During a marathon hairstyling session at Los Angeles's Phaze II salon last year, entrepreneur Ava DuVernay gossiped, read magazines, and watched TV. Then she had an epiphany: Why not provide TV programming, some paid for by advertisers, some original content? In July, she distributed the first two-hour video from Urban Beauty Collective Television to 10,000 salons, targeting primarily African American and Hispanic women in 16 cities from Miami to Detroit.

UBC TV launches as marketers look for new ways to reach customers--particularly oft-ignored demographic segments such as minority women, says University of Georgia economist Jeffrey Humphreys. The problem is that as advertising has become ubiquitous, its impact has been diluted. "The challenge," he explains, "is to tap into fast-growing markets with relevant messages."

DuVernay's clients like DreamWorks Pictures and Warner Brothers Home Video pay for movie trailers and music videos to be included in UBC TV's overview of music, film, and fashion (think Baby Phat, not de la Renta). DuVernay reports that episode one turned a 25% profit, though she declines to disclose revenue figures. Clients have already begun booking time on the next installment, she adds, and she is talking to 2,000 more salons about picking up UBC TV. To sweeten distribution deals, she dispatches her production team to profile the salons in style spots. A service that delivers promotional post cards and shampoo samples to salons has also "caught fire," she says, and UBC Radio will launch this fall. Plus, DuVernay can now spend as much time in the salon as she wants--all in the name of research.

Published on: Nov 1, 2003