Black people have always represented a strong consumer base and there has always been a need to market to them. There was not before then, however, a Black owned firm devoted to actually doing the advertising. Vince Cullers Advertising changed all of that, the first Black owned full service advertising agency in the nation. Over the years the company has done national campaigns for Kellogg, Sears, Roebuck & Company, Johnson Products, Afro Sheen and many others. The Vincent Cullers Group is living Black history.
Soul Train was a game-changer but it wouldn’t have ever debuted, without Vince Cullers. Cullers worked with Don Cornelius to make it happen, providing sponsorship for the show to get on the air. Cullers was an imaginative visionary, for sure. He served as a Marine combat artist during World War II and afterwards, worked hard to land a job with one of Chicago’s advertising agencies. He managed to land a job with a major agency but when he showed up, the job had mysteriously disappeared. Cullers continued to operate his art studio and in the meantime, also served as art director for Ebony Magazine. He scraped and saved while at Ebony, to launch his firm.
Cullers’ friends thought he was simply crazy to pursue his own agency. There were no Black ad agencies at the time but Cullers didn’t care. In 1956 he was finally able to launch the agency and he spent years trying to land national clients: it wasn’t an overnight success story. The hard work did pay off and in time, the national accounts did come. Some companies only trusted the firm to do the “Black stuff” at first but Cullers showed them that his firm was capable of advertising to anyone– talent has no color limits. The greatest triumph of the story, however, is that the firm is still going. Now under the leadership of Jeffrey Cullers, son of Vince, the Vincent Cullers Group is still hard at work creating. While other firms have come and gone, Cullers is still making history, this month and every other.