We’re not in a post-racial moment in advertising yet. Photo Illustration: Amber McAden, Source: Getty Images. Featured Image
Advertising has a long history of racism. In the rare cases that black people were portrayed in ads, they were invariably depicted as subservient, ignorant and unattractive. From the late 1800s when African Americans first started appearing in advertising and through the Mad Men era, they were negatively stereotyped or ridiculed. Products used cartoonish images of black people, and bleach and soap brands, like Pears, “jokingly” claimed their products could lighten dark skin.
The advance of the civil rights movement and the growing recognition that ethnic minorities were also consumers brought more diversity, with Lever Brothers announcing in 1963 that it would have more black people in its commercials. In 1972, J. Walter Thompson had a black Santa Claus fronting its campaign for its Instamatic Ebony camera, a move that was seen as progressive at the time.