Black History: Special Delivery!!
Vincent Cullers and his wife Marian founded the Vince Cullers Group in 1956. It was recognized as the first African-American owned full service advertising agency in the United States. Vince Cullers developed a passion for advertising while attending the Art Institute of Chicago and studying business at the University of Chicago. Launching a black-owned advertising agency was no small feat. The number of blacks working in the industry at that time was extremely small. The Cullers found, that very often, white clients were not interested in marketing directly to the black community.
Vincent Cullers felt strongly that selling to the black community required an advertising approach that was specifically targeted to the black community. In the 1950’s and early 60’s blacks were estimated to have $28 billion in annual disposable income. It was very challenging for Cullers to break into the industry. He was able to do so by landing his first national account, with a cigarette manufacturer. The company then landed contracts with Bristol Myers and Bufferin. Perhaps one of their most noted advertising campaigns was for the Afro-Sheen line of Johnson Products. The campaign was called, “Watu-Wasuri” which was Swahili for “beautiful people”. It featured blacks showing their pride in their cultural and family heritages.
Vincent Cullers was an industry pioneer in the advertising industry. By the late 1990’s the agency had 25 employees and annual billings of $18 billion. In 1997, Jeffrey B. Cullers, the son of Vince Cullers assumed the role of president from his father. The organization has received numerous awards and national recognition. They were unique to other advertising they chose not to pursue acquisition by a larger agency as a growth strategy. Vince Cullers is known as “The Dean” of African American Advertising. Following a long illness, Vince Cullers died in 2003 at age 79.
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