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New Patterns Emerging at British Media Landscape

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Looking at South Asians specifically, we know this community are hugely successful, creative, determined, educated and entrepreneurial. So would it not be better to convince advertisers by showing them how much more likely Asians are to buy for example nice cars, luxury watches, houses, electronic goods and all manner of technology?…. An exclusive column by Sanjay Shabi

An image from the Vaisakhi celebrations at Trafalgar Square (File)

When it comes to ethnic media in Britain, a lot’s changed. For instance, if like me you were an Indian kid growing up in the 1970’s, you may recall Sunday mornings spent watching Nai Zindagi Naya Jeevan on BBC1. Sandwiched between the test card and Songs of Praise broadcast from a quaint, remote English church somewhere, Nai Zindagi Naya Jeevan which translates to New Way New Life from a mix of Hindi and Urdu, was at the time an umbilical cord for my parents.

It provided short but weekly fix of Indian related news and entertainment, much needed as my parents settled into their New Way and New Life in the UK. It usually closed with a doe eyed performance from an all-time great singer like Lata Mangeshkar or Kishore Kumar. I personally loved the Midlands based Peter Singh, the original Asian Elvis impersonator resplendent in sparkly white flared suit and turban.

Since then, hundreds of print titles, radio and TV stations have materialised, some evolving into mature media products crafted with a distinct British perspective, rather than being solely reliant on imported content from their homeland. This is only dwarfed by the multitude of ethnic, UK based websites that have since evolved not forgetting the numerous mainstream media opportunities available given high ethnic densities in many of the UK’s cities. Even Facebook are now offering what they call ethnic affinity profiling.

Prime Minister David Cameron hosting Vaisakhi reception at No 10

I suppose my main observation is how many (not all, mind!) media owners are fixated by selling their channel, rather than building a case for ethnic audiences. To bring this to life a bit more, I remember as an Asian teen innocently cracking jokes like “how come Asians are rubbish at football? Because every time they get a corner they open a shop!” That’s not entirely true now.

Looking at South Asians specifically, we know this community are hugely successful, creative, determined, educated and entrepreneurial. So would it not be better to convince advertisers by showing them how much more likely Asians are to buy for example nice cars, luxury watches, houses, electronic goods and all manner of technology? In fact, there are easy ways in which these key propensities can be unlocked supported by independent, industry recognised desk top research. Experian Mosaic groups N58 Cultural Comfort and N59 Asian Heritage, which both have an overt ethnic profile, are available via the Target Group Index. As a matter of routine, for starters, these two groups offer a hygiene check for any brief.

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Diwali at Trafalgar Square in London

Darwin, that great evolutionary expert said, “It’s not the most intelligent or strongest species that survive, but those that are most responsive to change”. In this respect, mainstream media agencies like mine in particular also have a duty to adapt, embrace and make sure they support and encourage ethnic marketing. To help as a starting point for any one less familiar with this territory. I would actively encourage referring to the IPA’s The New Britain Report. Its over-view findings are still very much applicable now as they were when the report was first published two years ago, providing advice and guidance for those looking to explore this topic further.

To any budding advertising or media agency folk present who are considering ethnic marketing, my advice is simple.

  • Be brave – we need to consider the cultural context of the UK now. Ethnicity is not a hot potato anymore, its reality.
  • Be serious – ethnic marketing requires time and effort to be done properly but we must never trade this off merely in the name of tokenism.
  • Consider a cross-cultural approach, creatively and with your media selection. Think about the power of mass-personalisation. What I mean by that is creative style, messages and placements that engage with your target audiences regardless of their cultural background.
  • Encourage debate – open up the issue with everyone you professionally meet. How can we overcome the hurdles if we do not know the constraints?
  • Be specific – it is not always possible to do everything with everyone. Instead, do it small but do it well.
  • Be generous with your time and help become a champion. Share your experiences and knowledge with all your contacts and colleagues.

(Mr Sanjay Shabi is Board Director and Head of CultureCom UK, MediaCom)

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Baroness Verma and AShok Verma at 10 Downing Diwali (Photo Credits: Crown Copyright)