William “Bill” Sharp, retired founder and CEO of Sharp Advertising Inc., was well-known in the advertising community for his expertise and achievements in communications, for his community involvement and for his contributions to motivating minority youth. Sharp cultivated a diverse career in advertising for himself, working both agency and client side, as well as starting his own ventures.
In 1967, while working as a copy editor at J. Walter Thompson, he founded and instructed the “Basic Ad Course,” an American Association of Advertising Agencies–sponsored program that prepared minorities for professional careers in advertising. Sharp also wrote and published a book entitled, “How to Be Black and Get a Job in the Advertising Business Anyway.” In later years, The Sharp Award, sponsored by JWT North America and JWT Atlanta, was created to recognize excellence in marketing, advertising and media by presenting a future leader a $3,500 award who embodied the qualities of Sharp.
Sharp held a seat and maintained an active voice within organizations like the 4A’s and the American Advertising Federation. He was also a founding board member of The Marcus Graham Project, a national non-profit association dedicated to providing resources for today’s diverse youth that will strategically develop a viable pool of talent and leadership within the industry. He was the recipient of numerous awards including, Ad Man of the Year for Southern Magazine, The Art Directors Club of New York Award, AAF Advertising Hall of Fame Inductee, and the AAF Lifetime Achievement Award. He and his cousin, Tom Burrell, were the first, first-cousins to both receive the honor of being an Advertising Hall of Fame Inductee in the history of the award.
Since 1986, Carol H. Williams has been the creative fire behind a progressive and dynamic advertising agency. As president, CEO and chief creative officer of Carol H. Williams Advertising (CHWA), Williams oversees a bevy of advertising and marketing accounts that recognizes and speaks to African Americans and multicultural markets. With offices in Oakland, Chicago and New York, Williams has guided CHWA to become the largest African-American, female-owned advertising and marketing agency in the world.
Williams and her company have produced award-winning campaigns for companies like Hewlett-Packard, General Mills, Walt Disney and Nissan. Prior to starting CHWA, Williams spent some time at Leo Burnett, rising quickly to become they company’s first female and African-American creative director and vice president. After 13 years, Williams spent two years as SVP and creative director at Foote, Cone, & Belding (FCB). Following her time at FCB, Williams launched CHWA.
In addition to leading a creative powerhouse, Williams has contributed her time to several organizations including the RainbowPUSH Coalition, the Congressional Black Caucus and the NAACP. Her many achievements include being honored with the ADCOLOR Legend Award, recognized as Black Enterprise’s 50 Most Powerful Women in Business, and receiving the U.S. Dept. of Commerce’ Lifetime Achievement Award.
Georg Olden began a career as an artist when he dropped out of high school to work as a graphic designer for the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), the forerunner to the CIA, shortly after the attack on Pearl Harbor. After the end of the war, his manager helped him get a job working for CBS television as the head of on-air promotions.
While working for CBS Olden oversaw the development of logos and graphics for “Gunsmoke”, “I Love Lucy”, and “Lassie.” He also played a role in producing the vote-tallying board for the first televised Presidential election, between Dwight D. Eisenhower and Adlai E. Stevenson.
In 1960 Olden transitioned to advertising, taking on a role as the television group art director at BBDO. In 1963 he accepted the positon of Vice-President of and Senior Art Director of McCann Erickson. During his career his name was mentioned over 108 times in Graphis and Art Director’s Club annuals.
Georg settled on the spelling of his name early on in his career. “You have to do something to attract the attention of the magazine editors,” he told Advertising Age in 1963. By 1970 he’d earned 7 Clios and even designed the statuette in 1962. Olden was also the first African-American to design a U.S. postage stamp, a broken chain commemorating the 100th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation. President John F. Kennedy praised the stamp as “a reminder of the extraordinary actions in the past as well as the business of the future.”
John H. Johnson, along with his wife Eunice Walker Johnson, built an African-American lifestyle-inspired media and cosmetics empire in Chicago that included Ebony, Jet and Fashion Fair Cosmetics. Today, these publications and their digital sites reach nearly 72% of African-Americans and have a following of over 20.4 million.
Johnson briefly attended both University of Chicago and Northwestern University, and was involved as a member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Inc. Soon after his time in school, he launched a magazine, The Negro Digest, in 1942. The Negro Digest was the foundation for Ebony Magazine. With a desire to create quality content for Blacks in the United States, Johnson began his publishing and cosmetics conglomerate with just $500 dollars.
In 1954 the Johnson Publishing Company financed a film, “The Secret of Selling the Negro Market, to encourage advertisers to promote their products and services in the African-American media. The film showed African-American professionals, housewives and students as participants in the American consumer society, and it emphasized the economic power of this demographic community.
Johnson was the first black person to appear on the Forbes 400 Rich List, and had a fortune estimated at close to $600 million. Johnson served on the Board of Directors of Dillard’s Inc., and he has served on the boards of First Commercial Bank, Little Rock; Dial Corporation; Zenith Radio Corporation; and Chrysler Corporation.
Media and advertising executive Esther “E.T.” Franklin was born in Chicago and received her B.S. degree in business administration from the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana in 1979 and her M.M. degree from Northwestern University’s Kellogg Business School in 1993.
In 1980, Franklin was hired as a field project director at Market Facts, Inc. in Chicago. From 1982 to 1993, she worked for Burrell Communications, first as a market research analyst, and later as vice president and associate research director. In 1984, Franklin took a brief hiatus from Burrell Communications to work as a research manager for the Johnson Publishing Company. She was hired by Leo Burnett Advertising in 1993 and worked on various Philip Morris brands as vice president and planning director for Marlboro USA until 2001. At Leo Burnett, Franklin was instrumental in launching several corporate trend initiatives, including LeoShe, Foresight Matters and 20Twenty Vision, focused on the female consumer and twenty-something audience. She also appeared on Oprah, where she discussed LeoShe's research on beauty myths.
In 2002, Franklin was named senior vice president, director of consumer context planning for Starcom USA, a Starcom MediaVest Group (SMG) company. She was appointed as executive vice president, director of cultural identities of Starcom MediaVest Group in 2006, and was later promoted to executive vice president, head of SMG Americas Experience Strategy in 2011. During her time at SMG, Franklin pioneered Cultural Communication Anthropology and worked on Beyond Demographics, a research study exploring the vital role of culture and identity in reaching consumers.
Franklin has received numerous honors for her work. She was named an AdAge “Women to Watch” and received the “Changing the Game” honor from Advertising Women of New York (AWNY). Franklin was honored with the prestigious “Legend Award” at the 2011 ADCOLOR Awards & Conference, and was identified as one of the Top Women Executives in Advertising & Marketing by Black Enterprise in both 2012 and 2013. She has published several multicultural and subculture targeting pieces, and is sought out as a speaker and panelist on all topics related to the evolving consumer landscape.
With over 30 years of experience, Valerie Graves has spent the bulk of her career on correcting the cultural images of African Americans in advertising. “When I got my first job in advertising, I found my profession. When I moved to multicultural advertising, I found my calling,” she says. “Nothing gives me more pleasure than accurately depicting the majesty of Black people.”
The first 10 years of Graves’ career were spent in copywriting and creative director roles at high-profile general market agencies like BBDO, J. Walter Thompson and Kenyon & Eckhardt. After that, Graves joined UniWorld, a multicultural agency founded by Byron Lewis, as vice-president and creative group head. In an interview, Graves explained that most high-level folks in multicultural agencies had been immersed in general market agencies, but like her, reached a ceiling that didn’t look like it would break anytime soon. The barrier to promotions for many people of color led them to go off on their own and either start their own agencies or join multicultural shops.
Graves has a number of exciting career highlights. She served as the SVP of Corporate Creative Services at Motown Records. While at Nelson Communications, Graves created an integrated campaign for World Aids Day in 1999, featuring former Surgeon General, Jocelyn Elders. Her extensive work with Fortune 500 corporations earned her the first Legend award at ADCOLOR. She’s also received a range of additional awards including; Advertising Age’s 100 Best and Brightest; Ebony’s Outstanding Women in Marketing and Communications award; and the Association of National Advertisers Multicultural Excellence Awards.
Ann Fudge has led a lucrative career honing in on her talent for “resuscitating older brands” and exercising “patience, perseverance and persistence.” Fudge attended Simmons College in Boston where she received her undergraduate degree. After graduating with an M.B.A. from Harvard University in 1977, she worked nine years for General Mills in Minneapolis, Minn. Fudge advanced from marketing assistant to marketing director and was instrumental in the development and introduction of Honey Nut Cheerios, one of the country’s best-selling breakfast cereals.
In 1994 she became president of Maxwell House Coffee Co., a division of Kraft General Foods. The appointment made her the highest–ranking black female executive in corporate America. In 2003 after a 2-year sabbatical, Fudge took on the role of Chairman & CEO of Young & Rubicam Brands—the multinational advertising division of WPP Group, a communications company based in London—and of Y&R Advertising, the company’s largest division. Doing so made her the first African American to head a major Madison Avenue advertising agency.
In 2008, Fudge was a member of the Obama presidential campaign’s finance committee. As of 2011, Fudge served on the boards of directors of General Electric, Novartis, and Unilever. She also served as chair of the U.S. Programs Advisory Board of The Gates Foundation; and she was a trustee of the Rockefeller Foundation, Brookings Institution, the Council on Foreign Relations and Morehouse College
Fudge’s honors included the Black Achievers award from the Harlem YMCA, the Candace Award from the National Coalition of 100 Black Women, and the Boys and Girls Club of America President’s Award. She sat on the boards of Liz Claiborne, Inc., and Allied Signal, Inc. Her long history of community service included positions on the boards of the Women’s Economic Development Corp., the Partnership for a Drug Free America, the allocations panel of the United Way, the Council on Foreign Relations, and the Executive Leadership Council. Fudge continues to serve on both corporate and non-profit boards.
Tom Burrell began his career in advertising while still in college, becoming the first Black man in Chicago advertising. His senior year, he landed a position as a copywriter with the Chicago division of Wade Advertising then moved over to Foote Cone & Belding (now FCB), where he became a Copy Supervisor. In 1971 Burrell branched out and started his own shop, Burrell Communications (originally Burrell McBain), with the intention of targeting the burgeoning African-American market. His clients included McDonalds, Coca-Cola, Ford, and Proctor & Gamble, to name a few.
Burrell generated positive change in the ad industry by casting African-Americans in roles that had initially been off limits for them in the media. Instead of exaggerated, stereotypical tropes, Burrell placed African-Americans in roles that were more reflective of their everyday lives.
During his career Burrell has held several leadership roles within organizations such as the Ad Council, American Association of Advertising Agencies (AAAA) and The Chicago Urban League. In 1986 he received the Albert Lasker Award for Lifetime Achievement in Advertising. In 1990, he was the recipient of the Missouri Honor Medal for Distinguished service in Journalism. He was inducted into the American Advertising Federation’s Hall of Fame in 2004. After retiring, Burrell wrote “Brainwashed: Challenging the Myth of Black Inferiority,” a call to action to question self-defeating attitudes and behavior.
Clarence LeRoy Holte was a pioneer in multicultural marketing and publisher and founder of Nubian Press Inc. in New York City. After spending some time working as a bank teller followed by a few years as a sales rep for Lever Brothers Company, Holte joined Batten, Barton, Durstine & Osborn, Inc. (BBDO) in 1952. He became the first African-American to reach the executive level in a general-market advertising firm.
Holte often ventured to Europe and Africa during his time at BBDO which inspired him to create the first ad campaign that linked a brand with Black History. “The Ingenious Americans” campaign was created for National Distillers™ Old Taylor company. Holte’s career at BBDO lasted for 20 years and in 1971 he left the company to start Nubian Press. The first book, Nubian Baby Book, was created to introduce black children to their African-American heritage.
Holte was a dedicated and prominent book collector, motivated by a desire to learn more about his roots. His collection grew to over 7,000 books and was worth over $400,000. At one time, it was considered one of the largest and most valuable private book collections in the world.
An avid book collector, Holte had a collection of over 7,000 books acquired from all over the world on black history and culture. At one time, it was considered one of the largest and most valuable (over $400,000) private collection of its kind in the world. The Clarence L. Holte Literary Prize was created to recognize publications dealing with the cultural heritage of Black Americans. In 1981 Lincoln University awarded Holte with an honorary doctorate degree.
Since 2001, BBDO has sponsored the 4A's / American Association of Advertising Agencies Clarence LeRoy Holte Multicultural Advertising Intern Program (MAIP) award. The award is given each year to a student who exemplifies outstanding leadership an initiative and a passion for our business, who embraces its principles, and who demonstrates poise, compassion and consideration of the team effort.
Archie Boston had humble beginnings as the son of a sugar cane sharecropper father and a mother who kept house. While he grew up poor, he was well aware of the value of an education. His drawing and painting skills got him accepted into Chouinard Art Institute (soon to become CalArts), where his older brother attended and which he afforded with National Defense Student Loans. An internship at Carson/Roberts solidified his desire to be a part of the advertising industry. “The creative people were treated like they were the most important in the agency,” he wrote in his 2001 memoir, Fly in the Buttermilk. “I wanted to be one of them so bad I could taste it.”
Early on Boston bounced between design studios and advertising agencies, while also serving out his National Guard duty. Though he and brother Brad had worked together before—notably on a series of posters for the Council on Negro Affairs in 1963—the pair formed Boston & Boston Design in 1967. As a new firm courting companies that did not know what to make of this outgoing studio with African-American principals, they scrapped constantly for clients.
Provocation and humor go hand-in-hand in Boston's portfolio. By combining both aspects he has created unparalleled pieces of visual communication that evoke racist history while subverting it too. Attention-grabbing pieces like that “Catch a nigger by the toe” mailer have been part of his repertoire from the start. As Boston & Boston he and Brad were strategic about pointing out their blackness, not only as a means of preempting surprises, but also as a platform to showing off their creativity and audacity. A 1966 poster shows Archie in a satin stars-and-stripes ensemble and top hat, pointing at the camera, with the headline “Uncle Tom Wants You!” The next year Archie and Brad produced one with them side by side, shirtless, each with a “For Sale” sign around their necks and a list of their measurements plus their merits and skills. Another declared, “I don't want to marry your daughter.” These are artifacts of an era where such promotion doubled as social critique, and in their brashness attempted to hasten society's acceptance of the shifting racial dynamic.
Changing perceptions about race takes perseverance, but Boston has always been enthusiastic about his role in the Los Angeles creative community. He was the first African American to be elected president of the Los Angeles Art Directors Club, where he served two terms. He also paid tribute to the Los Angeles design community in a series of video interviews called 20 Outstanding Los Angeles Designers, which he created while on sabbatical in 1986. Boston visited the studios of designers he admired, from heavyweights like Saul Bass to his former instructor Louis Danziger and digital avant-garde designer April Greiman. Twenty-one years later he released the videos on DVD, sharing these important documents of the creative scene to serve as inspiration for students.
After retiring from teaching, he noted in his last lecture, “I want to be remembered as a designer and educator, someone who documented my experience as an African American.”
Emory Douglas was raised by his legally blind mother and lived a relatively quiet childhood. After moving to the Bay Area in 1951, Douglas began to have conflicts with the law and ended up incarcerated for over a year at a juvenile facility. There, he received his first taste of graphic design, working in the print shop that made products for businesses. He learned the foundations of design, including typography and layout. Intrigued, he later enrolled in art classes that focused on large-scale print production and began making collateral materials for civil rights student groups.
In 1967 he met Huey P. Newton and Bobby Seal, founders of the newly formed Black Panther Party. Upon joining, Douglas began applying his skills to develop the official Black Panther newspaper, and became the Minister of Culture. At the time, African-Americans were frequently depicted in subservient roles or rouge criminals. His work depicted African-Americans in courageous positions, encouraging a spirit of defiance as opposed to victimization during the civil rights struggle. Through posters and newspaper design, Douglas fearlessly illustrated the conflict of the black community in a way that wasn’t watered down or censored, revolutionary for his time.
The Black Panther Party eventually dissolved, due to conflicts within the organization and attacks by the government. However, Douglas continues to “inform and educate” through his work. Some of the causes he supports include attacking racism, the prison system and greed. In addition to having his work shown in cultural institutions across the world and receiving several awards, Douglas was presented with the AIGA Medal in 2015.
Interested in learning more about the Black Panther Party and Emory Douglas? PBS will premier The Black Panthers: Vanguard Of The Revolution by filmmaker Stanley Nelson who examines the rise of the Black Panther Party in the 1960s and its impact on civil rights and American culture.
Harvey Russell joined the Coast Guard during World War II, where he became one of the first black deck officers in the Coast Guard's history. After serving he joined a Manhattan advertising firm, in a low-paying job but experienced a fresh career opportunity when the owner of the agency developed a soft drink called Joe Louis Punch and put Russell in charge of marketing.
Unfortunately, Joe Louis Punch did not succeed with American consumers. However with knowledge of the soft drink market, Russell joined PepsiCo in 1950, in a growing department called “Negro sales.” By 1958 he had been named manager of Pepsi's ethnic marketing department, which by then also concentrated on Hispanic consumers.
In 1962 Russell was promoted to vice-president. Ebony magazine declared he was the first person of his race to advance so far at an American corporation. The news was also met by an unsuccessful boycott of Pepsi’s products by the Ku Klux Klan. During his time at PepsiCo, Russell redefined the company’s approach to marketing towards African-Americans. The company began to include positive images of African-Americans in their advertising and also worked to improve the hiring practices and conditions of African-Americans within the company.
Known for his humbleness, Russell stressed that individuals at black-owned companies far surpassed his accomplishments. In his opinion they’d worked harder, carving out a place for themselves literally from nothing. ''I may be the vice president of a large corporation,'' he told an interviewer in 1962, ''but there are Negroes who have built up successful businesses under the most difficult conditions. For me to be selected over these men who overcame much greater odds doesn't make sense.''
By the time he retired from Pepsi in 1983, Russell was vice president of community affairs, responsible for community relations and public relations. He was a longtime board member of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund Inc., and helped develop the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation. In 1964, he was chairman of the Interracial Council for Business Opportunities with Rodman Rockefeller, son of Gov. Nelson A. Rockefeller. After his retirement Russell continued to sit on boards and contribute to community affairs.
Dubbed the "Father of Black Public Relations," Moss Kendrix created a legacy of educating corporate America about the purchasing power of African-Americans and changing how the demographic was portrayed in advertisements. Kendrix was a Morehouse College alum and member of Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity. After entering the US Army, he spent several years working for the Treasury Department in the War Finance Office. In 1944 he became the director of public relations for the Republic of Liberia’s Centennial Celebration. Inspired by his PR work for the US government, he later founded his own public relations firm, acquiring clients who were actively pursuing African-American consumers.
During the 1920s and 1930s, Nehi, a popular soft drink company was by far the favorite of the African-American demographic. At the time, Coca-Cola had yet to properly address the African-American market. Kendrix noticed the opportunity for Coca-Cola and approached the company with a proposal outlining the value of the Africa-American market and how to properly connect with them and give back to the community at the same time. He was hired by Coca-Cola, making him the first African-American to acquire such a large corporate account. Kendrix was involved in developing advertising campaigns for Coca-Cola until the 1970s.
Caroline R. Jones crushed race and sex barriers in advertising to become one of the most impactful black women in the industry.
Her advertising career began in 1963 at J. Walter Thompson in New York. She started as a secretary and subsequently enrolled in an internal training program to become a copywriter, the first African-American to hold the creative position in the agency. During her time there she rose to creative director.
In 1968, Jones played a key role in forming Zebra Associates, a full-service agency with black principals, unheard of during that time. Between the 1970’s and 1980’s Jones’ career alternated between general market agencies and black-owned agencies, including Kenyon & Eckhardt, Batten, Barton, Durstine & Osborn (BBDO), and Mingo-Jones Advertising.