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Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Our 100th Post- Open Letter To Corporate America- Just Pull Your Ads from " Hot Ghetto Mess" Already.

This marks our 100th post. For those of you who were with me at the beginning, you know I started this blog in a fit of outrage. Even back then I said I didn’t want to do this and was hoping someone else would take up the charge. I’m still waiting (hint, hint) I never imagined that almost three months later I’d still be doing this plus a call -in talk show.

Throughout this entire time, I have been amazed at what people will do if you JUST ASK. A lot of you come to the site despondent and wonder what can you do to battle the onslaught of negative portrayals of African Americans. All you have to do is open up your mouth and exercise your right as an American to speak! ( I really wish we would stop taking that simple freedom for granted. There is a reason why the First Amendment is the FIRST.)

I said back then that all we had to do was cut off the spigot of corporate dollars funding this foolishness. We don’t need Congress. We don’t have to wait for the NAACP or Rev. Al. We don’t need to have yet another meeting with media executives. We don’t have to form a committee or hold a convention.; we just need to open up our mouths and speak to the corporations that are funding the War on Black Women.

So again, thanks for coming to the site, commenting, sending me links and stories, and taking action when I have asked for help. I really can’t do this without you!

And now back to our regularly scheduled programming …….(Sorry, it is another Loong post I promise I‘ll be cutting back next week).

Dear Corporate America,

I appreciate your desire to reach African American viewers, but let me assure you that subsidizing a show called “ Hot Ghetto Mess” is not the way to do it. You don’t want your corporate brand associated with a show called “Hot Ghetto Mess” or the website that is the genesis for the show. If you have not been to the Hot Ghetto Mess site, I think you need to do so quickly.

Now the name of the show alone should have alerted a marketing executive of average intelligence that there MIGHT be a problem, but we are going to assume that you were reassured that your company would be insulated from criticism by BET for sponsoring a show whose sole purpose is to hold ordinary Americans in contempt, African Americans in particular. I mean after all the show is on BLACK Entertainment Television, surely it couldn’t be racist. The website that the show is based on isn’t run by the Klan after all, as first believed, but by a privileged African American female attorney who used to work for Legal Services in DC, therefore, it must be okay.

I want to point out certain realities that BET has continued to ignore, at its own peril, but you would be wise to acknowledge.

1. BET is no longer the only game in town. In the beginning, BET was all there was. I remember Donnie Simpson and Video Soul back when BET had a soul. African American artists appeared on MTV about as often as a lunar eclipse and then for such a short time that if you blinked you might miss them. Bev Smith had Our Voices and there was BET News and Teen Summit . Every Christmas, the TV at my grandmother’s house ended up on the BET Christmas special.

We didn’t have YouTube, Nick at Nite, Grey’s Anatomy 20 years ago. Black celebrities were a rare species on MTV, now they’re everywhere; MTV, VH1, Nickelodeon, ESPN. Hip Hop was a fringe musical genre, now it is dominating popular culture, I don’t even think we had Oprah back then. Times have changed. You don’t have to advertise on “Hot Ghetto Mess” in order to reach us.

2. BET, despite it’s name is not a Black company. It is owned, controlled and hands its revenue over to Viacom. I don’t care how many times Debra Lee and Reginald Hudlin try to shield their Viacom bosses from culpability, the last time I checked the executive management of Viacom was not African American. Our outrage would be the same even if they were.

3. The people who run BET are really bad managers, you shouldn’t trust your brand to them.
First BET placed sponsors advertising on a page with a huge blackface cartoon. Wasn’t there anyone within that organization that said “ Hmmm, I wonder if State Farm would have a problem with an ad for their “ 50 Million Pound Challenge” right next to the words “ Hot Ghetto Mess” and a big ol’ blackface cartoon?”

That didn’t happen because the corporate culture at BET still believes that they have a monopoly therefore are immune from outrage from the African American community. This is the same entity that didn’t figure out that building an entire brand on the backs of music videos and syndicated reruns of African American shows while jettisoning the few original shows they had wasn’t a good business model. This is the same organization that ignored widespread outrage from Black women about their after hours Hip Hop porn show, “Uncut. “

4. BET is DESPERATE to maintain the image that they are must-see-TV for Black America. That is just not the case. You need to dig behind whatever ratings or viewer numbers BET is claiming to have. Yes, the network MAY penetrate 84 million households, but is anyone over the age of 25 watching? I don’t know a person over the age of 25 that will admit to watching BET. In fact, just go up to a group of random Black people in your target demographic and say the name “BET”.

BET was so arrogant that African Americans didn’t have any other place to go that they slept for about 10 years while alternatives popped up all over the place and now SUDDENLY they realize that they have to do more than running music videos and reruns. They know many in their target audience have tuned them out so they decided to attempt the stunt of bringing HotGhettoMess.com to international television. This isn’t about social commentary, this is about BET trying to prove that they can out-Flava-of-Love VH1. They are willing to sacrifice your corporate image in the process.

I want to leave you with one final visual. Imagine the following caption:

“ Hot Ghetto Mess Brought to You By (___insert your company’s name here___) .
I can assure you that we are not going to go away and I have already prepared a graphic design, I just need to know which corporate names and logos to insert. I might even do my first YouTube PSA featuring the advertisers who decide to subsidize Hot Ghetto Mess. My portrait of Debbie “Antoinette” Lee took about 10 minutes. This send up of Russell"Palpatine" Simmons took about 25 minutes. Imagine what we could come up with over the next two weeks before the show airs.

We are just a tiny little blog. What are you going to do when the “usual cast of characters” finds out about this? Right now they have been occupied by the music festivals, awards shows, and conventions. Get out now while you still can. Hot Ghetto Mess is not worth the headache. Take this opportunity to demonstrate that you have standards and a corporate culture that does not celebrate holding people who look different in contempt for entertainment purposes.

BET can’t buffer your brand in this case because the network has squandered any moral authority by broadcasting cultural gems such as Uncut and living on a steady diet of violent, anti-woman, anti-education, anti-authority, pro-prison, pro-pimp, pro-drugs music videos. Didn’t it occur to them that music videos would be ubiquitous on the internet right now so viewers no longer have to watch BET to see their favorite artist? Didn’t someone at BET notice before now that African American viewers were going elsewhere? I mean they ARE in the television business.

In its desperate attempt to ward off irrelevance BET executives apparently do not mind taking your company down with them. This really isn't a tough call. So just do the right thing pull your ads from “Hot Ghetto Mess.” Thank you very much for your time.


What About Our Daughters?
“Combating negative portrayals of African American women in popular culture”