Movies that are targeted primarily at black audiences could also be promoted more extensively to different groups of consumers, a paper in the Journal of Advertising Research (JAR) has suggested.

The study, entitled Adolescent Perceptions of Black-Oriented Media – ‘The Day Beyoncé Turned Black’: Can Black-Oriented Films and TV Programs Be Marketed More Broadly? was based on feedback from 1,990 people in the 14–17-year-old cohort.

The panel comprised 1,000 non-Hispanic black members and 990 non-Hispanic white respondents, who were asked about 15 “black-oriented films” and three “mainstream films” to determine their target-audience perceptions.

One core finding: “Black adolescents found it easier than White adolescents to label most Black-oriented movies as targeted primarily to Black audiences.”

“This was especially the case when the adolescents had a strong ethnic identity,” added the research paper, which was written by Morgan E. Ellithorpe (Michigan State University), Michael Hennessy and Amy Bleakley (University of Pennsylvania).

A clear point of contrast also emerged: “White adolescents do not seem to notice that some content is targeted primarily toward Black audiences and therefore might not be intended for them,” the analysis revealed.

“Even more telling is the fact that White adolescents reported lower exposure to the Black-oriented media. This indicates that they do not need to see a film to decide that it is for them—to some extent, this assumption may be fairly automatic.”

The Black contributors recorded “relatively high exposure” to mainstream movies and films they believed were primarily targeted at them.

“White respondents reported less exposure to Black-oriented movies than Black adolescents. This may be more about marketing strategy than it is about preferences,” the academics explained.

Breaking out the results further, they added that there “was a small contingent of White adolescents with high exposure to Black-oriented media, and that group represents an interesting special population for future study.

“In general, however, the White adolescents reported low exposure to nearly all the Black-oriented movies, yet their assessments of the target audience were spread more evenly across the perceived-target axis than the assessments of Black adolescents were.

“There is therefore a disconnect between perception and behavior, such that White adolescents often perceive Black-oriented media as being for them, yet they still do not watch it.”

One recommendation following from this insight: “White perceptions that Black-oriented content is not necessarily only for Black audiences should lead not to changes in content but to changes in how marketing messages for that content are targeted, the current authors believe.”

Sourced from Journal of Advertising Research; additional content by WARC staff