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The McCann Time Capsule:  Our Black History and the Ad Hall of Fame

The McCann Time Capsule: Our Black History and the Ad Hall of Fame

From the time of its launch in 1949, the AAF’s Advertising Hall of Fame has included many men and women associated with McCann, including our co-founders Alfred Erickson (inducted in that inaugural 1949 year) and Harrison King McCann (inducted 1965). The list of those who have worked at McCann also includes two of the industry’s more prominent African-American executives, Billy Davis and Frank Mingo.

Billy Davis’s career achievements have already been covered in a previous McCann Time Capsule post. A recording industry innovator associated with the founding of Motown and the Four Tops, he left his position as head of A&R at Chess Records to join McCann as Music Director in 1968. He then spent his entire ad agency career at McCann where he was long associated with our famous Coca-Cola and Miller Brewing commercial music, among others, and was elected to the Ad Hall of Fame in 2007.

Less well known for the McCann portion of his career is Frank Mingo. Mingo, who had been in Chicago as J. Walter Thompson’s first African-American account executive, joined McCann as an account supervisor on the Miller Brewing account in 1972, working in both the New York and Milwaukee offices. The following year he would be elected a VP and then become involved in steering one of the most successful new product launches, the introduction of Miller Lite. After 18 months of testing, Miller Lite went national in January 1975 with the famous campaign built around the theme, “It’s Everything You Always Wanted in a Beer. And Less.” It featured sports and entertainment personalities taking sides in a humorous debate about whether “Tastes Great” or “Less Filling” was the beer’s main product benefit.  

As the account supervisor heading Lite, Mingo was part of a trio that won Interpublic’s special Robert E. Healy Award in 1975 for their contribution to Miller’s successful year in which sales had increased 42%.  The other two were Bob Lenz, the creative supervisor, and Steve Norcia, by then manager of the Atlanta office but previously management supervisor on all of the Miller brands. (The Healy Award, named after a former IPG CEO, was established in 1974 to honor individuals who made “unique and lasting contributions to the progress” of our company and our clients. Mingo also was a winner of The H. K. McCann Award, also given in recognition of business accomplishments within McCann.). 

In 1977, with Interpublic’s support, Mingo founded what would become one of the country’s largest black-owned and minority-owned ad agencies, called Mingo-Jones Advertising during its peak period. From starting out with four employees and $600,000 in billings, it grew to 50 employees and $60 million in billings, and worked for clients ranging from Miller to Kentucky Fried Chicken to Greyhound Corporation. According to Mingo’s 1989 New York Times obituary, “While he had initially hoped to produce advertisements directed to all consumers, he later estimated that 70 percent of his billings were from accounts aimed at reaching minority audiences.”

Mingo also lent his expertise to political campaigns. He worked as a consultant to the Committee to Re-Elect Carter-Mondale in 1980 and was an advisor to the Rev. Jesse Jackson’s 1984 Presidential campaign. In 1988, he handled Massachusetts Governor Michael Dukakis’s effort to reach black voters as part of his Presidential campaign.

Mingo died young of heart failure at the age of 49 in 1989.  In addition to his own agency accomplishments, in 1987 he had helped found the Los Angeles-based Muse Cordero Chen, the nation’s only multi-ethnic ad agency targeting consumers of African-American, Asian and Hispanic descent.

In 1996, Mingo would be honored posthumously by becoming the first African-American elected into the AAF’s Advertising Hall of Fame. Ad Age, in a 2010 story surveying the advertising industry’s overall history regarding diversity, noted the significance of Mingo’s induction into the Ad Hall of Fame, listing it as one of the industry’s 15 “Diversity Milestones.” 

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