Remembering Black Advertising Pioneer Herb Kemp
The former president of UniWorld Group, who died this week at age 69, believed that respect for black consumers was an important way to win their loyalty.
The Buffalo, N.Y., native spent more than 40 years working for mainstream consumer-product companies and for black- and white-owned advertising agencies that sold goods and services to African-American consumers. When he retired, Kemp founded his own consultancy, What's Black About It? LLC.
Pepper Miller, the founder and president of the Hunter-Miller Group Inc., a market research and consulting firm, often collaborated with Kemp. She says he articulated the soul of black people so that others got it. "He was an ad-account guy, but I think also a frustrated creative. If someone was stuck, he could give him or her the line to get the idea across," she says.
Miller said that Kemp often saw opportunities that white firms missed. In February she quoted Kemp in an Adage.com column about minority users of digital and social networking, and the disconnect between them and mainstream Web trendsetters and marketing gurus. Kemp said that the so-called gurus were unaware of how minorities used online "platforms as virtual barbershops and beauty salons," and how those were perfect settings to reach consumers.
In 1966 Kemp became the first African American to earn an MBA from the Amos Tuck School of Business Administration at Dartmouth. Before joining black-owned ad agencies, Kemp learned the consumer-product business and ad sales at top mainstream companies. He worked at Pfizer, General Foods and Chesebrough-Ponds in client-side brand management and then held senior executive posts at ad agencies J. Walter Thompson and Ogilvy & Mather.
Byron Lewis founded the advertising agency UniWorld Group in 1969, and the paths of the two men began to converge. In 1983 Burger King hired UniWorld to develop ads for the ethnic market, meaning blacks. But Burger King was anxious to have a senior director with mainstream packaged-goods experience work on its business. Lewis needed someone with an MBA. Kemp left Ogilvy, where he was a senior vice president, to become president of UniWorld. He helped grow the agency's account-management staff and the Burger King account. "We're indebted to his courage and contribution to UniWorld's future success," says Lewis.