Former MediaLink CEO Michael Kassan on Supporting Minority Owned Media

Millions of advertising dollars that were committed in 2020 are still sitting in those same accounts

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Following Michael Kassan’s acrimonious exit from MediaLink, which involves him suing owner United Talent Agency (UTA)—which has issued its own lawsuit in response—we look back on conversations with the influential business executive.

Intention isn’t lacking. The funds are real. Since 2020, holding companies and brands have committed millions of advertising dollars to Black and minority-owned media, but too many of those dollars are sitting in the accounts into which they were deposited.

What’s holding them back? Is it demand? Or is it supply?

There is no lack of desire, but a lack of inventory. While there is no shortage of premium content or programming, the ecosystem is fragmented enough that it is hard to put capital directly into the hands of minority-owned media companies.

The good news is that there are several key players in the market working tirelessly to change that. Brands would be wise to educate themselves on how these companies are shoring up inventory so they can continue putting their committed dollars to work in new ways and places.

Spotlight on minority-owned businesses

As marketers try to push dollars top-down into the marketplace, these companies are successfully pushing dollars up into the ecosystem from its foundation, infusing creators and talent with resources that result in more content and programming.

Spotter

Spotter is one of the leaders of the pack; the company is committed to fueling diverse creators with the cash and resources they need to create.

Spotter empowers YouTubers to accelerate their business and unleash their full creative potential by giving them access to capital, which includes knowledge, and community, to succeed at scale. The company has given $740 million to creators as of Q4 2022 and plans to reach $1 billion in total creator funding in the first half of 2023.

What makes this a particularly encouraging data point for pledge makers is that 30% of that $740 million has been deployed to a diverse roster of creators from multicultural and diverse backgrounds; Aaron “AB” Brown, Deestroying, Lizzy Capri and Kinigra Deon, to name a few.

Group Black

Group Black is also working to build the marketplace. Launched in June 2021 with the goal of getting advertisers to deploy $500 million in ad dollars to Black-owned media businesses, the company invests in and takes ownership of Black-owned media companies. With over 150 portfolio companies, they have poured funding into the media sector, helping it grow and making it easier for brands and agencies to meet their DEI media investment commitments.

Last fall they joined with other partners to offer a hip-hop-inspired media platform that will offer curated programming throughout 2023. This is a brilliant opportunity for buyers to explore.

SpringHill

SpringHill is another company with a mission to provide marketing opportunities for culturally inspired brands, entertainment and products. They fund the creation of content, from short-form to films and connect partners to support the work.

A great example of their impact is the funding of Naomi Osaka’s company Hana Kuma, which offers scripted and unscripted television series, documentaries, anime and branded content. SpringHill is also supporting the operations and production of Hana Kuma.

Direct Digital Holdings

Through operating companies like Colossus SSP, Huddled Masses and Orange 142, Direct Digital Holdings (DDH) is simplifying the process of investing in minority-owned media. With both a sell-side platform (SSP) and an insights engine, they manage about 79,000 clients monthly, generating over 98 billion impressions per month across display, CTV, in-app and other media channels.

My Code

My Code is opening apertures to multicultural audiences across its suite of cultural and affinity Codes specific to (H)ispanic, (B)lack, (W)omen, (A)ANHPI and (Pride) LGBTQ+ communities. Leveraging proprietary data, My Code helps companies develop strategies, campaigns and messaging that resonate with underserved audiences. The team abides by its Codes, supporting and funding diverse publishers, creators and producers, while reserving 100% of content studio production for diverse-owned, led and operated companies.

Brands are also doing their part

In 2021, P&G launched #WidentheScreen, an initiative designed to expand the Black-owned media ecosystem and create more programming and ad inventory for marketers to invest in. Danone’s Activia brand invested in video content with Canela Media, a minority-owned media company, with further plans to invest in diverse creators and influencer networks.

There are others supporting this mission, funding multicultural content creation, investing in media, movie producers and YouTube stars, and putting capital directly into the hands of diverse creators. Ultimately, these actions are helping expand a fertile marketplace where brands can celebrate, reach and systemically change the growth trajectory for minority-owned media, while also reaching the audiences that are integral to their own growth.

To any marketer or agency buyer who is concerned about access to inventory that empowers them to fulfill their commitments and pledges, doors are opening. Scour lists like this one, schedule time to meet with the companies that can serve as a conduit to the communities you need to reach and take their calls when they work to engage with you directly. Evaluate your current media mixes and schedules and challenge them to be more diverse.

Increasingly, your ability to make brands resonate with diverse consumers is going to be essential. Not just the stuff of pledges. Leaning in will be good for your business and can help you grow exponentially.

And the options are finally there for the taking.

Disclaimer: Spotter, Group Black, My Code and DDH are MediaLink clients.