Over the last couple of years, the AMC’s Original Series Mad Men has painted a picture of what the 1960′s advertising industry looked like. Critics of the show (and the industry) have argued that the image has been void of “color” and was not an accurate representation. So what did the industry look like then and what does it look like now? The Marcus Graham Project’s response to the question may look a little different than what is currently being depicted, but it is based upon fact from our history and hope for our future. Though many can argue that in those days (and today) agencies lack African Americans working in professional positions, one cannot forget about those that paved the way then and are still paving the way now.
Our response was a photo shoot held last fall called, “The New Mad Men.” (Check the behind the scenes video) The creative inspiration for the shoot was taken from stories shared in MGP advisory board member Dr. Jason Chambers’ book, Madison Avenue and the Color Line: African Americans in the Advertising Industry. In the book, Chambers gives context to the development of agencies such as Vince Cullers Advertising, Uniworld and companies like Johnson Publishing (Ebony and Jet Magazine), who in the 1960s were the ground breaking companies employing the natural gifts and skills of those that could not find a job on Madison Avenue. These companies and so many others paved the way for African Americans to become interested and employed in the field of Advertising. Additionally, the ad industry primer “How To Be Black and Get in the Advertising Business Anyway” written by MGP advisory board member Bill Sharp also added to the inspiration for this photo shoot. Mr Sharp, was the founder/instructor of the “Basic Ad Course,” a American Association of Advertising Agencies–sponsored program that prepared minority people for professional careers in advertising. This was the first industry-sponsored program addressing diversity. Industry legends such as Tom Burrell and Carol H. Williams participated in this program, which truly served as their introduction to the field. We are privileged to be modeled after this program and to be the beneficiary of its legacy. The sad part is that the program existed in the 1960s and the need for the same type of program exists in 2010.
However the opportunity is for us to continue exposing young professionals to careers business, uplifting the current mid-level professionals and never forgetting history. Don’t get hung up on it. But remember it. And don’t forget to add soul to truth. Without soul you ignore the entire truth. As Mad Men introduces its first African American character, we thought it was the appropriate time to release some of these photos as ads meant to start a dialogue on the history of African Americans in this industry, past, present and future. The copy below the MAD MEN logo reading “truth meets soul” is inspired from the Robert Downey Sr. film, Putney Swope.
Additionally, the ad at the bottom pays homage to leading women in the industry, such as Carol H. Williams, who are pioneering entrepreneurs and leaders. The ad also celebrates The Jacqueline Factor, the “good ‘ole girls club” that we will be launching in March to compliment The Marcus Graham Project.
On October 31, 2010, Lincoln Stephens, Larry L. Yarrell, Constance Lindsay, Wes Medlock, Wil Murphy, Velisa Crayton Walker and Jackson hosted a rather dapper cocktail party where we invited guests to “Mad Man themselves” for Halloween.
Please check out photos from the event by clicking here.
Photographer: Chris Porter
Stylists: Willie Johnson III & Yasmine C. Moore
Location: Design Within Reach (Dallas)
Wardrobe: Banana Republic
Photo Retouching: Julius Dawson
Special thanks to all that were involved in this shoot, including the NEW MAD MEN: Julius Dawson, Larry Yarrell, Ron King, Nicole Oliver, Rob Howard, Wes Medlock, Constance Lindsay, Heather Woodard and Morgan Owens. Additional thanks to Hance Taplin for shooting the video.
To view all photos from the shoot, please click here.