Marketing: Young, black and focused: An advertising agency set up to target ethnic minorities has proved the concept can work

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The Independent Online
IN CERTAIN multi-racial boroughs of London, such as Brent, Hackney and Lambeth, a number of striking posters have started to appear.

The advertisements feature either a cool, muscular, leather- clad dude sporting a pair of trendy gold sunglasses, or a black girl, in a zip-up dress and pink lipstick. The catchlines read 'Gold, pink and cool black' for the first poster, and 'Gold, black and party pink' for the second.

The adverts are for Pink Lady, a bubbly, Babycham-type drink that has proved popular in Britain's black community. The campaign was the brainchild of WM&P, a marketing agency specialising in campaigns aimed at specific ethnic minorities.

Run by Werbayne McIntyre and Yvonne Thompson, the agency claims to be the first specialist black marketing agency in Britain.

The agency started out in Brixton, then moved to Docklands, but will return to its roots in August. Its client list includes HP Bulmer, which distributes the Jamaican Red Stripe lager in the UK, and the Soul II Soul clothes shops.

Mr McIntrye came from Collet Dickinson & Pearce, the advertising agency, while Ms Thompson's background was in the record industry, with spells at Phonogram and CBS. The pair set up the agency in 1990, feeling that mainstream advertising campaigns neglected ethnic minorities and so lost out on extra sales.

Of course, there have been huge numbers of campaigns featuring racial mixes - the United Colors of Benetton ads, for example. But the basis of most of these has been equal opportunities rather than increasing sales in these sectors.

'With most advertising campaigns it is just the same campaign for everybody,' says Ms Thompson. 'They don't target the black community or the Asian community. But you feel warmer to a product if you feel your own kind promoting it. You are more likely to go out and buy it.

'The Pink Lady ads are saying that to be black is to be hip. And if you like this kind of style, you are quite likely to like the drink.'

Ms Thompson's view is that companies underestimate the buying power of ethnic groups. 'I'm sure that if a certain group decided to boycott a certain store or product, you would really notice the difference.'

Her point is borne out by the 1991 census figures, which show that there are now more than 3 million people from ethnic minorities in Britain. This represents nearly 5 per cent of the population.

Indians form the largest group with 840,000, followed by Caribbeans (499,000), Pakistanis (475,000) and black Africans (207,000).

Gaymer Group, the company that owns Pink Lady, only realised that its product was popular in ethnic communities by accident.

The brand had been launched in the 1960s under different management but had been left to drift. Then in the 1980s sales started to pick up, particularly in London. 'The black community had discovered it on their own,' says Gary Holloway, Gaymer's marketing co-ordinator, who hired WM&P to work on the campaign. 'It was sweet, light and idiosyncratic.'

In addition to the posters, Pink Lady was promoted on black radio stations such as Choice and Kiss FM and advertised in black newspapers, such as the Voice.

The campaign, which started in May and runs until next month, seems to have succeeded. Sales of Pink Lady are up 5 per cent on last year and up 8 per cent in London, where the campaign has been based.

Gaymer is now looking at the possibility of separate campaigns for other brands in its portfolio, such as Babycham, which was relaunched last month. 'Babycham has quite a following in the black market,' says Mr Holloway. 'I wouldn't be at all surprised if we ran a different campaign.'

(Photograph omitted)