The 2017 inductees of The One Club Creative Hall of Fame includes Tom Burrell. The One Club added a blurb that reads:
The iconic advertising pioneer whose illustrious career transformed both the way people of color were portrayed in communications, as well as their roles within the industry itself. It’s a never-ending mission, but one with a defined starting line that he helped create.
With all due respect to Burrell, the statement isn’t accurate. While the iconic advertising pioneer certainly helped transform how Blacks were depicted in advertising, he was preceded by others in the field. The statement about transforming “their roles within the industry itself” is also fuzzy. Burrell’s agency served—and continues to serve—as a launching pad/stepping stone for many Blacks in advertising, but given the diminishing numbers, it’s tough to define any transformative phenomenon.
On the flipside, to recognize the plight of Blacks in advertising as “a never-ending mission” is factually correct. Sobering too, despite Leo Burnett’s prediction that the Promised Land is a mere 66 years away.
To be clear, Burrell’s induction to The One Club Creative Hall of Fame is a well-deserved honor. That he appears to be the only minority in the rare company is a tad disturbing.