Newspaper Advertising - The Creative Potential: Atlanta's black professionals - USA


This ad came out in the late 90s, winning the Grand Prix at the first Athena Awards in 1998, the annual creative awards instituted by the Newspaper Association of America.

An association called Atlanta's Black Professionals briefed Austin Kelley Advertising to create the advertisement. The art director from Austin Kelley, Lee St James, discussed the issue with African- American colleagues in Atlanta's Black Professionals, and the consensus among them was that the thought of not fostering "proper" English in the black community was frightening.

St James decided to use Martin Luther King's landmark speech and to run the headline in what he felt to be Ebonics. He used an image of King, who appeared to be turning his back on the headline.

The advertisement was a hit and a large number of schools and colleges requested copies of it. The New York Times ran it free of charge after it won the Athena Award.

The ad's appearance in The New York Times added to its notoriety. The newspaper has a circulation of 1.1 million copies - putting it in third place behind USA Today (with 2.3 million copies) and The Wall Street Journal (with 2.1 million) - and is undoubtedly one of the most powerful and influential newspapers in the world.

Later in 1998, Austin Kelley was bought by the Interpublic Group and has just announced a merger with Fitzgerald & Company, also owned by IPG.

It has maintained a reputation for creativity.

St James and the creative director Mark Robinson left the agency. St James went to Ketchum in Pittsburgh and Robinson is now the creative director of Thomson & Company in Memphis. Jim Spruell, also a creative director on the ad, is still with Austin Kelley and is now the executive vice-president and chief creative officer.


Chuck Porter chairman, Crispin Porter & Bogusky

This ad ran about six years ago and it was hugely controversial. At the time, there was a movement among some academics to recognise the predominantly African-American dialect they dubbed Ebonics and to accord it the same status as formal English. The idea was students would be taught that speaking or writing in this dialect was just as correct and appropriate as normally accepted English grammar and usage.

A lot of people thought this was a really bad idea. Many thought this was just one more thing that would put African-American young people at a disadvantage in the real world. In fact, a lot of people thought the idea of their kids being denied the same educational advantages as white kids - just to foster somebody's idea of social engineering - was so horrifying they had to speak up.

An organisation called Atlanta's Black Professionals gathered together to fight the Ebonics movement. They raised money to publicise their cause.

And they decided that the best place to express their opinion was in the one mass medium where people have been speaking up for more than 200 years - the newspaper. The medium was a good choice and the ad was sensational.


Advertising is about dramatising ideas and they really uncorked one here.

Let's use one of the great iconic leaders of the century - and one of the great iconic phrases in an epic battle for freedom and equality - to demonstrate how misguided this movement is. The ad was reprinted in its thousands and distributed to schools throughout the country. It ran once in The New York Times. And people still remember it six years later.

They only had enough money to run it once. That's all they needed.

CREDITS Title: "I Has A Dream" Client: Atlanta's Black Professionals Agency: Austin Kelley Advertising, Atlanta Writers: Krystal Falkner (Folioz), Mark Robinson Art director Lee St James Creative directors: Jim Spruell, Mark Robinson