Living Interracial

Interracial families not targeted in advertising

“I believe there’s a fear that if they advertise to interracial couples, then it could affect the status quo.”

Interracial couples, families and children are moving into area neighborhoods and schools, playing in community parks, and frequenting fairs and festivals in Baton Rouge, yet their faces and images rarely show up in advertising and marketing venues, said Orhan McMillan, the diversity committee chair for the local American Advertising Federation.

“There is a disconnect between what we see in advertising and what is in our community,” McMillan, who also owns Dezins Interactive, a local web and graphic design agency, said.

Several local and national advertising company spokeswomen said that while their clients do seek diverse audiences, interracial couples and families are not specifically targeted.

Baton Rouge-based Lamar Advertising Co., one of the nation’s leading outdoor advertisers, has had no local ads featuring interracial couples.

“We haven’t had any clients specifically targeting interracial couples/families recently,” Allie Leung, manager of marketing communications for Lamar, said.

She said Lamar clients in other areas, however, have sought to create more diverse images on their billboards. The Southwest Health and Human Services Department in Sioux Falls, S.D., ran billboards on foster and adoptive parenting featuring a “blended family.”

The growth of the interracial community is owed in part to the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in Loving vs. Virginia in 1967, which made interracial marriages legal. The ruling struck down anti-miscegenation laws written to prevent racial mixing in 15 states.

The effects of the Supreme Court’s ruling also resulted in a rise in the number of multiracial children. The share of new marriages between spouses of a different race or ethnicity increased to 15.1 percent in 2010, more than double the share in 1980, which was 6.7 percent. The share of all current marriages that are interracial is 8.4 percent.

The Census Bureau estimates that blacks, Hispanics, Asians and multiracial people will represent a majority of the U.S. population by mid-century. Multiracial Americans are currently about 9 million or 8 percent of the minority population.

In Louisiana, interracial marriages totaled about 5.6 percent or 1,742 among 31,107 marriages overall in 2010.

McMillan said interracial images on billboards, television and in magazine ads are rare in the Baton Rouge area, though there is a need to capture such audiences.

“There is market value and money there. Businesses need to look to advertising to those diverse markets,” McMillan said.

Businesses in Baton Rouge tend to promote more toward a majority audience.

“I’ve noticed there’s a tendency in our area to promote more to our white audiences,” he said, though there are many other diverse audiences with unique qualities that advertisers could specifically target.

“Gear an ad toward a white, black, Hispanic or multiracial person that’s related to their culture. What kind of change would that bring if we appreciated everyone’s culture?” McMillan said.

Resistance to change and fear of the unknown is perhaps part of the problem.

“I believe there’s a fear that if they advertise to interracial couples, then it could affect the status quo,” he said.

Keeping up with and understanding demographic changes could make a difference in the way companies and businesses process change.

“They (businesses) know the audience they want to target, but they may not be aware of the expanding diversity market and the money it will bring,” he said.

McMillan also wants to better help his clients become more aware of their responsibility to reach out to diverse audiences.

“In our ads, we try to do mixed imagery,” McMillan said.

The growth of the Hispanic community is one example of how marketing agencies would do well to pay attention to changes in diversity in Baton Rouge, he said. From 2000 to 2010, the Hispanic population has doubled from 2 percent to 4 percent, according to the U.S. Census.

“Each of those groups has something that is unique about them. A business could take a few moments to discover what that is and develop an ad campaign for those markets,” McMillan said.

Diane Allen and Associates, an advertising and marketing company based in Baton Rouge, provides services to a local, regional and national clientele.

“For some time now, our clients have been focused on targeting diverse markets in their advertising,” Diane Allen, president of Diane Allen and Associates, said. “Today, the generally accepted definition in our industry for diversity includes black, white, Asian and Hispanic audiences. In our experience, the interracial demographic has not yet been measured in significant numbers that would cause advertisers to consider specifically targeting it in ads.”

Brad Adgate, senior vice president of research at Horizon Media in New York, one of the largest independent media services agencies in the world, said the growth of interracial marriages and the growing number of multiracial children offers reason and incentive for advertisers to pay attention to this growing market of people.

“They are buying products. They are just as important as other segments of the population,” he said.

A Pew Research Study found that 1 in 12 marriages, or 4.8 million marriages in the U.S. are interracial.

“I think marketers should pay attention, because it is a rapidly growing trend, whether they actually do anything about it remains to be seen,” Adgate said.

One way that advertisers -- such as those on MTV -- are beginning to improve interracial marketing is by reaching out to teens and young adults, populations that are more accepting of the changing demographics who don’t mind having friends of a different race, Adgate said.

“Teens and young adults and kids are far more likely to call someone of another ethnic background a BFF than the older generation,” he said.

The growth and acceptance of interracial audiences will become increasingly more apparent in marketing venues such as television ads and on television shows, Adgate said.

“I predict we’ll see more of it as it becomes more mainstream. It’s a reflection of an image of how society really is,” Adgate said. “This country is becoming increasingly more ethnically diverse and marketers are paying more attention to these groups, and you’re seeing more channels to market to these groups and giving advertisers more channels to reach them.”