Arnell, Sharpton Dispute Strategy

NEW YORK-Only a few days out of the starting gate, Arnell Group Brand Consulting’s $10 million police recruitment campaign has run into controversy.
The Rev. Al Sharpton made tabloid headlines last week with complaints that none of New York’s African American or Latino radio stations had been approached to air the spots, which are intended to encourage minorities to join the New York Police Department [Adweek, May 17].
In response, agency chairman Peter Arnell said the campaign’s strategy has three stages: broadcast TV (including Spanish-language spots on Univision), followed by print and outdoor ads, then radio.
The client had not approved the radio portion until a few days ago, Arnell said, but the intention was always to go with stations that target minority audiences.
“The approval of that phase of the campaign [by the client] just happened,” Arnell said.
Radio is often bought last in multichannel media buys, as it is cheaper and easier to prepare than print or TV.
“We understand that there is a staggered strategy,” Sharpton told Adweek last week, “but you make contact first … How do you assume Mega [WSKQ 97.9] or Hot 97 will have the time?”
Raul Lahee, director of sales at WBLS (107.5 FM) and WLIB (1190 AM), the only black-owned radio stations in the city, said his sales staff had been calling Arnell ever since word of the NYPD campaign broke in March. Only after Sharpton’s criticism surfaced were the calls returned, Lahee said. Arnell met with the stations last week.
“The Arnell Group is playing games, and they only reacted because of [Sharpton’s protests],” Lahee said.
Arnell said the explanation was less Machiavellian. “We only started work on the campaign a month ago, so we raced to broadcast first. It’s as simple as that.” ƒ