Re: race in commercials

Jane W. Gibson (jwgc@KUHUB.CC.UKANS.EDU)
Fri, 8 Dec 1995 16:05:29 -0600

Martin Cohen wrote:

>I know the man in TV advertising production who first used African American
>actors in a national ad campaign. He is a friend of the family, not a
>research informant, but he comes from the leftist-secular-Jewish tradition
>that is the topic of my current research. He had one heck of a time
>getting his client, and later clients to approve of this great leap. And
>of course, unlike most sit-coms to this day, African Americans were
>presented with dignity as full members of our society. Money was not the
>object. He could have done it the easy way with white actors.

This case points to the difference between individuals within corporations
and corporations themselves. Individuals may have multiple and diverse
agendas which can be promoted with or without direct reference to them.
For-profit corporations too may have multiple agendas, but these always
include profit-making. I'd be interested to know what your friend's
arguments to his bosses were. Did he try to appeal to their desires for
social justice or did he argue that company profits would grow by extending
product appeal to a wider, more diverse audience? What is beyond question
is that had the company (management) believed the ad would reduce profits,
they'd never have run it, unless the company was a not-for-profit one.

Jane W. Gibson A democratic civilization will save
Department of Anthropology itself only if it makes the language
University of Kansas of the image into a stimulus for
Lawrence, Kansas 66045 critical reflection--not an invitation
for hypnosis.
--Umberto Eco