Chicago Black-owned advertising agency reflects on popular 70s TV commercials

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Burrell Communications Group was instrumental in bringing the Black experience to a national audience with their television commercials in the 1970s.

"You never saw Black love for example. You never saw Black families for example," said McGhee Osse, co-CEO of Burrell Communications Group.

Fay Ferguson, who is also co-CEO of the agency, says their ads impacted not just Black viewers..

"That was the beginning of something wonderful," she said.

The company was founded by Tom Burrell in 1971. He retired in 2004 ,

"There are only a handful of black agencies left that are solid and viable. And thank God, we are one of them," Osse said.

Jason Chambers is an associate professor of advertising at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He's writing a book on Burrell.

"In the 1970s if you saw African Americans in a TV advertisement which is still a relative rarity, but especially for a company like Coca Cola or McDonald's, it was done by Burrell advertising agency," he said.

And Burrell Communications Group is still helping companies and organizations speak to Black audiences with authenticity.

"We're in a unique time because of everything that happened in 2020 right, and so you have a lot of corporations, who in their own way, are trying to respond to the social injustice and trying to correct things," Ferguson said.

Osse said they have taken on a couple of companies but have declined many.

"We didn't think the sincerity was there," Osse said.

Ferguson said consumers now have larger platforms to hold companies accountable for their messaging.

"Black Twitter will get you time and time again, and they're right to do that," Ferguson said.
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