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Urban Marketing Plan Incorporates Video

16 Nov, 2003 By: Erik Gruenwedel

Ava DuVernay was bored. The L.A.-based publicist had perused the available reading material while captive in a salon chair for three hours as a stylist applied twists to her hair.

Thus was born the Urban Beauty Collective (UBC), a nationwide network of salons and barbershops that DuVernay uses as a conduit to connect African-American consumers with urban movies, music and related entertainment.

“I was in there on my third hour and thought there had to be a more constructive use of this time,” said DuVernay. “There's already a lot of entertainment happening in the salon. The TV is on. Music is playing. You've got gossip and laughing. People telling stories.”

Each month, UBC reports it sends out 5,000 VHS tapes that contain trailers of upcoming theatrical, DVD and CD urban entertainment presented in a format similar to TV programs “Access Hollywood” and “Entertainment Tonight.”

The content, including behind-the-scenes footage, commentary, fashion and lifestyle segments, and interviews with urban celebrities, is obtained from the studios and music labels that pay DuVernay an undisclosed fee to disseminate the material through home video.

DuVernay said Paramount Home Entertainment promoted a sequel DVD to The Original Kings of Comedy, starring comedians D.L. Hughley and Sommore, among others. Warner Home Video used UBC to market the Cradle 2 the Grave DVD/VHS release.

Other clients include Sony Entertainment, Warner Bros., MTV, Hollywood Records, DreamWorks and Interscope Records.

“We're slowly implementing DVD, but in our research we found that most of the salons have VCRs,” said Ellene Miles, producer of the UBC videotape.

The 30-minute- to 40-minute tape is sent to salons for free in the top 16 urban markets, including Los Angeles; New York; Philadelphia; New Orleans; Oakland, Calif.; Atlanta; Chicago; Detroit; Memphis, Tenn.; and Charlotte, N.C.

Miles said that many marketing companies targeting the urban demographic assume “they've hit their market” with a few spot ads on the BET network, local TV and radio.

“But they haven't,” said Miles. “The barbershop or salon within the black community is like an epicenter of culture. Black folks don't trust their hair to anybody. You trust your stylist. You are very close to that person.”

DuVernay agrees.

“I know women who will sit there for another hour after they are already finished just talking,” she said. “It's kind of like a getaway for a lot of folks.”

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