to a 2009 Selig Center report, “Asians’ buying power will reach nearly $700 billion in 2014, when their percentage of the population will only spill a little over 5 percent.” (See chart to right.)

Understanding this power of multicultural consumer spending, today’s marketers are more comfortable in the multicultural marketing space. I even applaud modern-age CEOs/CMOs as they appear to understand the importance of multicultural marketing to their respective businesses and brands. However, what they fail to understand and remain confused about is how to manage multicultural marketing as a successful, functional group within their organizations.

This confusion was further uncovered by a recent survey conducted by AdAge amongst chief marketing officers, senior VPs of marketing and other manager/directors from a variety of consumer-based disciplines. The high-level results were discussed in an article entitled “Marketers: We Don’t Get How to do Diversity.” And by the way, I can’t think of a more appropriate title!

The article noted, “While 84% of the marketers believe multicultural marketing is ‘critical to my business,’ almost 40% said they don’t know the financial value of multicultural groups to their companies.”


I interpret this statement to be a transparent void in understanding how to establish and maintain Return-On-Investments (ROIs). But, is this not the basic measurement for success for any and all marketers? Of course it is, and this responsibility lies with the CMOs. It’s nowhere near realistic to invest if executive leadership doesn’t understand ROIs. Herein lies a significant portion of the problem with multicultural marketing. While CEOs/CMOs may understand the percent of volume attributed to diverse consumers, they do not understand the ROI potential nor can they quantify the impact of targeted marketing campaigns.

During my career with The Coca-Cola Company, I oversaw the multicultural marketing group and worked on a series of consumer categories that held a disproportionate share of ethnic consumption. I took pride in establishing my department to the same level of value as the other departments. By this I mean we set measurable objectives, quantifiable strategies as well as ethnic profit & loss statements (P&Ls) – all of which were put in place to hold our department accountable for results. The same process that worked for me several years ago can work for today’s multicultural marketers.

Another significant portion of the problem with multicultural marketing is the fact that CEOs/CMOs struggle in understanding how to structure the multicultural marketing department to be most effective and generate optimum profits.

A recent demonstration of this struggle was the announcement that certain multinational organizations have pushed the responsibility of multicultural marketing down to the brand level in an attempt to force accountability or quantify the business. In reality, however, what this process has done is deemed multicultural marketing a lower priority– internally (particularly amongst executive leadership) and externally. This may not have been an intentional effect, but the truth is that these segments are now at risk of serious stalling or even complete demise.

These CEOs/CMOs have failed the multicultural community and their own companies in not understanding the economic impact these consumers have on shareholder equity. At my agency, Advantage Communications, we live and breathe the disciplines of successful multicultural marketing management.

Here are five “musts” we’ve coined for managing multicultural marketing for our clients: 
  • Multicultural marketing must require 100% commitment, 100% of the time. The same level of commitment that is dedicated to other disciplines within an organization should be exhibited for multicultural marketing. 
  • Multicultural marketing must be managed via executive leadership – not junior personnel. Let’s remember… key business decisions should be made from the top down, not the bottom up! 
  • Executive leadership must understand that relegating multicultural marketing is abdicating their responsibility for capturing every consumer dollar available for their respective businesses and brands. 
  • Multicultural marketing must not be viewed as a percent of a brand marketer’s compensation plan but rather a business segment. 
  • Multicultural marketing must be treated like profitable, consumer segments such as the youth, aging or gender-based markets. Just as business forecasting and analytical teams support these business segments, such should be the case for multicultural marketing. This is the avenue to demonstrate results. 

With all this said, I’m sure many of us have heard that one of the reasons these companies lack structure in multicultural marketing is because they cannot find qualified human capital to manage this discipline. Over the years, large corporations have hired highly assimilated minorities that have not done their due-diligence for these markets.

The minorities that are fortunate to enter into corporate America via multicultural marketing or similar ethnic disciplines only do so with the intention of moving up the corporate ladder. In other words, their “brown” positions are simply conduits for general market opportunities they seek to reach. As a result, no one is truly taking ownership of multicultural marketing.

What they fail to realize is that qualified talent can often be found right in the backyard of their own corporations or within their multicultural agency relationships. They must simply put forth the effort to secure talent and not wait for it to knock at their front door.

Over the years, my associates have had the opportunity to assist several of our clients in effectively structuring their multicultural marketing groups to optimize value, including the use of P&L statements by segments. We keenly understand that multicultural marketing is a discipline that can be applied not only across the country but internationally as well.

On this note, I must say I find it amazing that some CMOs appear to better understand multicultural marketing internationally but fail us domestically. Throughout my tenure with The Coca-Cola Company, I had the privilege of traveling to many countries. In these markets, CMOs spearheaded efforts to adopt culturally-relevant product offerings to meet the needs of diverse consumers. Why not do this in the states? The same basic philosophies apply no matter where you are! Marketing is marketing in the United States and abroad.

So, here’s a fact: Multicultural marketing is a complex discipline. However, knowledge is power. If you’re interested in learning how you may better structure your multicultural marketing group for success, we are the solution.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Advantage Communications, Inc. Selected as Communications Partner for Doyne Construction Company

Advantage Communications, Inc. has been selected as a strategic communications partner for Doyne Construction Company, Inc. Advantage Communications, located in Little Rock, will be charged with ultimately raising consumer awareness and appreciation of Doyne Construction Company’s unique services.

Doyne Construction Company, Inc., a commercial building contractor headquartered in North Little Rock, AR, was established in 1983 by Dexter Doyne. Doyne Construction Company, Inc. prides itself in its competitive edge… being a “one stop shop”.  Doyne Construction Company, Inc. customers are provided services in:
           Design Build
           Budgets and Estimating
           Technical Proposals
           Project Management and Construction Management

“We have been fortunate to have been around since the 80’s,” stated Dexter Doyne, President of Doyne Construction Company, Inc. “However, we have also come to realize that our market - as well as our customers - is constantly evolving. As a result, we must evolve as well and begin to communicate why our company is unique amongst others.  We take a “one stop shop” approach which is not the standard for the construction business. Our customers know that as soon as they engage with Doyne Construction Company, they need not go anywhere else!”

“Our agency has been a long supporter of Doyne Construction Company and we now have the opportunity to grow our partnership and deliver results – which is what we stand for,” explained Michael Steele, President of Advantage Communications, Inc. “Doyne Construction, represents the epitome of where the industry is going, and we look forward to helping the company achieve its goals.”   

Friday, September 30, 2011

Advantage Communications, Inc. Selected as Agency of Record for Arkansas Department of Health HIV/STD/Hepatitis C Section

LITTLE ROCK, AR – September 29, 2011 – Advantage Communications, Inc. has been selected as “Agency of Record” for the Arkansas Department of Health HIV/STD Hepatitis C Section. As agency of record, Advantage Communications, Inc. will work with the Section to develop and execute a statewide public education campaign encouraging Arkansans to understand the risks of HIV/AIDS, prevent the spread of the disease and seek regular testing. 

According to the Arkansas Department of Health as of December 2009, 5,793 people were living with HIV/AIDS in Arkansas. The number of new diagnoses of HIV infection reported to the Arkansas Department of Health in 2009 was 338. Of these new cases, 79% were male and 57% were between the ages of 30 and 49 years. HIV/AIDS has also disproportionately affected minorities – specifically African Americans and Hispanic Americans – on both a national and state level. As of 2009, 49% of new HIV infections were among African Americans (42%) and Hispanic Americans (7%). 

“We have come to a cross-road in our HIV/AIDS communications efforts in the State of Arkansas,” explained Tina Long, Section Chief of the Arkansas Department of Health HIV/STD Hepatitis C Section. “There is no better time than the present to be more aggressive with Arkansans about understanding EVERYTHING there is to know about HIV/AIDS and how it may be prevented. We must work together as one unit to combat this disease to substantially improve the health of Arkansans within and outside of our communities. It is an uphill battle but with our new partner, Advantage Communications, we expect to move forward.” 

“We are simply humbled to be a partner to the Arkansas Department of Health HIV/STD Hepatitis C Section,” said Michael Steele, President and CEO of Advantage Communications, Inc. “This is no new territory for our agency as we have been engaged in the fight against the spread of HIV/AIDS for several years now, including our work with Sheryl Lee Ralph, national AIDS activist and others. We look forward to decreasing the spread of HIV/AIDS and increasing the number of supporters across our State.” 

For more information about this statewide HIV/AIDS campaign, contact Advantage Communications at 501.374.2220.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Former Razorback and Current Chicago Bulls Player Ronnie Brewer to Star in Local Anti-Tobacco Advertising

UAPB/Stamp Out Smoking Utilizes NBA Star to Maximize Tobacco Cessation Messaging

The Minority Initiative of Stamp Out Smoking will launch this year’s public education efforts with new television and radio advertising featuring former Arkansas Razorback and current Chicago Bulls player, Ronnie Brewer. The new ads will air in early October and run throughout 2011, ending in June 2012.

The Minority Initiative of Stamp Out Smoking is managed via a strategic partnership between the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff Minority Initiative Sub-Recipient Grant Office, the Master of Science Degree in Addiction Studies and agency of record, Advantage Communications, Inc.

“Ronnie is the epitome of living a healthy, smoke-free lifestyle,” stated Dr. Calvin Johnson, Program Director of the Minority Initiative Sub-Recipient Grant Office. “Each year, more than 47,000 African Americans die from a tobacco-related illness. Understanding the importance of remaining aggressive and relevant to this target audience, we are confident that Ronnie’s delivery of our anti-tobacco messaging will resonate throughout this year and for those to come. We appreciate Advantage Communications’ recommendation to partner with Ronnie for this campaign. ” 

Entitled I Can’t Imagine, the TV/radio advertisements highlight Ronnie in the element that has deemed him a star - basketball. Leveraging this star power and appeal to the Minority Initiative of Stamp Out Smoking’s target audience (African American males, ages 18+), the TV/radio advertisements feature Ronnie reminiscing on the path he has taken to pave his career while underscoring how life may be totally different had he chosen to smoke.

“It was indeed a pleasure to work with Ronnie for this creative initiative,” stated Toni McCastle, Media Liaison for MISRGO and the Addiction Studies Program. “With our charge to create healthier lives in our state by sharing the life-saving benefits of tobacco cessation and encouraging minority populations to quit tobacco use, we could not have chosen a better advocate to carry this message.”

For more information about the new advertising or about the Minority Initiative of Stamp Out Smoking, contact Toni McCastle at 870.575.8923.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

UnPlug Me!

It's No Longer the Media Community You Know

By: Michael Steele, President and CEO 
Advantage Communications, Inc.
Is America "unplugging?"

By now, I’m sure you’ve heard chatter about the "Death of Cable."* Much of this has been fueled by the proliferation of new media tools. According to a recent interactive poll conducted by Adweek/Harris, approximately 51% of Americans would stop paying for cable TV and watch all their programming on the Internet if they could get all the shows they wanted free. In direct contrast were the 34% of Americans that had no interest in giving up their cable TV – interesting, but not surprising that those who preferred to stay plugged-in skewed older. (source: Adweek/Harris Interactive, May 2011).

According to a 2011 analysis from the Associated Press, eight of the nine largest subscription-TV providers in the U.S. lost 195,700 subscribers in the April-to-June quarter. The analysis, featured in an article entitled Pay TV Industry Loses Record Number of Subscribers, noted, "…But it is also possible that people are cancelling cable, or never signing up in the first place, because they’re watching cheap internet video."

With this said, we must dissect the implications of such a transition on the overall broadcast media community and also on that of the ethnic media and consumer market. As multicultural experts at Advantage Communications, Inc., we have been tracking along with this phenomenon and our findings are consistent with projections of many consumer analysts.

As recently as 30 years ago, network TV included three (3) major networks that could reach almost 90% of the U.S. population. Now, however, consumers have hundreds of cable channel choices, making it more challenging for marketers to reach them. On top of this, additional forms of interactive media and entertainment have captured the attention of the once loyal broadcast customer, some of which include:
  • Netflix
  • HuLu
  • Google or Apple TV
  • HBO GO
  • YouTube (with the aid of social media tools such as Facebook, Twitter, etc.)

This overwhelming interest in new media has been attributed to many factors. However, the reigning factor seems to tie back to our weakening economy and proliferation of new media. In many households, cable TV is considered a "luxury" item. When budget-cutting consumers consider alternative options to cable, those available via the Internet are quite attractive for reasons ranging from cost efficiency to ease of accessibility.
*For the purpose of this article, satellite providers such as DirecTV and Dish Network are considered as cable.

Cable customers appear to be "unplugging" at unprecedented rates, challenging forward-thinking marketers to redefine our media community as we know it. Cable customers appear to be "unplugging" at unprecedented rates, challenging forward-thinking marketers to redefine our media community as we know it.

So what does this mean for the multicultural segments? The minority consumer market disproportionately consumes broadcast media – we know this as a fact. For those of you who may not know, according to Nielsen Media Research in the 2005 report, "TV Audience Special Study: African American Audience", television use in African-American households far out-paced viewing in all other homes. It noted that African American homes tuned into 40% more television than other households and our Hispanic counterparts are not far behind.

With this understanding, further elaboration on the impact of the minority population disengaging from cable television paints the picture of the ensuing paradigm shift.

According to Ebony writer Adrienne P. Samuels in an October 2008 article entitled TV With Out TV: As Black Shows Shift Online, Viewers Can Tune Into the Web To Find Color, she says:
"You can still find the occasional Black character on cable channels such as TV One or BET, or run across an African-American on a reality series, or on the Food Network or HGTV. And the CW network offers two Black shows this fall. But a growing number of Blacks are headed to the online frontier, where Web-based episodic programming (aka Internet TV) is fast becoming popular--and even faster becoming a moneymaker… In June, YouTube (the largest video site online) had 8.3-million African-American viewers, according to Nielsen Media Research."

This new media consumption behavior is not only visible within the African American community but the Hispanic as well.

A study was recently conducted by the Center for Hispanic Marketing Communication, with the support of DMS Research, from a national online sample of nearly 2,500 Hispanics who prefer English; Hispanics who prefer Spanish; non-Hispanic whites; African-Americans and Asians in the United States.
Key findings from this study uncovered broad diversity in social media behaviors among different ethnic/cultural groups and that minorities visit social networking sites more frequently than non-Hispanic whites. In general, the study concluded that ethnic minorities visit social networking sites more frequently than non-Hispanic whites.

While these are only two examples of minority segment preference of new media tools, growing consumer trends continue to demonstrate the prevalence of these tools against this population.
At Advantage Communications, Inc. we’ve taken this information and our learnings about the new media tools and translated them into action for our clients. We’ve embraced the fact that cable TV will more than likely be around for years to come but it is no longer what it used to be for reaching our multicultural segments. We’ve immersed ourselves in the social media arena leveraging tools such as Facebook, Twitter, You Tube, Blogs, LinkedIn and more to speak to targeted consumers. We are approaching the digital divide with our guns loaded – or better stated - our smart phones hot!

So what do you think will happen when the heaviest users of broadcast media unplug? Or better yet, are YOU ready?This new media consumption behavior is not only visible within the African American community but the Hispanic as well.

A study was recently conducted by the Center for Hispanic Marketing Communication, with the support of DMS Research, from a national online sample of nearly 2,500 Hispanics who prefer English; Hispanics who prefer Spanish; non-Hispanic whites; African-Americans and Asians in the United States.
Key findings from this study uncovered broad diversity in social media behaviors among different ethnic/cultural groups and that minorities visit social networking sites more frequently than non-Hispanic whites. In general, the study concluded that ethnic minorities visit social networking sites more frequently than non-Hispanic whites.

While these are only two examples of minority segment preference of new media tools, growing consumer trends continue to demonstrate the prevalence of these tools against this population.
At Advantage Communications, Inc. we’ve taken this information and our learnings about the new media tools and translated them into action for our clients. We’ve embraced the fact that cable TV will more than likely be around for years to come but it is no longer what it used to be for reaching our multicultural segments. We’ve immersed ourselves in the social media arena leveraging tools such as Facebook, Twitter, You Tube, Blogs, LinkedIn and more to speak to targeted consumers. We are approaching the digital divide with our guns loaded – or better stated - our smart phones hot!

So what do you think will happen when the heaviest users of broadcast media unplug? Or better yet, are YOU ready?

Thursday, August 11, 2011

From the world of mega advertising to the perspective of a small business owner – some principles just stay the same.

by: Michael Steele

My career has privileged me to work on major brands domestically and internationally in high level executive marketing positions. From the banking to beverage industries, I’ve developed or help develop major marketing communications campaigns that have stood the test of time – both good and bad.

Interestingly, my experiences have taught me that there are core principles in business that stay the same no matter the industry or size of the business. I now own an advertising agency, Advantage Communications, that specializes in consumer marketing. I find the core principles of my corporate career have become the foundation of my career as an agency principal.

Lesson 1: Fact-based Decision Making.
As part of the mission of Advantage Communications, we are fact-based decision makers and we market the fact that we do not guess with our client resources..simply get the facts and allow the data and good judgment to pave the way. We believe that every campaign we develop must be founded in sound, proven research – not just passionate ideas of what would “look good”. Fact-based decision making is a principle I learned early in my career. I remember being in a meeting at The Coca-Cola Company and watching a hot-headed whippersnapper have his ego handed back to him after making a passionate presentation based on his thoughts and ideas and very little factual information.

Lesson 2: Shareholder Value.
Every day at Advantage Communications, I teach our team that the most important service we can provide is to make our clients goals and objectives – our goals and objectives. This may sound cliché, but the most successful campaigns can die if they deliver the WRONG results. Imagine if your client had a goal to support a new product launch and you delivered added value against one of their already established brands. Successful yes- but not the right kind of success and you are equally fired. To this experience, Advantage Communications has built a history of successful client engagements by helping our clients meet THEIR goals and objectives. While we believe in innovation, the key is focus! Everything we do is about creating value for our clients. At Advantage Communications, we have developed a culture of value-driven marketing leaders. Focusing on our clients’ business objectives allows us to grow with our clients. We seek out small brand, long-term relationships, and below-the-line opportunities with major corporations.

Lesson 3: First thing about creative – it better work!
Creative boils down to 20% of what agencies do and 80% of our reputation in an industry that is under fire. Advertising is critical to the success of most consumer brands… but marketers must understand the purpose. Most of my clients today are building brand awareness and preference.

Not all brands need to advertise for awareness. At the Coca-Cola Company we didn’t advertise for awareness, but rather our goal was simply convert and retain users faster than the guys in blue. In most marketing organizations only one metric stands above all – intent to purchase.

Lesson 4: Track and measure results.
If you are in the ad agency business, you understand the key to retaining clients is effective tracking of results of your campaign. At Advantage Communications, we have one simple rule – If you can’t measure it, don’t do it.

Everything I did as a CMO was focused on ROI. Which marketing and public relations campaigns I launched were all dependent on one key pillar – what is the ROI and how do I prove it? This has become a necessary discipline – one that has allowed me to steer clear of the urge to approve creative because it is impressive or launch a campaign because it is innovative. My comrades learned early on – it better have a trackable, measurable, significant ROI. After all, as CMO it was my accountability to increase sales for the company.

Lesson 5: Planning, planning, and planning.
There is an art to planning and a discipline to follow the plan. Many people can plan, and very well, I might add. But the discipline comes in revisiting the plan, following up on deliverables, tracking results – all details that let you know if your plan is delivering the ROI it promised. Learning to become an effective planner has given me a competitive advantage.

I am amazed at the number of young smart talents that do not understand the importance of planning. Many will successfully get through business school, yet and fail to understand the key to any business is planning and execution. If you are not part of your clients planning process, you are under-funded and likely to fail. Planning is essential to being a partner with your client. No plan, no partnership.

This disciplined approach to planning is also evident at Advantage Communications. My team understands all to well that they should know their clients’ marketing plans inside and out. They also know that planning is continuous.

What key lessons have you learned in your experience?

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

The Keys to Strategic Selling

Do you really want to know how to approach a prospect without running them off? We have developed a prospecting process that we’ve defined to near perfection!

Initial Prospecting
Initial prospecting begins by first establishing a goal and strategy for your efforts. Ask yourself:
   •  What would I like to accomplish?
   •  How do I plan to accomplish it?
   •  Why is this the best time to do so?
After doing so, identify prospective clients/customers that appear to fall somewhere within the parameters of your goal and strategy. 

“Weeding them Down”
Once you’ve identified potential prospects, you must scrub your list to define those that hold the greatest potential opportunity for you. We would all like to go after every opportunity. However, strategy is key to success!

Research Business (In and Out)
At Advantage Communications, Inc., we pride ourselves in being fact-based decision makers. We allow our research to dictate our every action. When preparing to approach a new business opportunity, you must do your homework first. You bring no value if you don’t understand the prospect’s business before they tell you! 

Assessing the Opportunity
This is simply weighing your pros and cons of the opportunity. What is the likeliness that the opportunity will pan out and how many resources do you have to utilize for it to do so? 

Once you’ve done all of the necessary homework, you should be ready to place that first call. I always encourage dry runs, of course! One should not be afraid to ask questions at this point. The key? Ask SMART questions. 

Develop Value Proposition
Ask yourself: If I were the prospect, why would I do business with me? You must be able to answer this question before you prepare to pitch your business to the prospect. This is what we call your “value proposition.” Essentially, the prospect’s objectives must become your objectives. 

SHOWTIME: The Pitch!
Whenever we walk into a room with a current or prospective client, it’s show time. Preparation is the key. If you know the prospect’s objective and you understand how to achieve it, you should be ready. 

Conversion is one of the most difficult stages of prospecting. You do not want to annoy the prospect but persistence is definitely important. You must find out the prospect’s sweet and “ticky” spots. Play to this understanding to allow your organization to remain top of mind. If there is not a current need for your service, do not let them forget about you –EVER. 

Retention and Expansion 
So you received a yes. You’re not finished! Smart marketers and business people always develop a retention plan. Beyond retention, growth is a necessity. If you can’t grow the client’s business, of what value are you?


An excerpt from 
A presentation by Michael Steele, President & CEO of Advantage Communications, Inc.
To view the full presentation CLICK HERE

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Arkansas Recognizes Laws to Protect Workers and Children from Secondhand Smoke Exposure

Coalition for a Tobacco Free Arkansas Joins with Local Leaders in Celebrating Smoke-Free Legislation

This year will mark the fifth anniversary of legislation aimed at creating smoke-free environments in businesses and vehicles transporting children. Wednesday, July 27th at 10:00 am at the State Capitol, second floor Rotunda, the Coalition for a Tobacco Free Arkansas (CTFA) and its partners will join with legislators and public health advocates to celebrate the institution of Acts 8 and 13, as well as commemorate Act 811 of 2011, the new law that expands the current smoke-free cars law.

Act 8 of 2006, commonly referenced as the Arkansas Clean Indoor Air Act, and prohibits smoking in certain indoor areas to protect workers from the dangers of exposure to secondhand smoke on the job. It is this act that also comes with exemptions that CTFA would like to see lawmakers make more stringent. Act 13 of 2006, known as the “Arkansas Protection for Secondhand Smoke for Children Act” prohibits smoking in all motor vehicles where a child of less than 6 years and weighing less than sixty pounds and be properly restrained in a child passenger safety seat. Effective July 27th, Act 13 will be expanded by a new smoke-free cars law, Act 811 of 2011.

Signed into law March 30, 2011 by Governor Mike Beebe, Act 811 of 2011 increases the age limit from 6 years of age up to 14 years whereby 73.5% of Arkansas’ children will be covered by the smoke-free cars law, up from the 37% of youth covered by Act 13. Additionally, Act 811 allows Arkansas law enforcement to help protect young children by stopping drivers seen smoking in a car with a child present. A ticket, which currently carries a $25 fine, could be issued to offenders of the law.

“Secondhand smoke kills more than 50,000 non-smokers in the U.S. each year. Children who are exposed to secondhand smoke are inhaling many of the same cancer-causing substances and poison as smokers,” stated Katherine Donald, Executive Director, Coalition for a Tobacco Free Arkansas. “If you are a smoker, the single best way to protect your children and other family members from secondhand smoke is to quit smoking. In the meantime, you can protect your children and others by making your home and vehicles smoke-free and only smoking outside.”

“We all know secondhand smoke is dangerous,” stated Senator Percy Malone. “I’m happy to have sponsored the Act that will protect the health of our children and pushes closer to a smoke-free Arkansas. Recent scientific studies have produced irrefutable evidence that kids, cars and cigarettes are a very dangerous combination. Laws like Act 811 of 2011 are essential in protecting children in Arkansas and elsewhere, as their bodies are especially vulnerable to tobacco smoke, particularly in small, confined spaces such as cars.”

“People who smoke in vehicles most assuredly smoke in their homes,” declares Former Representative Bob Mathis. “Banning smoking in these vehicles affords children an opportunity to breathe clean air if only for a limited amount of time.”

Katherine Donald, Executive Director, Coalition for a Tobacco Free Arkansas; Percy Malone, State Senator; Fred Allen, State Representative; Bob Mathis, Former State Representative; and other state leaders are slated to attend the press conference. The Youth Extinguishing Smoking Team (YES!) will perform an Act 811 rap song and refreshments will be served directly following the event.

For more information about the Coalition for a Tobacco Free Arkansas or the press conference, call 501.687.0345 or visit

About Coalition for a Tobacco Free Arkansas 

The Coalition for a Tobacco Free Arkansas is a network of statewide organizations with a shared mission to prevent the use of tobacco in our state. The Coalition for a tobacco Free Arkansas (CTFA) has worked, since its inception in January 1992, to improve the health of Arkansans by waging a grassroots campaign to increase public awareness of the negative effects of tobacco use.

Friday, July 15, 2011

ACI Attends MISRGO 2011-2012 Grantee Award Ceremony

ACI had the privilege of attending yesterday's 2011-2012 Grantee Award Ceremony for the Minority Initiative Sub-Recipient Grant Office.  There were 18 proud grant recipients!  Grants ranged from $35,000-$67,000 and will be used for the implementation of anti-tobacco programs in each grantees' respective community.

We were honored to support our client and demonstrate our continued commitment to securing tobacco-free lives in the state of Arkansas.  Congratulations to all grant recipients and keep up the great work!

The 2011-2012 MISRGO Sub-Grant Award Recipients.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Simply Smart Marketing

How to Speak to the Needs of the Multicultural Segment

By: Michael Steele, President and CEO 
Advantage Communications, Inc.

Despite what some may say…marketing IS here to stay. However, marketing goods and services has been and continues to remain under assault by a battery of educated professionals that have lost their way. While I’ve never disputed the value of a strong education, I have seen a precipitous decline in “new-age” marketers being well acquainted with the very basics of Marketing 101. I anticipate part of this decline is a result of our ever-changing, dynamically diverse consumer marketplace.

We now live in an age where consumers have become immensely smarter and savvy with their decision-making for goods and services. The implications of this increase in knowledge demonstrate that marketers must become smarter with their marketing assets.

In previous years, it appeared as though the majority of marketing agencies refused to hire minorities. Such practices created a void in the breadth of services and capabilities marketing agencies could have provided to speak to growing targeted audiences – which were most often African American, Hispanic, Asian and the LGBT community. In today’s terminology, we have deemed these audiences as diverse or “multicultural.”

Today, several agencies are attempting to address this void by implementing changes to attract and retain minorities – but some say it’s still no easy feat. According to Bill Gray, co-CEO of Ogilvy North America, “Hiring minorities, particularly mid-and senior-level employees, into the business is tough for several reasons. You’ve got to have senior, visible minorities who can act as validation that the industry has opportunities.” ( Nevertheless, we know this void must be aggressively addressed.

According to the 2010 Census data, nearly 40% of the total United States population is African American or Hispanic American, an increase of nearly 17% from the 2000 Census. This speaks volumes to the need for marketers to truly understand to whom they are speaking. Marketing consumer goods and services, in particular, requires a solid understanding of the needs of the consumer audiences as well as those things that will most closely resonate with their culture and socioeconomic status. Consumer goods marketing to diverse audiences must answer the question, “What’s in it for me?”

Upon gaining such consumer learnings, a marketer is equipping himself/herself to be sufficiently prepared for the development of successful tactics and programs. However, before cascading learnings into tactical execution, it is essential that objectives and strategies are set. Too often, it appears as though our young marketers simply ignore this vital step. Of course, it is more fun and exciting to develop advertisements and facilitate flashy programs. I understand this. But I continue to stress to my associates at Advantage Communications, Inc., that you must allow your objectives and strategies to set the tone for your tactics – never the inverse. I ask my associates “What good is an idea without a goal?”

Many of you are familiar with the concept of SMART objectives – specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-oriented. This concept still reigns true today. We would all love to change the world overnight, but that’s not realistic. Objectives must satisfy each of the elements of the SMART concept. With this, complementary strategies may be developed to assure objectives will be successfully accomplished.   

My point to marketers, particularly those within the multicultural spectrum, is this - we can no longer rely on hanging signs with brown faces in ‘certain’ neighborhoods or simply having a presence in minority-targeted media outlets and events as a means to encourage minorities to consume our clients’ products. Now is the time for us to be more strategic in our efforts. However, strategy is built on the foundation of knowledge and in this case, what you may have learned in business school is not enough.

Today, we must focus our efforts on both above - and below-the-line program activation. In other words, we must be integrated versus adjunct in our work. What does this look like? I see it as a simple model of “conversion”. Essentially, our job is to convert positive brand imagery (which should equate to a consumer’s personal identification with the brand) to transactions – without exception.  

I’ve noticed that today’s multicultural advertising agencies consider themselves to be industry leaders in marketing to African American, Hispanics, Asians, and other groups. However, at Advantage Communications, Inc. we not only consider ourselves to be multicultural experts but also specialists in targeted marketing or market segmentation. What some may misconstrue is that the word “targeted” implies reaching ethnic groups solely. This is not the case at our agency. We utilize market segmentation to identify targeted audiences by:    
  •  Ethnicity
  • Age
  • Gender
  • Geography
  • Sexual Preference
  • Consumer Trends and Habits
  • Economic Status
  • And More!

Diversity is our niche.

Several marketing giants such as McDonald’s and Nike also understand and utilize targeted marketing strategies to reach consumers of all types. In fact, they openly target minority consumers without hesitation as they can easily represent the differences between profits and declines. These are simply segments that cannot be ignored. Marketers must understand that the monolithic – or one message for all approach - is no longer effective. Our consumers need multiple messages disseminated via multiple mediums.

We as minorities have very different consumption behavior and cannot always be reached via the same methods as the majority population. It just doesn’t work for us. We tend to use products differently, view and consume media differently, behave differently and soon will become the majority! Obviously, the key word here is “difference.”

So allow me to ask this question, Are your communications plans suffering from a bad case of what I call “monolithitis”? 

Thursday, June 16, 2011

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