Dentsu Americas has launched a nine-episode original content audio series hosted by journalist Gia Peppers to discuss issues concerning Black Americans.
The series, called More Than That, leverages Black-owned businesses, from creative partners to distribution companies, through collaborations with One Solution, a division of Urban One, and the National Association of Black-Owned Broadcasters.
The program, airing through April 11 on Urban One, Spotset and American Urban Radio Networks, comes at a time when issues of diversity, equity and inclusion are at the forefront.
“We decided to pursue this project with the intent to create meaningful progress in the total advertising supply chain,” said Doug Ray, chief product officer at Dentsu Americas. “We wanted to go beyond [equitable representation of our clients’ media investments] to be able to influence the way those stories are being told.”
To create the program, Dentsu fell back on the support of its Japan offices, which have experience creating, developing and distributing original content, Ray added.
As part of its promotion strategy, Dentsu is airing one- to two-minute micro-episodes featuring brand partners such as Procter & Gamble, General Motors and Kroger to drive awareness. The agency has also negotiated DJ endorsements with radio stations.
“Overall, we’re achieving almost a quarter of African-Americans over the age of 18 [across the country] on a weekly basis, and in some markets we’re achieving more than 50% reach,” Ray said.
Heather Stewart, general director of global media and marketing services at General Motors, said the company was one of its first clients to enter into a brand partnership on the show.
“One of the things that we were seeing in media is that diverse-owned media outlets were being bought up year-after-year, so there were fewer diverse-owned media outlets that really had platforms,” Stewart said. “Our consumers are a diverse audience and we need to make sure that our outlets and the content reflects our consumer audience.”
General Motors co-created the first episode, entitled “The New Testament,” which features guest Anthony Sparks, executive producer for Queen Sugar, a show on the Oprah Winfrey Network. The brand is expected to co-create two other shows set to air in the coming weeks.
Ray declined to comment on the exact terms of the partnership deal though noted that after conversations with other potential clients with smaller media budgets, the agency worked with media and production partners to bring the price down to “well below half a million dollars per episode.”
The cost includes media, production and qualitative and quantitative research to understand the response to the show as a piece of content as well as the response to the brands sponsoring the show in a deal brokered with NABOB.
“We have three of the largest Black-owned broadcasters in the country that often compete quite significantly in local markets agreeing to run the exact same programming,” said Ray. “That’s never been done before.”
According to Ray, Dentsu intends to continue the program after the first “season” airs. The network is relying on earned media to promote it.
“Co-creating and sponsoring the content that people care about versus interrupting that content is critical to earning people’s attention, and we’re seeing more people migrate to non-ad-supported platforms and leaning further into things like ad blocking and consumer privacy technology,” Ray said. “The more that our clients can innovate their marketing approaches where they become the content and enable the content versus simply interrupting that content with advertising, the better we’re going to be holistically in terms of being authentic storytellers and creating meaningful and more relevant conversations with consumers.”
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