Friday, April 8, 2011

Smithsonian Accepts RPC Archives!

     "The Real Pepsi Challenge" didn't win any awards but it did garner huge honors. The first is obvious: allowing me to meet seven of the original members of the World War II-era Pepsi sales team that broke down color barriers in Corporate America. It was an incomparable and enriching experience, and way more fun than you would guess.
       It was also my great honor to eulogize team leader Edward F. Boyd, along with Mayor David Dinkins and others, from the pulpit of Riverside Church after he passed away April 30, 2007. Mr. Boyd was remembered in dozens of obituaries worldwide.
Philip Kane in training
      The latest honor came just this week, when the Smithsonian's National Museum of African-American History and Culture officially accepted into its selective permanent collection the 144-item archive that I had diligently amassed over several years before and after the writing of the book. 
Dear Bottler letter, 1951

      Among the material: I managed to collect 12 of the 13 original 1940s Ebony magazine ads critical to the early development of the concept of niche marketing. I also was delighted to have acquired the half-dozen letters and a training brochure written by Mr. Boyd at Pepsi during his leadership of the then-named Negro Market team, as well as the family archives of Philip Kane, of the second pre-war intern team at Pepsi. The Kane archives, respectfully kept by the widow and children of Mr. Kane, included everything from his 1941 paystubs and expense reports to rare photos and clippngs. I also appreciate the kind donation of former adman Adrian Hirschorn of a 1949 article he wrote for Printers' Ink trade magazine about the trailblazing Pepsi effort.
       I am indebted to the Queens Museum of Art and to Pepsi diversity chief Mauice Cox for helping me realize the full potential of the archives as an exhibition and as a permanent collection. I guest curated a popular show at the QMA in 2008.
        It is a fitting tribute to the groundbreaking and visionary work of the Pepsi men that their legacy be preserved in America's finest museum. The African-American history museum is set to be opened in Washington about the year 2014, so stay tuned.

Friday, April 1, 2011

The Ronald H. Brown building at the U.N.

  On Tues., March 29, President Obama visited NYC to dedicate the U.S. Mission to the U.N. to the late Secretary of Commerce in the Clinton administration, Ron Brown.
   It is a remarkable honor for someone who was never an ambassador. Rather, he was honored, Obama said, because "he embodied the values and the ideals," of the U.S., and the U.N., during a lifetime of counseling disadvantaged kids, fighting for workers and helping minority businesses.
    "The American Dream, he always believed, rightfully belongs to every child in this nation," the president said of Mr. Brown.
     Ron Brown began doing his part to ensure that dream was inclusive from an early age. The boy on the jacket of "The Real Pepsi Challenge" is Ron Brown. He was the son of William Brown, the manager of the Theresa hotel in Harlem and a friend of Pepsi sales chief Edward F. Boyd. Mr. Boyd decided to cast the handsome young man in a point-of-purchase ad for his Negro Market effort.
     The resulting tableau--starring one of the first black professional models, Sylvia Fitt--showed a happy, comfortable middle-class American family enjoying that American Dream. It was a rare image in marketing campaigns in any media in the late 1940s. Mr. Boyd joked that friends of the family had worried the young and precocious child who ran around the hotel lobby and bar "would come to no good." The young Brown proved their fears groundless when, to everyone's surprise, he was poised, cooperative, and professional during the entire shoot.
      Ron Brown cherished the ad, and kept it on display in his office in Washington. After he was killed on a trade mission to Croatia in 1996, his mother returned the ad to Mr. Boyd. You can see the jacket cover below. Here is the full ad: