by Jasmyne A. Cannick

WASHINGTON D.C. (NNPA)—Toyota Motor Sales USA executives have angered NNPA Chairman Danny Bakewell Sr. and America’s preeminent Black newspaper publishers after the troubled carmaker backed out of a multi-million dollar advertising campaign targeting Black consumers. In a letter to Bakewell and the NNPA, Toyota executives said that Black consumers of Toyota products receive their advertising message from a number of media channels which include mainstream media (White media), thus implying that advertising in Black newspapers was unnecessary.

Akio Toyoda
Toyota president and CEO

This decision comes after months of meetings between Toyota executives and the NNPA, a network of 200 Black publishers which represents over 19.8 million weekly readers, approximately half of America’s Black population.

“This is disappointing and intolerable behavior from a company who earned $2.2 billion from Black consumers last year and who was all too eager to send us their press releases asking us to write stories and editorials to influence Blacks to remain loyal in their time of trouble,” said Bakewell. “But now that Toyota’s pain has been eased by a Federal Transportation Department and NASA report, once again the Black consumer and the Black press have been forgotten.”

Earlier this year, Toyota’s president and CEO, Akio Toyoda said, “Everyone at Toyota will continuously maintain a sense of gratitude to customers…”

Mr. Bakewell said, “Based on Toyota’s actions, it appears that Mr. Toyoda’s statement applies to everyone but the Black consumer.”

The issue first surfaced with Toyota’s unwillingness to run “Thank you” ads in Black newspapers. This was after Toyota spent millions advertising in White newspapers after last year’s safety recall.

“Black people stood by Toyota during their time of crisis to the tune of $2.2 billion,” said Bakewell. “Where is the thank you to Black consumers for their support and loyalty to Toyota? We just can’t stand by and let Toyota disrespect our people that way.”

NNPA publishers plan to run full page ads in their newspapers beginning next week in response to what they feel is another example of Toyota sending a clear and direct message that Toyota disrespects, undervalues and takes the Black consumer for granted. The ads will ask Mr. Toyoda, to stop disrespecting and exploiting Black consumers…their customers.

“What Toyota is doing is irreprehensible,” commented Robert Bogle, publisher of the Philadelphia Tribune. “If it’s so easy for Toyota to dismiss the Black press, no wonder they have no problem overlooking thanking their Black consumer base.”

According to research from leading automotive marketing research firm R.L. Polk & Co., Black consumers represent almost 10 percent of Toyota’s American market share, 15 out of every 100 Black consumers purchased a Toyota.

Currently, Toyota spends $1.6 billion annually advertising in America of which $20 million is spent in total in Black media, including radio, print, television, and digital advertising. However, Bakewell pointed out, the media Toyota uses to reach Black people is not always Black owned.

Burrell Communications, Toyota’s advertising agency of record for the African-American market has repeatedly claimed that Toyota’s commitment to diversity is reflected in their partnerships with many highly respected minority organizations throughout the country.

Bakewell says that given the $2.2 billion spent by Black consumers with Toyota, he’s issuing a challenge to Toyota regarding the amount of money they spend with national Black civil rights organizations including the NAACP, Rainbow PUSH, National Action Network, National Urban League, UNCF, NCNW and others. They do the business of defending and enhancing the quality of life for African-Americans and our communities and they shouldn’t have to do that on a shoestring budget.

Ben Jealous, NAACP president said, “The NAACP supports Chairman Bakewell and the NNPA. We hope Toyota will see the value in partnering with the Black press every year. They are our most trusted publications.”

Bakewell says that he plans to call on the chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus to request hearings regarding Toyota’s relationship and business practices with the African-American community.

“And we will attempt to get a meeting with Toyota’s Chairman,” said Bake­well. “…including going to Japan if necessary.”

“We will ask the Chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus to lead a delegation of Black newspaper publishers and leaders to Japan so that we can speak directly to Toyota’s leadership.”

“Black newspapers are tried, true, and trusted when it comes to Black people in America,” commented Bakewell.

“We are the gatekeepers for reaching Black people. Ford and GM understand that, as do other corporations like AT&T and Wells Fargo. When corporations want and need to reach the African-American consumer they see Black newspapers as the vehicle through which to reach Black people. Toyota needs to stop trivializing the power of the Black press and understand that all we want is for Toyota to give Black people the same kind of respect and reciprocity that they give their white consumers.

“We will not let up or relent until Toyota does right by our people and I am not alone. I am 200 Black newspaper publishers strong, with the support of 19.8 million weekly readers throughout America.”

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