Standing Up For America

What blacks in ads really sell

Share It
Tweet It

Want to post your comments? Hit Subscribe to register for a free account - then post your comments!

Don Surber

What blacks in ads really sell

Don Surber

Nov 26

I likely would get one of those “unreliable and harmful claims” or “dangerous or derogatory content” notices from Google if I posted this on my blog. We will see if Substack truly supports free speech.

But today in my weekly column on Substack, I will go where no sane white guy goes these days and discuss race in a manner that does not pander to black sensitivities. I want to discuss the latest rage in television advertising: black people in advertising products whose target audience is white.

Perhaps BLM brought it along. Perhaps the pandemic did.

Whatever raised the profile of black people in advertisements, I like it because these ads promote a middle class lifestyle. We live in a country where the Smithsonian Museum openly mocks hard work and virtues as being too white. It said, “White dominant culture, or whiteness, refers to the ways white people and their traditions, attitudes, and ways of life have been normalized over time and are now considered standard practices in the United States. And since white people still hold most of the institutional power in America, we have all internalized some aspects of white culture — including people of color.”

Those aspects include hard work, self-reliance and being polite. The Smithsonian is run by crazy people.

Frederick M. Hess asked, “in what land are students well-served when they’re encouraged not to work hard, make decisions, think rationally, or be polite and on time? Among the extraordinarily accomplished people honored by the museum, those such as Frederick Douglass; Harriet Tubman; Jackie Robinson; Martin Luther King, Jr.; Toni Morrison; John Lewis; Oprah Winfrey; Michael Jordan; Condoleezza Rice; and Barack Obama might be surprised to learn that hard work and rational thinking are somehow alien to black culture.”

TV commercials counteract the deep state campaign to keep black people from seeking the American dream. It is OK to drive a Subaru because you are in good hands with Allstate.

For white people, it is a glimpse into a black world not dominated by hip-hop. Ads for Gain detergent and the like show black people doing normal things. OK, sniffing a bottle of Gain like Biden sniffing a 9-year-old girl isn’t normal in real life, but in TV ad-land it is as normal as eating Imperial margarine and getting a crown on your head.

Martin Luther King’s dream of equality is coming true. Black middle class people are in American living rooms peddling shampoo, prescription drugs and pizza.

And when it comes to pizza, no one outsells Craig Robinson. At 51, the comedian-actor had a nice career going for him portraying Darryl Philbin on The Office and voicing a character on The Cleveland Show. He did other movies and shows.

But his breakthrough role for me — when I first noticed him — was driving a convertible in a car insurance commercial. He drove like I do: singing a song with the left hand outside riding the wave. Now he pitches Pizza Hut so well that I might go to the Hut if their pizzas were any good. I don’t buy the line nobody outpizzas the Hut, but I do like his ads. He is very likeable.

He is part of a wave of black comics and actors who are getting their due. Kevin Hart and Samuel L. Jackson each made a small fortune in credit card commercials. Steve Harvey hosts Family Feud. Wayne Brady hosts Let’s Make A Deal. They are non-threatening? Well, so were Richard Dawson and Monty Hall.

A black Santa sells Oreos this Christmas.

The message of these commercials and TV shows is very threatening to the affirmative action crowd because these actors represent the middle class of healthy families. With any other ethnic group, this would be called assimilation.

Black people have been in ads since ads began. For the first hundred years it was as derogatory racial stereotypes. Then they were used to pitch white products to black people. The first such ad I remember was a billboard for Salem cigarettes.

Then came black athletes. O.J. Simpson had a nice run with Hertz until the unfortunate death of his ex-wife. I hope he finds the murderer someday.

Michael Jordan and Tiger Woods earned far more money in advertising than they did as athletes.

When Quaker Oats changed the name of its line of pancake mix and syrups from Aunt Jemima to Pearl Mill it used black actors — as well as whites — to push those products under the new name.

But black actors are becoming common in ads that do not necessarily target black consumers or to appease concerns about race. Some people complain that black people are now over-represented in ads. Richard Prince reported, “Andrew Rojecki, an associate professor of communication at the University of Illinois-Chicago, is co-author of The Black Image in the White Mind: Media and Race in America.

“He and co-author Robert M. Entman found that in their sample of 1,620 ads on ABC, NBC, and Fox, African Americans appeared in 32% of them … 58.8% featured only whites, and 9.1% had actors of an ‘East Asian facial cast.’”

Over-represented? Who cares? I don’t. The only color that should matter is green. If Craig Robinson sells a lot of pizzas, the ads will continue. If not, the ad company will send in someone else to pitch the product. A relief pitcher, if you will.

What this influx of people of color also does is sell a healthy, middle-class, American lifestyle. What a refreshing break they are from the pothead Snoop Dogg. If you are going to hire a rapper, make him Ice T, please.

Liberals do not like the change, particularly the promotion of interracial couples. Voice of America reported, “Americans See More Interracial Relationships in Advertising.”

The story said, “A happy interracial family hugging each other while wearing apparel from clothing retailer Old Navy. A smiling black man giving his white girlfriend an engagement ring in a State Farm insurance ad. And a biracial couple and their kids on a road trip in a vehicle made by Hyundai.”

Well, that is progress. Progressives hate progress. It undercuts their narrative that America is hopelessly racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamophobic – you name it.

The VOA story also said, “While interracial ads may reflect an increasingly diverse America becoming more of a melting pot, they are not a mirror on society, according to Morgan State University Professor Jason Johnson, who is currently doing research on interracial advertising.

“Johnson notes that 70% of interracial commercials from the past four years show a white man with a black woman. The reality, he said, is a black man with a white woman is more common in America.”

I did not know that TV ads were supposed to be documentaries. In defense of the ad companies, it should be noted that the 1967 Loving decision, which struck down Virginia’s ban on black-and-white marriages, was based on a marriage between a white husband and a black wife because the NAACP did not want to deal with fears of a black man having sex with a white woman.

In the past, advertising companies have had a bless-their-hearts relationship with the black community. Time magazine reported on October 25, 1968, “A few months ago, Negro Actress Zaida Coles auditioned for a TV commercial and landed a job pitching a new Bristol-Myers cleanser. Or so she thought. After further reflection, the advertising agency turned her down—not because she was black, but because she was not black enough.

“Like many commercial makers nowadays, the agency wanted a darker-skinned Negro so that there would be no mistaking the integrated nature of its advertisements. Threatened with boycotts and scolded by civil rights groups, sponsors have responded by doubling the number of integrated commercials in the past year to 5% of the total number of ads made. Rightly noting that this figure is still too low, General Foods has set for itself an even higher quota of 15%. The search for black talent has become so intense, in fact, that one agency is offering its employees a $50 finder’s fee. This prompted Negro Leader James Farmer to observe: ‘I don’t think we ought to let them have a Negro that cheaply. I think instead we ought to start ourselves a rent-a-Negro company.’”

Ah, civil rights leaders — excuse me Negro leaders — are never satisfied. I suppose that goes with the territory. If they ever achieve their goals, they are out of a job. That is why they have gone from seeking equality to seeking equity, something vague, ever changing and thus, unachievable.

The Hill wants Congress to investigate ads with black people in them, particularly interracial ones featuring a black male.

It said, “Democrats may have a vested interest in the cultural effects of advertising and racial portrayals. Those who sit on relevant congressional committees can raise questions and gather facts on the intentions of the advertising campaigns. By showing an interest, they may succeed in prodding advertisers to re-envision the broader messaging in the campaigns.

“The silence is especially notable when one considers that the commercials air during time slots of high visibility to black youth. Pringles, for example, features a young white man sitting at a kitchen table with a black father commenting on how good his daughter kisses; Hyundai shows a black woman and two children in a car driven by a white father on a mission to buy beef jerky; Nissan has a black woman behind the wheel with two children and a white father speeding through the frozen tundra and other extreme locations.

“Clearblue, which produces a home pregnancy test, has a black woman with a white man as she discovers a positive test result. Vicks NyQuil features a black woman with a cold in bed with a white man who turns to her and says, ‘Honey,’ in reference to a cold medication.

“In contrast, Progressive depicts a meek white woman in an apartment building laundry room interested in meeting a new black tenant. As the man approaches to show mutual interest, the character of Flo intrudes to pitch renter’s insurance and thereby prevents the two from speaking.

“Such commercials can tap into unconscious myths in American racial and cultural history. Among the myths are the white male as a Great Father savior, the black woman as sexually available, the black male as absent or lacking authority within his own home, and the white woman as precious and needing protection from black men.”

Unconscious myths? Are those tales you tell when you black out?

The story went on with this nonsense, saying, “One has to ponder about the mindset of advertising executives in creating the marketing campaigns. The issue would be less noteworthy if not for the glaring lack of commercials that portray loving relationships between black men and women — much less of blacks in intimate spaces with friends and spouses of other non-white groups. Do these depictions fail to sell products — and, if so, why?”

Obviously the ads sell the products because there are so many of them. Only an overwrought lefty would make any argument that it is racist to show interracial couples in TV commercials. Likely what really bothered The Hill was the depiction of black people in middle-class situations.

The assimilation of black people bothered segregationist Democrats for a century. Now such an assimilation bothers progressive Democrats.

As the starter party for Americans, Democrats should fear assimilation because nothing makes one Republican quicker than a mortgage and a property tax bill. These ads sell products sure, but they promote a way of life the rest of the media mocks.

It is neither “dangerous or derogatory” nor “unreliable and harmful” to notice that ads featuring middle-class black people living the American dream are a great improvement in race relations because they show we share the same aspirations, even if we may not like the same pizza or use the same detergent.

Thanks for reading Don Surber! Subscribe for free to receive new posts and support my work.