Former President & CEO, Vince Cullers Group

Vince Cullers was a pioneer of ethnic/targeted/multicultural advertising in the United States. He started Vince Cullers Advertising in 1956 and is credited with not only opening the doors for minorities in the industry but also creating some of the most innovative and exciting advertising during his time. Cullers, along with his wife Marian, provided a virtual training ground for African-Americans in advertising. He was always proud of the fact that many former employees went on to other high-profile advertising, media and marketing jobs as well as agency ownership.

Vince Cullers was a marine veteran of World War II where he fought in the Pacific and was a highly respected combat artist. After coming home from the war, he applied for an art director's job at a well-known general market agency. After sending his portfolio to the agency and speaking by phone to the hiring manager, he was told to come to the agency and start work. However, once he arrived and was seen, he was told there was no position open. That provided him with the inspiration to start his own agency. After freelancing for a few years, including work for Johnson Publishing (Ebony), he finally got enough money to start the business—and the rest is history.

When asked about his success, Cullers was quoted several times as saying, "We must create and maintain the reputation that we are good businessmen who just happen to be black." He also said, "We are kind of happy that we made it. To me, it's not important that we were the first, second or third black agency, but that we managed to survive, that we were able to provide a training ground for blacks entering the industry and that we were able to continue to prosper."

During Culler's tenure, the client list read like a Fortune 500 Who's Who, including Johnson Products (with the award-winning and nationally recognized "Wantu Wazuri" Afro Sheen Campaign in the late 1960s and early '70s), Bristol Meyers, Lorillard Corp., Illinois Bell (Ameritech), Kellogg, Sears, Amoco, UNCF, Pizza Hut and Coors. He was also instrumental in assisting Don Cornelius to make the Soul Train TV show a reality and a national phenomenon. Cullers also developed with and produced "Lu's Notebook," a groundbreaking and highly successful five-minute radio commentary show in Chicago. This program was broadcast on every African-American radio station for over a decade. Hosted by noted community activist and newspaper columnist Lu Palmer, the show was the first of it kind and it focused on news and topics important to the community.

Vince Cullers, who died in October 2003, lived long enough to know that his dream was going to carry on in the then newly renamed Vince Cullers Group, run today by his son, Jeffery Cullers. When asked to comment on this honor Jeffery Cullers said, "I am proud and honored about my father's selection to this tremendous organization. My mother and I both are pleased that he is going to be recognized as the trailblazer and cornerstone of targeted and multicultural marketing."