GroupM, the large WPP-owned media-investment agency, wants advertisers to do more when it comes to supporting diverse media.

After calling for advertisers to put between 2% and 5% of their annual media spend into multicultural media venues, the media buyer hopes clients will now invest the upper end of that range.

“As the largest media investment company in the world, we have a responsibility to accelerate growth through the next era of media,” said Kirk McDonald, CEO, GroupM North America, in a statement. “That means making our industry more inclusive and equitable for all publishers. As well as, sharing brands’ products and services with audiences that are representative of the changing face of America in service of growing their businesses.” Under GroupM’s effort, marketers would ensure the money is invested across Black, Hispanic, AAPI and LGBTQ+ owned and/or focused media.

GroupM first unveiled the effort in 2021, when it spurred a group of 20 advertisers, including General Mills, L’Oreal and Nestle, AARP, Mars, Pernod Ricard, Danone, DoorDash, Target and Tyson Foods, to take part in the concept. Much of the debate around allocating new dollars to minority-owned media broadened in the wake of the killing of George Floyd while in the custody of Minneapolis police in 2020, a seminal event that has spurred new conversations about how people in America treat one another. In recent weeks, Target, Verizon, General Motors and Procter & Gamble  demonstrated new willingness to work with Black-owned businesses or forge partnerships with Black creative executives.

The agency said the strategy has, in its first 18 months, spurred a “triple-digit increase” in investment in Black-owned media, citing data from Standard Media Index, a tracker of ad spending.

One entrepreneurial media owner applauded the effort to raise investment, but called on GroupM to be more transparent with how the money is being spent. Roland Martin, who operates Black Star Network and broadcasts “Roland Martin Unfiltered” each weekday, wishes GroupM and other media agencies that purport to support diverse media would offer more information about how their clients’ money is being spent. “How do we track progress when we don’t actually know if goals are being met?” he asked in a brief interview.

There are several challenges to getting making such investments sustainable. Advertisers are typically driven to generate wide reach via media, and many of the minority-owned outlets, while still reaching prized niches, remain small. Most advertisers are still looking to reach large crowds through TV and other venues. Still, as digital media gives them the power to aim more precisely at specific swaths of consumers, the advertisers are growing more interested in reaching smaller groups of the people most likely to buy their goods and services.

Some media owners praised the program, “‘This economic commitment is perhaps the first time that financial targets have been set, and more importantly, accountability has been both transparent and measured,” said Earl “Butch” Graves Jr., president and CEO of Black Enterprise.

Additionally, GroupM said it had hired Cynthia Morgan Jenkins as head of supplier diversity to develop relationships with diverse-owned media and content partners. Morgan will lead the integration of those partners into GroupM client strategies. She reports to Gonzalo del Fa, president, GroupM Multicultural.

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