their focus on African American advertising.
Ferguson, a former school teacher who came to Burrell in 1984 after stints at Bozell & Jacobs Inc. and Leo Burnett, will continue to handle account management as well as the agency’s accounting, information technology, human resources, and administration functions. She considers African American youth to be the new leaders: “African Americans tend to lead in all of the areas that young adults are into today, and they should be shaping images.” Conner agrees, adding, “Our culture is always giving birth to innovations from the street up, and we export that culture internationally.” All say they feel an awesome responsibility as purveyors of African American culture to the mass media and want to keep Burrell on the front lines of shaping how messages about African Americans are conveyed. But, while they will continue to build on what they know best — the African American consumer — they want to move Burrell into new areas like proprietary research that will capitalize on its brain trust.
“We want people to come to us for our smarts,” declares Williams, who came to Burrell in 1986 after a series of positions on the corporate side of the business and who will continue to oversee research, account planning, media, engagement marketing, and the agency’s Atlanta office. “Late this summer,” she says, “we will release the Moms Report, our first huge proprietary research initiative that provides extensive consumer data on African American mothers.” Williams says the agency wants to be at the forefront of research that shows that the African American culture is not a monolith but one of various subcultures with different ideas, needs, and desires that translate into marketplace behavior. “What lies ahead for us is incredible opportunity for every single person that is here at Burrell, and we want no limitations.”
Smikle, who expects a smooth transition for the firm, says we’re in a different creative era than even 10 years ago and the new leadership will try to “set a tone for the next stage in Burrell’s development.” Says Conner, “When the change hits, it’s going to be amazing. Just keep watching us because the future of African American advertising is here.”