Edward F. Boyd: The Man Who Changed Black Representation in Advertising Forever
“We’d been caricatured and stereotyped. What I set out to do is to change the image from Aunt Jemima—from those stereotypes. The Black market was made up of normal people who did reqular things like everybody else. And I wanted to show them in the advertising in such a way. Not as cooks or flopping pancakes or something of that sort.”- Edward F. Boyd
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Every advertiser should know the name Edward F. Boyd.
Starting at Pepsi in the 1940s, Boyd was tasked with growing the company’s profile in Black communities. He responded by immediately building a team of Black salesmen to spread the word—hiring some of the first Black corporate professionals in America. They worked together at the height of segregation, and suffered the according indignities. As Boyd told reporters later: “I led my men to the back of a bus, to the back of a bus!”
Boyd and his team were undeterred. To make inroads in new markets, Boyd hired some of the first Black advertising models, and led innovative campaigns that featured African-Americans leading their respective fields—university students, Nobel Prize-winning scientists, and more. Without ever naming it, Boyd and his team were pioneering what would later be called Niche Marketing. And along the way, he became a figurehead for social progress, profiled by Black magazines and papers as a leading business figurehead for his time.
Today, Boyd’s influence is everywhere. In 1962 one of Boyd’s first hires, Harvey C. Russell, became VP at Pepsi. He was the first African-American to achieve that position in a major US company. And today, 30% of employees at Pepsi are people of color.
As Donald M. Kendalls, Pepsi’s CEO in 1980, put it: “Ed put doors where previously only walls existed.”
Simply put, Edward F. Boyd changed advertising, and America, for the better.