GM Supports Black-Owned Media

GM's Tarshena Armstrong addresses the conference. Photo credit: Tanya Gazdik, MediaPost

General Motors is on track to reach its goal of 8% of its advertising placed with Black-owned media by 2025. 

That's according to executives from the automaker who were on hand at the Black Owned Media Weekend in Detroit, hosted by the Black Owned Media Equity and Sustainability Institute. The nonprofit emphasizes the importance of Black owned media in the industry and best practices for building a sustainable future.

The event brings together Black media owners/publishers for actionable insights tied to business longevity, authentic community-building and resource sharing.

General Motors was one of the sponsors along with Danone, Discover and media companies including Nativo, My Code and She Media.



Speakers included three prominent GM executives: Shenan Reed, global chief media officer; Tarshena Armstrong, director, diversity marketing and development; and Brianne Boles-Marshall, diversity media strategy and investment lead.

GM made “significant changes” to its model for partnering with diverse media in 2021 and launched a diverse incubator fund in which GM will allocate $50 million over 10 years to support and scale diverse marketing companies. The moves were made after GM came under pressure from media mogul Byron Allen for its spending practices. 

Boles-Marshall indirectly addressed that shift prompted at least in part by Allen. 

"A few years back, we had an opportunity to be introspective about how we're showing up in the media landscape,” Boles-Marshall told the audience. “The benefit about introspection is that you get to uncover what you're doing really well, but you also get to uncover where you can do better. So, in uncovering what we could do better, we understood that our investments needed to come up a level.”

GM started out at 1% of its media buys with Black-owned media in 2021. 

“We wanted to increase and make sure that we got to 2% at 2021,” she said.  "So, we exceeded that goal, and then we wanted to double down on that going into 2022 and increase that to 4%, which we exceeded that goal. And all of this has been in service of margining ourselves to 8% Black-owned media investment by 2025. … in order for us to invest more, we need to increase inventory to invest in. And that's where we're looking to all of you for help.”

Reed says it is her goal that GM becomes more transparent with potential Black-owned media partners so that they understand if they are being turned down and what they need to do to turn the no into a yes. 

“It's not really a no, it's a, ‘Not now, but this is how. Go do this. Follow these steps, go to this place. If you can do this, then I'm here and come back and let's talk,’” Reed says. 

Armstrong talked about GM’s goals of transforming its portfolio toward an all-electric future. 

“And in order for GM to thrive, we must ensure that our diverse-owned audience, our Black-owned audience is part of this journey with us,” Armstrong told the audience. “One thing that I do at General Motors is to earn cultural capital. This cultural capital is something that you earn. It cannot be bought, and that's why we are here today. We anchor everything that we do within General Motors with our deeds, our deeds with the community, because it's what's most important. We're striving to be the most inclusive company in the world.”

The Black-Owned Media Weekend was held in Tulsa, Oklahoma the last two years. The decision to move it to Detroit this year stems in part from GM’s support, says Rhonesha Byng, founder and CEO Her Agenda and one of the co-founders of the institute, which organized the event and also administers the funding from GM for an accelerator to support Black-owned media. 

“The accelerator is unique in that it supports diverse media across the board, across all categories,” Byng says. “So that was something that was really emphasized by GM. They wanted to make sure that it was opening up the door across different categories.”

In 2021, Byng and co-founder DeVon Christopher Johnson went on a “listening tour” to talk to brands and ask what their challenges were in spending with Black-owned media,  

“A lot of people go to that lack of scale,” she says. “How do you fix lack of scale? You can't really fix a scale with just a media buy. It has to be some type of upfront investment, upfront capital. So this accelerator solves for that because we distribute grants as well. So everyone in the cohort gives a $25,000 grant, and that allows them to re-invest in their growth and their infrastructure.”

GM's Brianne Boles-Marshall addresses the conference. Photo Credit: Tanya Gazdik, MediaPost 

GM's Shenan Reed speaks on a panel at the conference. Photo credit: Tanya Gazdik, MediaPost

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