John H. Johnson is recognized for his revolutionary leadership in African American advertising and marketing. As publisher and chairman of Johnson Publishing Company Inc. Johnson built the world¿s largest Black-owned publishing company and legendary African American corporate dynasty.
One of America¿s largest and most profitable African American businesses, Johnson Publishing Company is perhaps best known for EBONY and JET magazines and Fashion Fair Cosmetics, the No. 1 company in the world for makeup and skincare for women of color. In 1945 he started EBONY magazine, which was immediately popular and is still the company¿s flagship publication. EBONY and JET were the only publications for African Americans in the U.S. for 20 years, and both remain number in their fields.
When he began Johnson Publishing Company in the 1942 with Negro Digest, later Black World, Johnson advanced the new idea of marketing to African Americans through media that served their unique editorial interests. His innovative quantification of Black buying power and qualitative insights contributed to the recognition of targeted marketing as an important strategic opportunity. His dedication to the creation of media outlets that met the unique needs of African Americans and that could deliver advertising messages in cultural context also contributed to the birth of African American owned advertising agencies.
In 1946 Johnson began a campaign to interest advertising agencies and major advertisers in EBONY by presenting unique ideas and innovative marketing concepts. His tireless advocacy of the African American consumer market as an enormous, untapped resource slowly led to that market being targeted by major advertisers. He greatly influenced Madison Avenue to change their marketing to speak directly to Black America, pushing for the use of models of color in ads, among many other innovative ideas. All of this led to more opportunities for African Americans in advertising, public relations and modeling.
Throughout his career as an industry trailblazer, Johnson has been lauded for his achievements and for his tireless philanthropic work on behalf of many organizations. Perhaps most remarkably, he received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest American civilian honor. Presidents Nixon, Kennedy and Johnson appointed him to a number of national service appointments.
The AAF Foundation bestowed a Lifetime Achievement Award to him in 1996 during the advertising industry¿s first-ever tribute to the contributions of African Americans in advertising. A dedicated proponent of education, his company¿s Ebony Fashion Fair has donated more than $49 million to The United Negro College Fund and other charities since it began in 1958. He was also one of the inaugural recipients of the AAF¿s Mosaic Awards, honoring those who have shown unwavering commitment to diversity in advertising and marketing.