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Toyota Refuses to Thank Black Consumers

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Black Consumers Spend $2.2 Billion With Toyota, Yet Toyota Refuses To Thank Black Consumers For Their Support

By Jasmyne A. Cannick, NNPA National Correspondent –

Toyota Motor Sales USA executives have angered National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA) Chairman Danny Bakewell Sr. and America’s preeminent Black newspaper publishers after the troubled carmaker backed out of a multimillion dollar advertising campaign targeting Black consumers.

In a letter to Mr. 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 the Black newspapers was unnecessary.

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 Chairman 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, Mr. 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. Toyota’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 Mr. 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.

“Toyota insulted us by putting those thank you ads in white newspapers and refusing to address Black consumers in Black newspapers,” said Walter Smith, publisher of the New York Beacon.

“What Toyota is doing is reprehensible,” 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.”

Even though African Americans contributed $2.2 billion to Toyota’s annual sales, this was the second time that Black newspapers and Black consumers were not included in Toyota’s advertising campaign, the first being Toyota’s immediate response to its sticky gas pedal defect which resulted in full page newspaper ads in white newspapers in 25 cities.

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

Last week, Toyota’s Vice- President of Product Communications Mr. James Colon left a phone message for Mr. Bakewell instructing him that he planned to reach out directly to NNPA’s publishers in an effort to bypass the organization’s leadership and speak directly to the organization’s member newspapers, an unprecedented move which clearly violates protocol.

In an attempt to defend the letter Mike Michels, Toyota spokesperson stated, “We communicate with advertising media directly all of the time, so a communication to a variety of news media one kind or another I don’t think is unusual.

The discussion with NNPA chairman and his negotiating team hasn’t had a satisfactory outcome certainly for NNPA.

And so the purpose of the communication was to express our commitment to the African-American community and to reiterate that while it’s being said that we don’t have a commitment we do indeed. Long story short, we wanted the members to know our side of the story.”

Mr. Bakewell responded, “I wish him good luck but I don’t think that our publishers will break rank with me, after all we’re smarter than that. That’s what Toyota executives don’t give us credit for. We know all too well the history of the Willie Lynch syndrome to divide and conquer.”

Peggy Hunt, publisher of the Tri- County Sentry in California said that she was very offended by Mr. Colon’s suggestion that she break rank and not follow the strong and unwavering leadership of NNPA’s Chairman Mr. Bakewell.

“Mr. Colon wouldn’t and isn’t going to get us to break rank and support Toyota,” commented Hunt.

“I was in the meeting when Mr. Colon committed to a partnership with NNPA and he has clearly broken his word. For Mr. Colon to then come back to the table with a drastically different proposal offering us less than what we agreed upon while excluding prior conversations regarding an annual advertising schedule with Black newspapers directed towards Black consumers shows that he and Toyota are taking the Black press for granted.”

“I am not surprised at Toyota’s lack of commitment,” said Walter Smith. “Toyota has a long history of insulting and ignoring African Americans. In 1985, the Prime Minister of Japan, Yasuhiro Nakasone, said that Japan was more intelligent than countries like the United States because they didn’t have a lot of Blacks, Puerto Ricans, and Mexicans. He felt that ethnic minorities were low level and brought the intelligence quota down, an unforgivable statement.

So what Toyota is doing with the NNPA is of no surprise to me.”

Currently, Toyota’s 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, Mr. Bakewell pointed out, the media Toyota uses to reach Black people is not always Black owned even though Toyota claims to spend $20 million with Blackowned media.

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.

And while calls to Burrell’s Co- CEO Fay Ferguson were not returned, Toyota’s James Colon was quick to point out in his letter to NNPA’s publishers that through partnerships with Black organizations, Toyota has demonstrated their commitment to Black people.

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+1 # Guest 2011-07-29 00:06
When will Africans create their own brand of vehicles to be distributed throughout the world? Nobody can customize them like they do! Africans should have their own vehicle company, training and employing the best of themselves first! The whole world would benefit from this. The African World Community needs its own everything to take care of itself first then the rest of the world if they choose to support them.
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