Brands target ethnic markets

As the UK's ethnic minority groups continue to expand in both size and influence, Media Week reports on how the media industry is facing the challenge of servicing these disparate communities

Brands target ethnic markets
Brands target ethnic markets

Britain's ethnic audiences are expanding rapidly - and so is their spending power. The 2001 census showed 7.9% of the UK belonged to a minority ethnic group, with the figure rising to 29% in London.

Not only have most ethnic minority groups mushroomed since then, the enlargement of the EU in 2004 has also resulted in tens of thousands of Eastern European migrants entering the country. More than 300 languages are now spoken in London alone, according to the Office for National Statistics, and one in five small businesses are owned or managed by members of ethnic minority communities.

According to a 2003 report by the Institute of Practitioners in Advertising (IPA) on ethnic diversity in the UK, the combined disposable income of ethnic minorities is an estimated £32bn. However, many UK media planners and buyers remain both ignorant and wary of ethnic media.

Of the larger agencies, only MediaCom has a specialist ethnic media division: CultureCom, run by director Sanjay Shabi. The division's clients include the COI, arguably the biggest spender on ethnic print media in the UK.

Other agencies tend to handle ethnic campaigns on a client-by-client basis. For example, Mindshare's Unilever team handles its campaigns on Asian TV channel Sunrise, while at Initiative, ethnic campaigns for Tesco tend to be based around local store openings, so are handled by regional and local planning teams. Other clients will brief specialist ethnic agencies, such as Media Reach, Sterling Media and Media Moguls to reach a multicultural audience.

So why is ethnic media relatively neglected by advertisers?  MediaCom's Shabi says one of the major challenges in planning multicultural campaigns is a lack of accurate data. Despite efforts by Barb, Rajar and the IPA to recruit ethnic audience members onto their panels, most available data still does not give an accurate reflection of these audiences.

Toby Aldrich, director of Spectrum Radio, which broadcasts to ethnic communities in 22 languages, says: "We used to subscribe to Rajar, but the numbers made little sense to us, because of the postcode system of measurement."

However, MediaCom's Shabi says media owners must become more proactive about making audience figures available - for example, providing print-run certificates.

Ethnic media specialists argue that mainstream brands could benefit hugely from targeting multicultural audiences. Jay Rai, director at Indoor Media, which sells online ad inventory across ethnic sites, says: "Our big challenge is getting advertisers to look beyond the brief and see ethnic audiences as being predisposed to certain brands, products and services. For example, understanding that South Asian men are tech-savvy, socially competitive and thus early adopters."

And, as Media Reach chief executive Saad Sharaf points out: "Particularly in the current climate, targeting ethnic audiences could provide advertisers with the uplift in market share they need to help their bottom line."


Represent 0.4% of the population (highest densities in London boroughs of Westminster, City of London and Barnet, plus Cambridge)
Source: Census 2001

The UK's Chinese population is on the rise, with a particularly steep increase in Chinese students. However, this group is still under-served by home-grown media, particularly for advertisers wanting to run campaigns in English.

The key English-language publication for the Chinese community is Sing Tao Daily, which has run a London edition since 1975 and claims a circulation of 140,000 across Europe, with the majority of readers in the UK. A paid-for broadsheet, it carries political, cultural, financial and entertainment news.

An increasingly popular title is the international Epoch Times, originally founded by a group of academics in China. Now based in New York, but with a UK edition, the paper prides itself on uncensored reporting of major news stories from China, such as the SARS epidemic and the baby milk contamination scandal.

The Epoch Times prints 30,000 Chinese-language copies and 10,000 English-language copies a week, although its readership is estimated at 80,000, and it plans to go twice-weekly this year. The 24-page broadsheet is distributed free in restaurants, Chinese shops and in university libraries, and its international website receives up to 1.5 million hits daily.

Spectrum Radio has a service catering for Mandarin and Cantonese speakers, and programmes in both languages can be found on TVB Satellite-Europe, a 24-hour satellite channel operated by The Chinese Channel and PCNE (Phoenix), both available on Sky. Digital media brands include, a site aimed at second-generation, English-speaking Chinese and East Asian professionals.

South Asian

Indian: 1.8% of the population of England and Wales (highest densities in Leicester, London, Wolverhampton, Slough)
Pakistani: 1.3% (highest densities in Yorkshire [Bradford], West Midlands)
Bangladeshi: 0.5% (highest density in Tower Hamlets, London)

Source: Census 2001

South Asians - including Indians, Pakistanis and Bangladeshis - are the UK's largest ethnic minority group. But with several different languages, religions and cultural sensitivities to take into account, targeting this audience might seem a complex task for the uninitiated media planner.

Indoor Media director Jay Rai says: "The question I am most often asked by agencies is what language to use - Punjabi, Urdu, Hindi or Gujarati? However, you must bear in mind that younger, British-born Indians will mainly communicate in English, although they will still, for example, listen to Indian music."

Sunrise Radio sales and marketing director Kay McCarthy agrees: "Unless you have something like a specific health message and want to reach the older generation, most advertising can be run in English."

There has been a proliferation of Indian broadcasters in the UK in recent years, mirroring an explosion in India's television industry. Sky Digital now carries about 45 Indian channels and, as the market develops, some South Asian media brands are subscribing to industry standards.

For example, free-to-air Sunrise TV has subscribed to Barb since its launch last April, with advertisers including Unilever and Johnson & Johnson.

As well as Sunrise TV, which broadcasts locally produced news and shows, leading free-to-air Asian networks include Zee TV, which has five UK channels. In addition, News Corp's pay-TV channel Star TV has four UK channels: Star News, Star Gold for Bollywood movies, Star One for a younger demographic, and entertainment channel Star Plus, which features hit shows such as Nach Baliye, an Indian version of Strictly Come Dancing.

But while younger Indians are less likely to be watching Indian-made soaps and dramas, they have one thing in common - a passion for Bollywood. With a host of movie channels and radio stations - which have just been joined on Sky Digital by all-Bollywood Zee Radio - younger Asians have bought into Bollywood in a big way. "It's the glue that draws the generations together - and the reason why Sunrise Radio is still alive and kicking," acknowledges Sunrise's Kay McCarthy.

With a weekly reach of 528,000 Asian adults, Sunrise broadcasts in English and Hindi. Another leading radio station, Club Asia, plays music targeted at the Asian youth market and reaches 200,000 listeners a week. Both subscribe to Rajar.

Other stations cater for more specific groups. For example, Panjab Radio caters for Punjabi speakers, broadcasting nationally on Sky Digital, DAB and the internet. It has just received its first Rajar measurement of 49,000 weekly listeners.

Spectrum Radio caters for Indian, Pakistani, Sikh and Bangladeshi audiences among its 22 languages.

Of the print titles, the Eastern Eye went into administration last month, but has been bought by Asian Media & Marketing Group, where group managing editor Kalpesh Solanki plans to invest in the title. The Asian Age is an Indian broadsheet that publishes a daily London edition, with a circulation of about 20,000, while Asian magazines include glossy English-language titles Asiana and Asian Woman.

South Asians are also increasingly voracious users of digital media. Top websites include lifestyle and shopping portal, as well as Indian newspaper sites such as The Economic Times.


Estimated to represent a population of between 750,000 and 1.2 million in the UK (highest densities are in the London boroughs of Hammersmith, Ealing, Enfield and Haringey, plus Southampton, Peterborough, Bristol)
Source: various

Polish media has flourished in the UK since Poland joined the EU in 2004, with established publications such as Polish Daily joined by a new wave of weekly Polish-language publications targeting a younger, migrant worker audience.

Even mainstream British media is catching on: The Sun ran a special Polish edition for the duration of the Euro 2008 football tournament.

Of the weekly papers, Polish Express, published by Fortis Media, claims a circulation of 60,000 per week. The paper reports day-to-day life for Poles in Britain, as well as providing major news and economic reports from Poland. Fortis also publishes a weekly glossy magazine, Panorama.
Cooltura, which claims a weekly circulation of 45,000, is aimed at the younger generation of Polish immigrants. The company also owns the first Polish-language radio station available on DAB, Polish Radio London.

Krzysztof Chowaniec, managing director, says advertisers include mainstream as well as Polish brands - although ads tailored to Polish audiences get the best response. Other print titles include The Polish Times (Goniec Polski), which claims a weekly audience of 30,000 to 40,000.
A number of Polish TV stations, including TVPL24, are available via satellite in the UK, although there are no significant home-grown channels as yet. Viewers can also buy a Polsat dish to pick up channels beamed directly from Poland.

Meanwhile, digital media has taken off fast for UK Poles, thanks to the plethora of younger immigrants - Home Office data from 2006 shows the Polish community's average age is 28. Last October, Cooltura launched a UK internet portal,, while other sites include and

And, with Polish food the fastest-growing ethnic food group, brands are using outdoor media to target Poles. For example, Polish food group Wadowice used Clear Channel to advertise its Tymbark brand in areas of high Polish population.

African-Caribbean and African

Black Caribbean: 1% of the population (highest densities in London boroughs of Lewisham, Lambeth, Brent, Hackney)
Black African: 0.8% (highest densities in London boroughs of Southwark, Newham, Lambeth, Hackney)

Source: Census 2001

With the African-Caribbean community in the UK now into its third and fourth generation, the media needs of the marketplace are changing.

Indeed, a new report by the Equality and Human Rights Commission suggests the increasing number of mixed-race births means African-Caribbean culture could eventually die out in the UK. Long-established titles such as The Voice are having to reinvent themselves, while the rival New Nation closed last month.

The Voice is 27 years old and is owned by GV Media, owner of Jamaican newspaper The Gleaner, which also has a weekly UK version. Ope Bankole, head of advertising, says: "We have had to evolve from a newspaper into a media brand delivering content to African-Caribbeans - from the first-generation 1950s immigrants who came over on the Windrush and were still in touch with their Caribbean families, to their British-born grandchildren who have a totally different taste for news."

With this in mind, spin-off Young Voices, previously a print title, will relaunch as an online brand later this year. Other regular supplements include Body Beautiful, a beauty title, and Cookbook, featuring Caribbean recipes.

The Voice itself claims a circulation of 50,000 per week, with a readership of more than 250,000, 70% of which is in London. Bankole acknowledges its unaudited status can be challenging when dealing with agencies. However, he argues: "Media agencies have to understand that the pass-on value is very high in this community."

He adds: "Our biggest disappointment is that we don't attract more advertising from corporate clients - they tend not to see or relate to the African-Caribbean marketplace. In particular, the business and banking sector is very conservative. It should really be targeting these communities. Retailers are more enthusiastic - for example, Tesco has been a great supporter."

Print media aimed specifically at Africans is more niche, with different publications aimed at Nigerians, Ghanaians and other nationalities. One area that is flourishing is Nigerian broadcasting, particularly with TV stations showing movies from the Nigerian film industry, known as "Nollywood".

Nollywood Movies is a 24-hour Nigerian premium movie channel available on Sky Digital, while Hi TV launched in November on Sky Digital, broadcasting its two channels, Nigezie and Hi-Nolly.
For Ghanaians, a Ghanaian channel, OBE (Original Black Entertainment) is available on Sky Digital, while Spectrum Radio has a Ghanaian slot. Other radio stations include The Voice of Africa, a London-based community radio station launched in 2000 to service the pan-African community. The station broadcasts on FM, but plans to join Sky Digital.

Programmes are broadcast in a range of African languages as well as in English, French and Portuguese.

Leading digital media brands include, a portal for the international black community.

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