It is common to see a considerable number of black people in television commercials today – playing diverse roles in family and relationship settings.
Yet in the past, this was almost unthinkable. Although black people appeared in advertising way back into the 1870s in America, these print advertisements were mostly racist.
An article by Pittsburgh Courier says that one of the most defamatory advertisements showed Frederick Douglas, the abolitionist leader, with his second wife who was white, taking a product called Sulphur Bitters to lighten her skin.
It would take over a decade for the above to change when Jax Beer, a brewery company in America created a commercial called ‘Whistle Up A Party.’
This would become known as the first television commercial in which blacks appeared – and not in any demeaning role
It is significant to note that this commercial appeared on television seven years after the Bulova Watch Company aired the first television ad in the United States on July 1, 1941.
Although most have probably never heard of the product, Jax Beer, nor the commercial, it helped pave the way for how marketing and advertising can influence perception and acceptance, according to an article on The Drum.
In subsequent years, companies such as Afro Sheen, Ultra Sheen, Sulfur 8, 7up and Panasonic started running commercials featuring black people.
Successive commercials have moved from catering to blacks and now focus on attracting the general population.
Below is the ‘Whistle Up A Party’ commercial: