The Advertising Century

Thomas J. Burrell

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Thomas J. Burrell
(1939- )
Burrell Communications Group, Chicago

Determined to become a copywriter 40 years ago, when African-Americans were scarce at agencies, Burrell started in a Chicago agency's mailroom and was promoted to copywriter in 1961. During the '60s, the race issue gained significant traction on Madison Avenue and Burrell became one of the blacks -- John Small, Frank Mingo, David Sullivan and Caroline Jones among them -- who ventured into the agency field. By 1980, Burrell had become the largest African-American agency. Stressing "variables" inherent in African-Americans' experiences rather than "integrated" TV spots, Burrell added such clients as Procter & Gamble Co., Coca-Cola Co., McDonald's Corp. and Sears, Roebuck & Co., and surpassed $168 million in billings in 1998.

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