Fashion’s Eye-Opener

Marketing: Spending on apparel and accessories ads in magazines aimed at African Americans has doubled in the past five years.

NEW YORK — It’s the dawn of a fashion advertising awakening.

This story first appeared in the August 27, 2003 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

Spending on apparel and accessories ads in magazines aimed at African Americans has doubled in the past five years, reaching $44.4 million in 2002, compared with just $22.5 million in 1997, according to the Magazine Publishers of America’s new African-American/Black Market Profile. Apparel and accessories was the second-largest ad-spending category in such targeted print media, following expenditures by personal care and cosmetics advertisers, which tallied $62 million in 2002, up 51 percent from $41 million five years earlier.

The 10 magazines with the greatest reach among African Americans, MPA found, included seven targeted titles and three general market magazines: Jet, with 94.3 percent of its readers from the group; Black Enterprise, 91.4 percent; Ebony, 90.7 percent; Essence, 90.3 percent; Honey, 80 percent; Vibe, 72.6 percent; Source, 55.3 percent; Entrepreneur, 37.9 percent; Soap Opera Weekly, 31.8 percent, and Esquire, 30.2 percent.

The doubling in spending on targeted fashion ads reflects several forces at play, said Ellen Oppenheim, executive vice president and chief marketing officer at the MPA.

Perhaps most important is fashion’s focus on a young customer — one with a changing profile. “To the degree younger consumers are more diverse, we could continue to see this [ad] market growing,” Oppenheim said. According to the Census Bureau, 38 percent of Millennials are nonwhite, Hispanic or Latino. That totals 27 million of the 71 million people now ages 8 through 25.

“Ultimately, a greater recognition of the growth in African Americans’ population and buying power will spur advertising aimed at the market,” Oppenheim projected.

Indeed, the increasingly robust ad spending to reach the country’s 37 million African Americans signals a growing awareness that the 13 percent slice of the country’s population spends more on apparel, per capita, than the average consumer overall. And that’s despite Census Bureau data that portrays a 36 percent gap between African Americans’ median annual household income of $27,910 and the country’s overall median of $43,570.

African Americans spend an average of $1,427 annually on apparel for themselves, or 47 percent more than the $969 averaged by all Americans, found a 2001 Cotton Inc. study, one of more than two-dozen sources MPA culled for its market profile. It’s a spending pattern that develops early, as black teens typically spend $329 a year on apparel, or 18 percent more than the $280 averaged by all U.S. teens.

There’s an even bigger teenage spending differential on fine jewelry: $233 a year, on average, expended by African-American youths yearly, or 40 percent more than the $166 averaged by teens overall.

Adding to the potential power of ads in titles targeting African Americans is the group’s heavy magazine consumption. Eighty-four percent of black adults read 13.3 issues per month, compared with 9.7 issues for all adults in the U.S. Further, the fall 2002 Mediamark profile of African-American magazine readers, cited by the MPA, found:

  • A mean age of 41, compared with 44 for all magazine readers in the U.S.
  • 47 percent attended college or earned a college degree, compared with 55 percent of the broader group of magazine readers.
  • 41 percent are single, against 25 percent of the broader reader population.
  • They are a demographic in which slightly more than half, or 51 percent, have at least one child at home, versus 42 percent of all magazine readers.

Despite this appealing statistical portrait, nary an apparel advertiser placed among the top 10 spenders in African-American targeted magazines for 2002, but four personal-care and cosmetics firms made the list: Procter & Gamble, ranking second, with spending of $9 million, a figure duplicated by General Motors Corp., followed by L’Oréal SA and Johnson & Johnson, each with expenditures of $7 million, and Alberto-Culver, sixth, with spending of $4 million. Johnson Publishing Co., the Chicago-based publisher of Ebony and Jet, led the list, with spending of $18 million.