“Black people are not dark-skinned white people.” These are the words Tom Burrell used to forever change the face of advertising as the first black copywriter in the city of Chicago during the 1960s.
Tom began his career as a mailroom clerk and closely studied the industry while learning the business. He convinced corporations to advertise directly to black Americans, and that elements of black culture, like music, should be included in such advertisements. After a decade of moving up the ladder at different agencies, Tom started his own agency: @Burrell (Burrell Communications).
You may recall some of Burrell’s iconic work — from the Marlboro man to McDonald’s and Coca-Cola. The agency began producing commercials featuring hip-hop, double-dutch rope, and slang. According to @wttw (Chicago), some of those ads have been archived in The Library of Congress in recognition of their historical and cultural significance. Tom retired in 2004, but his influence in business and marketing lives on, reminding us that although we are all different, we are all equal.