Aunt Jemima, Uncle Ben, and Rastus: Blacks in Advertising, Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow

By Marilyn Kern-Foxworth | Go to book overview

Chapter 8
EPILOGUE: COLORIZING ADVERTISING: A 21St-CENTURY CHALLENGE

Mass advertising is color-blind. It approaches the black consumer as if he were somebody's fair-haired boy. It speaks to him in a foreign language. It offers him Great White Hopes. It pictures him in off-color unrealistic settings. Companies aware of this have frantically begun coloring mass advertising black. But the result isn't black. It just looks that way to the people who create it.

(Zebra Advertising, 1970, p. 50)

Zebra Advertising of New York, one of the first black-owned and -operated advertising agencies, offered the above synopsis of advertisers' efforts to target the black consumer market. I have researched the role of multiracial groups in advertising for the past 20 years. Some changes have taken place, but the rhetoric remains the same. The advertising industry has been reluctant to "colorize" its advertisements, its commercials, and its boardrooms because it may alienate white consumers. In other words, the people who visit our homes day in and day out, trying to get us to buy this or that, are still not reflective of the society in which we live.

From all appearances it looks as if the advertising industry is still showing some signs of resistance in reflecting a more diverse society. In the December 1991 issue of Black Enterprise John O'Toole, president of the American Association of Advertising Agencies, commented, "It is hard to conceive of advertising's role as depicting the ethnic diversity of American society. Advertising, in general, not only has no obligation, but it has no business trying to depict national diversity" ( Chinyelu, 1991, p. 11).

-167-

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