The Evolution of Black Advertising: From Stereotypes to Representation

African Americans have been represented in advertising since its inception in the mid-19th century. Most of the visual images (until World War II) appeared as stereotypical caricatures of black people. Vince Cullers (1924-2000), inspired by the growing civil rights movement, founded Vince Cullers Advertising in 1956 to create black advertising opportunities. After completing his degree at the Art Institute of Chicago, Cullers found a lack of options in the advertising market for qualified black artists.

Cullers used his artistic talent to run the agency with his wife, who was in charge of the administration. Together, they grew the company and worked with brands such as Johnson Products and Kellogg's. Today, the black and advertising community recognizes Vince Cullers Advertising as the first black agency in the United States. In the 1950s and 1960s, there was a “parallel world” of American advertising in which major brands targeted the African-American middle and upper classes in leading magazines such as Ebony and Jet.

These ads were never published in society at large and show a very different face of black America at the time. John Harold Johnson personally introduced brands to the idea that they should use black models to market to their audience if they expected to see higher sales. When some companies (reluctantly) tried it, they felt the results were so dramatic that they assured they would continue. As a result, Johnson's and later similar publications saw an explosion of targeted advertising.

However, since segregation and state-sanctioned discrimination against blacks were still enforced by law at this time, only these journals recognized and courted the wealth of blacks. Outside of their own businesses and networks in the United States, blacks were still banned from entering many stores and were actively banned from trying on items if allowed entry. In the U. S., cards varied widely in subject matter, although sports figures and ethnic humor were the two most popular motifs.

Some of the images were blatantly racist. One of the most defamatory showed abolitionist leader Frederick Douglass with his second wife, a white woman, taking a product called Sulpher Bitters to lighten his skin. From the early 20th century to the mid-1960s, advertising using stereotypical images of African Americans was ubiquitous in the U. S.

Some of the images became American icons and are still used in products today. Black people were made to appear submissive and ignorant, as well as ugly and grotesque. And if it was domestic or low-level work, blacks were described as the best fit for the job. Aunt Jemima, the first ready-made pancake mix, heralded the era of convenience products; it was the first product to use a black person as a trademark; and the product marketer was the first to promote the idea of giving a product as a gift to attract new customers.

From the end of slavery to the period of the civil rights movement in the 1960s, advertisements in the U. He continued to show blacks as Aunt Jemimas, Uncle Bens and Rastus, individuals servile to whites. Business cards, advertising stamps, blotters, cans and bottles commonly represented blacks with thick lips, bulging eyes and distorted grimaces. Many considered these images of servility to promote a type of psychological slavery as harmful as physical slavery.

Announcements of their efforts led to the sale of 12 stoves by the gas company. The first recording industry discovered an important market among blacks in 1920 when Columbia Records released Mamie Smith's “Crazy Blues”. And in 1922, Fuller Brush Co. Finally, in the mid-1970s to the present, images of black people as normal people with typical consumer problems became the norm.

These are most recently published articles (at least decades after the Great Depression) about advertising aimed at black consumers or advertising by black companies during the 1930s. The civil rights protests of the 1960s finally forced advertisers and agencies to change their focus and diversify. These images were created by white advertising agencies for white consumers as a way to reassure whites in the midst of intense political and social change. In a positive sense, I think it's noteworthy that blacks are used to represent a wider range of products than ever before.

The evolution of the black image in ads was related to larger efforts in the civil rights and equal citizenship movement, according to Jason Chambers, an advertising professor who teaches advertising history. His images were used without major deformities, negativity or stereotypes that sometimes accompanied other images of blacks in advertising. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission found in 1968 that New York's African-American white-collar employment in advertising was 2.5% of total employment. African-American media harshly criticized industry's record, as did some voices within advertising business.

That person came alive in Marlboro man who was not only black but also urban; surrounded by people instead of longhorns; his poise illuminated by his community rather than by his lack of one. Later between 1920 and 1940 blacks (apart from images known as Aunt Jemima or Uncle Ben) largely disappeared from advertising. However Barnett's main success did not come as agent for advertisers but as seller of advertising space within African-American press. Well products like Aunt Jemima's pancake mix; Uncle Ben's rice; gold washing powder; blacks were portrayed as experts.