Work That Mattered: Emmett McBain and the Creation of "Positive Realism" in Advertising

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Emmett McBain was the original business partner of Chicago advertising legend Tom Burrell. In this article, Professor Jason P. Chambers examines McBain's history in the advertising industry prior to the two men joining forces in 1971. Burrell is often recognized as the creator of "positive realism" as an advertising approach to Black consumers. However, in this article, Chambers demonstrates how McBain began to develop the foundation for positive realism while working at the Vince Cullers agency, well before he partnered with Burrell. Additionally, the article examines how McBain's creation and application of the style were directly linked to his understanding of Black Power and the Black Arts movement of the 1960s. Just as Black artists of the period decried the creation of "art for art's sake," McBain brought a similar activist-inspired vision to his advertising work.
Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalAdvertising & Society Review
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jan 1 2018


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