The media and marketing industries can play a key role in promoting racial diversity, a topic that has become more pronounced in recent weeks. The killing of George Floyd while in police custody in Minneapolis ignited mass protests against racism and police brutality, and spurred advertisers to be more vocal about social justice.
As the nation’s premiere provider of TV programming for African American audiences, BET Networks sees a responsibility to inform, educate and console anyone who is troubled by recent events — and to use its platform to promote racial equality.
“It’s up to us to close the deal,” Louis Carr, president of media sales at BET Networks, a unit of ViacomCBS, said in an interview for the Beet TV/VAB “TV Reset” forum. “We knew we had a tremendous obligation to our consumers, to our business partners and even more personally, to our families. This was our time to live up to our brand promise.”
Speaking to Bill Koenigsberg, the president, CEO and founder of media services agency Horizon Media Inc., Carr highlighted several ways the BET Networks is promoting discussions about racism, inequality and economic empowerment.
Those efforts include a $25 million collaboration with corporate partners on its “Content for Change Initiative” that started on Juneteenth, the June 19 occasion has grown from a grassroots effort to celebrate the emancipation of people who had been enslaved in the United States.
Describing “Content for Change” as a pillar of its programming, Carr said the effort features content that aims to educate, inspire and motivate people to tackle racism.
Kimberly Paige, chief marketing officer of BET Networks, inspired the development of a series called “Love Letter” that recognizes the hardships faced by African Americans who have suffered disproportionately during the coronavirus pandemic. “Love Letter” pays tribute to what has been lost amid recurring crises.
“During this time of civil unrest and so much pain and hurt that our community was going through, we needed to let them know that they are loved, and that the No. 1 brand that is serving them, loves them very intimately,” he said. “We understand what they’re going through, and we’re going through it right with them.”
Amid the current difficulties, Carr sees a generational opportunity to address racism and create a pathway for more African Americans to find better representation at all levels of major companies. The mainstream affinity for Black culture can be translated into meaningful change, Carr said.
“All of you who love Black culture, get off the sidelines and join us in this fight for equality,” he said. “Most brands have benefited in some form or fashion from Black culture.”
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