Ferguson: Focus on African-Americans as Digital Divide Narrows

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CHICAGO -- Fay Ferguson, co-CEO of Burrell Communications, opened the ad:tech Chicago conference July 24 by highlighting the appeal of online African-Americans.

The Chicago-based agency ethnic marketing specialist said African-Americans consume five hours of Internet daily versus 2.9 hours for the general market. Also, African-Americans are online 6.1 days a week versus 5.4 days for the general market.

Seventy-seven percent of African-Americans have accessed the Internet for three years or more, Ms. Ferguson said. And 64 percent have high-speed access versus 53 percent of the general market.

"Their digital divide is not as vast as some would have us believe," she said.

She shared online marketing work Burrell has done for clients like Toyota's Lexus and Corolla brands, McDonald's Corp. and Verizon.

For Lexus, the challenge was to extend the car's positioning from luxury and elegance to include performance, boldness and confidence. This was called the GS factor after the 2005 Lexus GS model.

Burrell created an avatar linked to a quiz that asked visitors personality-related questions. The avatar was a first for the agency and Lexus.

Ms. Ferguson said the Lexus effort generated a 60 percent quiz completion rate. Rich media accounted for 80 percent of all ad clicks. The overall clickthrough rate was 8.7 percent, and 14.2 percent of all players downloaded wallpapers.

For burger giant McDonald's, Burrell created an NBA All-Star Lifestyle Game with co-branded ad units on BET.com. The idea was to promote McDonald's through such online ads that brought the lifestyle to all those who couldn't attend the NBA events.

The units included a microsite game and a sweepstakes on BET.com generated a clickthrough rate of 0.58 percent, she said. The average visit lasted 20 minutes, and 37 percent of visitors played the game for 25 minutes.

Burrell created a Mural Builder for telecom company Verizon during Black History Month. Visitors to BET.com could select images and words from a list to signify what that month meant to them. The goal to have visitor engagement with the Verizon brand worked, Ms. Ferguson said.

The average visit exceeded 21 minutes. Seventy-five percent of those who clicked on the links used the Mural Builder. More than 25 percent of BET.com visitors viewed the image gallery. The banner clickthrough rate was 0.49 percent. And 3 percent of all visitors went to www.verizon.com.

Marketing to African-Americans requires a sun-up to sundown study of the consumer and cognizance of that ethnic minority's entrepreneurial tendencies, Ms. Ferguson said. And what of the rookie moves to avoid when targeting this market?

"One of the things I have to say is don't base your campaign on hip-hop -- or basketball," she said.

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