Sean Combs penned an open letter to General Motors Thursday criticizing the auto giant for its lack of advertising spending with black-owned media companies.
“When confronted by the leaders of several Black-owned media companies, General Motors (GM) listed my network, Revolt, as an example of the Black-owned media it supports. While Revolt does receive advertising revenue from GM, our relationship is not an example of success,” Combs wrote. “Instead, Revolt, just like other Black-owned media companies, fights for crumbs while GM makes billions of dollars every year from the Black community. Exposing GM’s historic refusal to fairly invest in Black-owned media is not an assassination of character, it’s exposing the way GM and many other advertisers have always treated us. No longer can Corporate America manipulate our community into believing that incremental progress is acceptable action.”
Combs continued: “Corporations like General Motors have exploited our culture, undermined our power, and excluded Black entrepreneurs from participating in the value created by Black consumers. In 2019, brands spent $239 billion on advertising. Less than 1% of that was invested in Black-owned media companies. Out of the roughly $3 billion General Motors spent on advertising, we estimate only $10 million was invested in Black-owned media. Only $10 million out of $3 billion! Like the rest of corporate America, General Motors is telling us to sit down, shut up, and be happy with what we get.”
A spokesperson for GM denied Combs’ claim to Rolling Stone that the automaker spends $3 billion annually in advertising, noting that while the company doesn’t disclose its total annual ad spending, it is “significantly less” than $3 billion.
GM responded to Combs’ open letter in a lengthy statement to Rolling Stone. “As part of our aspiration to become the most inclusive company in the world, General Motors is committed to partnering with minority-owned media organizations, including Black-owned media companies,” GM said. “In 2021, for example, we doubled our spend with Black-owned media groups to 2%. We will increase our spend with this important segment to 4% in 2022, and will continue to grow our spend thereafter with a target of 8% by 2025.”
GM also cited their partnerships with the Alliance for Inclusive and Multicultural Marketing, the National Association of Black Owned Broadcasters, and the National Newspaper Publishers Association (“a trade association of more than 200 African American-owned community newspapers) as examples of their efforts.
“Black-owned media are a vital component of our marketing mix, and we evaluate our spend for media partners through several core metrics, including transparency, innovation, ad quality, audience delivery, and brand safety,” GM continued. “Our commitment goes beyond advertising and sponsorship revenue. We want to build long-standing partnerships with Black-owned and diverse media companies in a transparent and meaningful way. This includes investments in business enablers such as customized deal structures and facilitating access to measurement and mentorship tools, which are often a barrier for small and emerging businesses.”
However, GM’s 8% target falls short of Combs’ demands. “If the Black community represents 15% of your revenue, Black-owned media should receive at least 15% of the advertising spend. The same way you understand the power of our dollars, we understand our power to take them away from any corporation that doesn’t give us the economic inclusion we deserve. We are prepared to weaponize our dollars,” Combs added. “If you love us, pay us! Not a token investment. Not a charity check or donation. The time is now! Radical change is the only option. You’re either with us or you are on the other side.”