"I don't battle anymore! I uplift motherfuckers!" - GZA
Monday, June 30, 2008,9:55 PM
Hitting ROC Bottom
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Saturday, June 28, 2008,2:13 AM
Malt liquor mural ads draw fire in Philadelphia
Associated Press Writer

PHILADELPHIA (AP) - Graffiti-style malt liquor ads are drawing fire from parents and anti-blight advocates in a city known for its colorful murals.

The ads for Colt 45 malt liquor show comic book-style characters clutching bottles and cans of booze. "Works every time," reads the slogan.

"I really wouldn't want my daughter looking at it," Jill Maguire said as she pushed a neighbor's baby in a stroller near one of the ads. "She might think it's cool."

Jane Golden, the director of the city's Mural Arts Program, said: "I just think it's distasteful. I just think it's the last thing we need."

A spokesman for Mayor Michael Nutter said he would look into the matter.

One of the Colt 45 ads is painted on a building next to a bicycle shop in the working-class neighborhood of Fishtown, a gentrifying area that still has many struggling families.

The ad's gray-and-white adult cartoon characters are shown holding golden cans and bottles of the malt liquor. In the corner, the small print reads, "Yo, enjoy our frosty malt beverages responsibly!"

A nonprofit anti-billboard group, the Society Created to Reduce Urban Blight, has complained to city regulators, saying the ads should be removed because they are in areas not zoned for advertising.

Mary Tracy, executive director of the group, said they are particularly offensive in a city known for murals of famous places and people, from Frank Sinatra to Malcolm X.

Nicole Seitz, the group's program director, said the group knows of two painted Colt 45 ads in Fishtown, as well as about seven other similar ads for Pabst Blue Ribbon beer.

Gayle Johns, a spokeswoman for the city's Department of Licenses and Inspections, said inspectors were sent to investigate, but she did not know whether a citation was issued. She said the ads would be considered general outdoor advertising signs and would not be permitted under the zoning code.

Messages left by The Associated Press with Pabst Brewing Co., which produces Colt 45 and Pabst Blue Ribbon, were not returned Wednesday.

Last year, ads for Colt 45 were removed from the sides of city transit buses in response to community concerns. Inner-city activists across the country have long decried ads for malt liquor, which is similar to regular beer but with an alcohol content as high as 8 percent.

A bicycle mechanic who works at a shop next to one of the latest Fishtown ads said he's torn over it: He thinks it's great artwork, but he's opposed to the corporate presence.

"Big business is behind it all," said George Thoms, 34, who says he doesn't drink.

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Friday, June 20, 2008,1:26 AM
The Four R's – Relationships, Retrenchment, Relevancy, and Rewards.
Written by Eric J. Adams on April 19, 2004

Business books tend to fall into two categories; those that do a great job of restating the fundamentals (or the obvious, depending on your level of experience) and those that tend toward the theoretical, so much so that they make it difficult to put their prescriptions into practice. "The Next Economy" by Elliott Ettenberg is one of those rare books that falls squarely in the middle. Ettenberg is former chairman and CEO of Bozell Retail Worldwide and now a big-time marketing consultant.

Though "The Next Economy" is skewed toward retail, the lessons are valuable for creative professionals, both for their own marketing purposes and also to help deliver more effective marketing campaigns for their clients.

What is the Next Economy?
Ettenberg contends that the next economy (as opposed to the "old economy" and Internet-driven "new economy") will be shaped by a number of key factors:

The first factor is that growth is no longer a given. The next economy will be characterized by "customer infidelity" where every company faces the prospect of losing the majority of its clients. It is going to be a tougher marketplace and only those with the appropriate marketing and servicing methodologies will command the loyalty necessary to survive and succeed. Call it "the concierge economy."

The second factor, and most important new currency, will be dialogue. "Communication should not be one way. There must a procedure by which customers are able to dialogue with the sellers. Dialogue suggests that the customer initiate a discussion and brings it to a conclusion," writes Ettenberg.

As a result one-to-one marketing (a very "new economy" term) will be a must for most businesses. The winners tomorrow will be the companies that figure out how to take steps using online and other technologies to improve, enhance, personalize, and deepen customer relationships.

Here's how Ettenberg describes one-to-one: "A mass marketer tries to acquire a constant stream of new customers, while the one-to-one marketer tries to get a constant stream of new business from current customers."

That said, successful marketing campaigns in the next economy will substitute the old four P's of marketing -- product, place, price, and promotion -- with the four new R's -- relationships, retrenchment, relevancy, and reward.

The Four R's
Here's what Ettenberg has to say about the four Rs:

Relationships: We all know about service. At least we think we do. But service is about more than offering a trouble-free shopping experience or a smooth business transaction. Every contact point with your customer is a serviceable opportunity to delight that person. It is more than "please" and "thank you." It is about meeting a person's or a company's wants, not just needs.

Companies should re-learn the art of delighting the customer. The challenge is to make the experience from your company different than that of your competitors. This concept is not limited to retailers and e-tailers, companies in all sectors can develop or re-engineer this competency in powerful and creative ways.

Retrenchment: A whole generation of baby boomers are withdrawing from traditional consumption environments. They are moving from what they need to what they want. This is transforming the economy. In addition, a new generation of consumers will expect to be catered to, and that will extend into the workplace.

The strategy of retrenchment involves going to the customer rather than trying to entice the customer to come to you. Using technology, you can bring the store, the brand, the product, or service to the person's home or office. Retrenchment is a natural outgrowth of the consumer demanding what they want versus the old line push strategy of offering and trying to anticipate what consumers need.

Relevancy: Once your best clients have been identified and retained, keep them by continually reestablishing your relevancy. Do so by making your company the number one source of ideas and information about the category in which you compete. You can further extend relevancy by offering products and services that are intelligently selected to cater to your clients.

Rewards: Define strategies that reward customers for doing business with you. You can do so by knowing what your best customers value most and designing rewards that recognize, validate, and promote those values. (For creative professionals, the most valued client commodity is often time. If you can save a person or a company time, you have rewarded that person for doing business with you.)
Concierge Marketing
This new focus on marketing will lead to what Ettenberg calls "concierge marketing." A concierge is someone who represents the buyer and makes sure that his wants are met in the best possible way. While clients buy and sell products and services from many people, they have a concierge relationship with only a few, and those relationships last the longest.

For creative professionals, concierge marketing can mean brokering other products and services allied to your field -- helping your client find writers, illustrators, and Web developers, for example.

"In fact, the age of concierge marketing is ideal for small and midsized businesses. Their flexibility and ability to customize make small businesses especially suited to this style of business -- far more so than the traditional, large Fortune 500 Company." Ettenberg says.

There is a lot of marketing-ese in Ettenberg's book, but if you can read past the jargon, you'll find a strategic vision for marketing success, suitable for you, for your clients, for the next economy and certainly for this one as well.

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Thursday, June 19, 2008,7:33 PM
Conspicuous by Their Presence
RACIAL prejudice in the fashion industry has long persisted because of tokenism and lookism. “We already have our black girl,” says a designer to a fashion-show casting agent, declining to see others. Or: “She doesn’t have the right look.” Laziness, paranoia and pedantry may also have something to do with the failure to hire black models for shows and magazine features in any meaningful number, but, hey, that’s just a guess.

A decade ago the thing to deplore was the stereotyping of black models by dressing them in African-inspired clothes (or the Asian girls in kimonos). This at least gave work to minority models, but it also encouraged a Western view of African culture of the many-bangles-many-beads variety.

O.K., so fashion ain’t deep. It looks into a mirror and sees ... itself. The irony in fashion is that it loves change but it can’t actually change anything. It can only reflect a change in the air. But what changes fashion? What would finally move American designers to include more black models on their runways? That 30 percent of the country is nonwhite? That black women spend $20 billion a year on clothes? That an African-American is the presumptive presidential nominee of the Democratic Party?

The answer is the individual eye.

In fashion, one of the most influential eyes belongs to the photographer Steven Meisel. His pictures have caught an America basking in the earnest, self-reflected glow of celebrity and money. He has taken innumerable risks, especially with “Sex,” the 1992 volume he did with Madonna, that have paid off with a career that allows him to do whatever he wants.

And he has almost lovingly photographed some of the world’s beautiful women, tapping into their psyches, connecting with them on a human level, while transforming them into fashion deities.

As the model Veronica Webb, who first worked with Mr. Meisel 20 years ago, said: “Steven knows every single tic, every talent that every girl has. He just pulls it out of them.”

For the July issue of Italian Vogue, Mr. Meisel has photographed only black models. In a reverse of the general pattern of fashion magazines, all the faces are black, and all the feature topics are related to black women in the arts and entertainment. Mr. Meisel was given roughly 100 pages for his pictures. The issue will be on European newsstands next Thursday and in the United States soon after.

Under its editor, Franca Sozzani, Italian Vogue has gained a reputation for being more about art and ideas than commerce. Ms. Sozzani also doesn’t mind controversy.

She said that, as an Italian, she has been intrigued by the American presidential race and Mr. Obama, which was one source of inspiration when she and Mr. Meisel began discussing, in February, the idea of an all-black issue. Also, she was aware of the lack of diversity on the runways in recent years and the debate it fueled last fall in New York, where Bethann Hardison, a former model who ran a successful agency, held two panel discussions on the topic.

Ms. Sozzani said the issue was not a response to criticism that she, too, has under-represented blacks or portrayed them as stereotypes.

“Mine is not a magazine that can be accused of not using black girls,” said Ms. Sozzani, noting that Naomi Campbell has had several covers, and that Liya Kebede and Alek Wek have also had covers.

Having worked at one time with nearly all the models he chose for the black issue — Iman, Ms. Campbell, Tyra Banks, Jourdan Dunn, Ms. Kebede, Ms. Wek, Pat Cleveland, Karen Alexander — Mr. Meisel had his own feelings. “I thought, it’s ridiculous, this discrimination,” said Mr. Meisel, speaking by phone from his home in Los Angeles. “It’s so crazy to live in such a narrow, narrow place. Age, weight, sexuality, race — every kind of prejudice.”

He began casting in March. “I love the history of fashion, obviously, and I love old, and I tried to get as many of the older girls as I could,” he said. Over Ms. Sozzani’s initial objections, he also hired Toccara Jones, a full-figure model, who became known from “America’s Next Top Model.” “I wanted to say something about weight, and I’m never allowed to do that,” he said. “I met Toccara and thought, she’s beautiful. What’s the deal with her? She’s great and she’s sexy.”

If these pictures have a heightened sense of glamour, it probably has something to do with the atmosphere of a Meisel shoot. According to Ms. Webb, “it’s the darkest studio, like a studio at MGM.”

There are fans and reflectors; many assistants. An area is marked “Hair” and another “Makeup.” (Pat McGrath did all the makeup for the issue, and Guido Palau did the hair.) A mirror is placed behind Mr. Meisel, so the model can see herself.

“It’s a dark world,” Ms. Webb said, “and you’re in the spotlight.”

The four pictures that Ms. Campbell was supposed to make turned into 20. She also appears on the fold-out cover, along with Ms. Kebede, Sessilee Lopez and Ms. Dunn. “Franca doesn’t realize what she’s done for people of color,” Ms. Campbell said the other day. “It reminds me of Yves using all the black models.” She was referring to Yves Saint Laurent, who, like Gianni Versace and a handful of other designers, routinely cast minorities.

Mr. Meisel has his own theories about why black models, save for the token few, have disappeared from runways. “Perhaps the designers, perhaps the magazine editors,” he said. “They are the powerful people. And the advertisers. I have asked my advertising clients so many times, ‘Can we use a black girl?’ They say no.” The concern is that consumers will resist the product, he said. “It all comes down to money.”

Ashley Brokaw, an independent casting agent in New York, believes that designers want more diversity in their casts but, she said, “what they want and what the reality is are two different things.” She thinks that agencies don’t spend enough time to groom new models for the catwalk, making it easy for designers to reject them, and then the cycle of new faces is spinning faster and faster.

But it’s also true that designers, in spite of their creative powers, yearn for the approval of insiders. “They are looking around, over their shoulders, asking, ‘Is that cool?’ ” Mr. Meisel said. He agreed that it’s a crazy kind of paranoia. Whether it’s a new model or hip style, he said with a laugh, “It can only be stated by a certain five people and then they go with it.”

What is striking about Mr. Meisel’s pictures, especially a portrait of Ms. Banks in a soft head-wrap and one of Ms. Lopez in a neat brocade turban, is how much beauty and life he was able to extract from them, so that you almost feel you are seeing these women for the first time.

Ms. Hardison hopes that the Italian Vogue issue (to which she contributed) will open people’s eyes in the industry. “They need to see what they’re missing out there,” she said. This week, in its July issue, American Vogue will have an article about the dearth of black models.

Perhaps no individual, though, will know what it means to be included more than Ms. Lopez. Last year, she barely worked. Ms. Brokaw predicts that after insiders see Mr. Meisel’s pictures, she will have a terrific season.

This kind of perplexes and delights Mr. Meisel.

“Here’s this exquisite girl,” he said, addressing no one in particular. “What don’t you get? She’s a beautiful woman. There was no trick to it.”

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,5:03 PM
Taliban ambassador wielded power within Guantanamo
By Tom Lasseter

KABUL, Afghanistan — When U.S. guards frog-marched Abdul Salam Zaeef through the cellblocks of Guantanamo, detainees would roar his name, "Mullah Zaeef! Mullah Zaeef!"

Zaeef, in shackles, looked at the guards and smiled.

"The soldiers told me, 'You are the king of this prison,' " he later recalled.

Zaeef is the former Taliban ambassador to Pakistan, famous for his defiant news conferences after 9-11, in which he said the militant Islamist group would never surrender Osama bin Laden.

Pakistani intelligence officers dragged him out of his house in Islamabad in late December 2001 or January 2002 and took him to Peshawar. "Your Excellency, you are no longer Your Excellency," he recalled one of them saying.

The Pakistanis handed him over to U.S. troops, who he said threw a sack over his head and pushed him into a helicopter. The Americans flew him to a warship, where he was held for about a week in a small cell that reminded him of a dog kennel, he said.

"I was afraid about what would happen to me," Zaeef said in an interview in Kabul, wearing slightly crooked gold-rimmed glasses and speaking in a near-whisper. "I didn't know if it was a dream or not. I never imagined this would happen to me."

Yet from mid-2002 till September 2005 at the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Zaeef became a leader again. He helped orchestrate hunger strikes and exploit the missteps of a U.S. detention system that often captured the wrong men, mistreated them, then incarcerated them indefinitely without legal recourse.

The insurgency he helped launch in Guantanamo capitalized on the Americans' ignorance of Islamic customs and a pattern of interrupting prayers, shaving off prisoners' beards and searching their copies of the Quran.

U.S. officials didn't respond to repeated requests for comments about Zaeef's role at the camp, but former detainees from Europe to Central Asia spoke of him with reverence that bordered on hero worship.

"People would scream when they saw him: They said, 'We will send you our prayers,' " said Munir Naseer, a Pakistani.

A Kuwaiti bragged that he once lived in a cell next to Zaeef and touched his hand. An Afghan said that men in his cellblock relied on Zaeef's advice about everything from prayer to protest. A Jordanian said that Zaeef often brokered deals between the American military and angry detainees. A Chinese Uighur called Zaeef the "president of Guantanamo."


His back hunched, Zaeef clomped through the cold mud that surrounded the detainees' tents, lugging the plastic buckets the men used as toilets. He'd get to a large metal drum, heft a bucket in the air and pour out the excrement and urine, trying not to let it splash him in the face.

"Every time the buckets filled up with urine or feces, the guards told Mullah Zaeef to go empty it," said Mohammed Omar, a teenage Pakistani who was held at Kandahar in early 2002. "They made him and another big Taliban guy do this."

If U.S. soldiers could make a Taliban mullah lug everyone else's feces to the "burn buckets," the foul-smelling drums used to dispose of human waste, there could be no question about who was in charge.

To many of Zaeef's fellow detainees, he looked old and tired, sloshing around in the mud with the rest of them and sleeping in a tent with more than a dozen other men, surrounded by bales of concertina wire and soldiers.

Asadullah Jan, a Pakistani who was imprisoned at Kandahar in early 2002, said the guards zeroed in on Zaeef.

"One time, Abdul Salam was leading prayers," Jan said. "A guard came over and started talking with him. Abdul Salam said, 'Come back in 10 minutes; we're praying.' The guard called on his radio and said that Abdul Salam wouldn't talk. A group of soldiers came down, and in the middle of prayers they came behind him, put their boots on his neck and beat him."

Before he was sent to Kandahar, Zaeef spent a month or two in detention at Bagram Air Base, and he said he was treated brutally there, too.

"The cursing, the punching, the kicking, it was continuous," he said.

It was at Kandahar, however, that Zaeef began to learn how to run a prison from the inside.

At first, the detainees weren't allowed to pray aloud, but then camp officials decided to let each tent have a prayer leader.

"Under the excuse of azzam" — the Muslim call to prayer — "they would spread information between detainees," said Khalid Pashtun, who served as a liaison between the local Afghan government and U.S. forces at the camp. "The prayer leaders (such as Zaeef) would be saying, 'Be careful in interrogation; keep to your story until the end.' "

Zaeef wasn't like many of the other prisoners whom the U.S. and its Afghan allies had swept up. A few years earlier, he'd flown into the Kandahar Airfield as a senior government official. Now he was there as a prisoner.

He was born in Kandahar province in the late 1960s and adopted by his uncle after he was orphaned at age 7. Zaeef's family fled to Pakistan after the 1979 Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, but he returned to Kandahar as a teenager to fight the Soviets with the mujahedeen, Islamic holy warriors. He was known for taking textbooks to the trenches.

Zaeef returned to Quetta, Pakistan, to finish his studies in a madrassa, an Islamic religious school. He focused on Islamic banking and sharia, Islamic law, then went to work as a bookkeeper for a local trading company.

In the early 1990s, Zaeef said, former mujahedeen fighters enlisted his help to fight corrupt warlords in Kandahar, and he took part in the initial meetings of the Taliban. He became a trusted counselor to senior Taliban leaders after the Islamist movement took control of Kandahar in 1994.

Wahid Mujdah, a former Taliban diplomat, said Zaeef was "very, very close" to Taliban leader Mullah Omar, "who had a lot of confidence in him."

As Zaeef told a reporter: "I did not join the Taliban, I helped start it."

After the Taliban swept north to Kabul and seized control of most of the country in 1996, Zaeef helped organize the country's Islamic courts in Kandahar, then moved to Herat to oversee the banking system. He then was brought to Kabul for a succession of Cabinet jobs, such as deputy minister of mining and minister of transportation.

The U.S. military claimed that he'd played a role in directing al Qaida and the Taliban on the battlefield. "In the beginning of the Taliban's rise to power, operational commanders of the Taliban and al Qaida forces in the Shomali and Kabul regions of Afghanistan reported to the detainee (Zaeef) as the deputy of defense for the Taliban," said a summary of evidence prepared for Zaeef's military tribunal.


When he arrived at Guantanamo in the spring or summer of 2002, Zaeef was exhausted from the harsh treatment he'd received at Kandahar and Bagram.

He slept as often as he could and was just another detainee, Internment Serial Number 306. He got up when the guards came, and shuffled off in his orange prison clothes and flip-flops to answer questions about the Taliban leadership.

"He was very weak, physically, when I saw him at Guantanamo," said Mohammed Saduq, an Afghan who'd commanded Zaeef during the fight against the Soviets. "It is very difficult to know the inside of a man, and it's hard to say how it affected him — going from an ambassador to being in a cage — but he told me in Guantanamo that he was suffering badly."

The rules at Guantanamo, Zaeef said, reminded him of Bagram. The men weren't supposed to talk in their cells. They were supposed to say "please" and "sir" when they addressed the guards. In Guantanamo, however, the guards weren't beating the men, he said, and prisoners could speak up.

"After a month, we decided we could not accept these extremist measures. We must react," Zaeef said. "So we began shouting to each other. The soldiers came and asked if we were talking to each other. We said, 'Yes, we are not dogs.' We began throwing water at them, spitting at them; we said, 'If you want to kill us, fine.' "

A high-ranking officer came and spoke to the detainees, Zaeef said. The rules were rescinded. It was a victory in a game of inches.

As the months passed, Zaeef recovered his strength. He said that he began to look around the camp more on his daily trips to interrogations or medical checkups.

In a way, Zaeef said, he was encouraged by what he saw. Interrogators raised their voices from time to time, but they never hit him. Detainees were able to pass messages from one end of a cellblock to the other, and to call out greetings and reports of their last interrogations, none of which the guards could understand.

Slowly, Zaeef realized that it was the sort of place where a man could wage a campaign.

"The soldiers who pushed us got spit at, peed on or had (feces) thrown at them," said Adil Kamil al Wadi, a Bahraini. "It would scare them. They would run to the medic for a shot."

When the soldiers came back from the medic, Wadi said, they'd go to the cell of the detainee and beat him until he no longer could stand.

Zaeef joined a small group of Taliban and al Qaida leaders who were issuing orders and gathering reports; because he spoke fluent Arabic, Pashto and Dari, he could serve as a conduit among Arab, Pakistani and Afghan detainees. His English gave him further power, allowing him to represent those groups in conversations with U.S. military officers.

"We chose the leaders of the blocks," Zaeef said. "If the detainees had any problems, they had to speak with the block leader, who would talk with the block NCO" — the senior enlisted military-police soldier on duty — "and if they could not resolve the issue, they would send a message to us, the leaders of the camp."

U.S. military officers at Guantanamo acknowledged that detainees organized themselves into groups.

Zaeef knew the script. In the 1980s, a central rallying cry for the Islamic warriors who battled the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan — with crucial American support — was that the Soviets were brutal infidels.

Cellblock leaders began spreading messages to the men around them: We must not tolerate these conditions; it's time for a hunger strike. Rumors that guards had mistreated the Quran often accompanied the messages.

Zaeef claimed to a reporter that he'd witnessed several instances of Quran abuse. However, an Afghan former detainee who was at Guantanamo said the stories that Zaeef and others spread — such as soldiers stomping on a Quran — were lies.

The hunger strikes were reported all over the world. Aid groups and defense lawyers pointed to them as proof of Guantanamo's appalling conditions.

Eventually, officials at Guantanamo handed out surgical masks for detainees to hang from the walls of their cells as cradles for their Qurans, to keep them off the floor. Guards were ordered to be quiet during prayers, and orange cones with the letter "P" were placed in corridors during prayer time. Detainees were allowed to wear skull caps, as prescribed by Islamic tradition. Guards were told never to touch prisoners' Qurans and to log every allegation of abuse.

Men such as Zaeef responded by growing more assertive. They wanted more than small wins.


In June 2005, detainees at Guantanamo staged their biggest hunger strike yet: As many as 100 men refused to eat.

Prison authorities gathered detainee leaders and discussed their demands. Zaeef represented Afghans and Pakistanis, joining detainee representatives from several other nations.

After consulting with detainees in the cellblocks, Zaeef and the other leaders produced a list of demands that included Geneva Convention rights, court trials, less time in isolation cells, better treatment from the guards and so on.

However, the meetings among the detainees broke down before negotiations with U.S. authorities could proceed, Zaeef said, because the detainees worried that the Americans were eavesdropping to find out who their cellblock leaders were.

Zaeef was released that September.

He's been home for more than two years now, under house arrest by the Afghan government, which relaxes and tightens its control according to his public remarks. Calling on a radio program for the Taliban to regain at least part of their ruling power, for instance, meant that he wasn't permitted to receive visitors for several weeks.

Two guards usually stand out front, next to a faded red door and a sentry house.

Sitting in his reception room, Zaeef sometimes brags about his years at Guantanamo.

He likes to tell about the time guards came to have his beard shaved.

"I refused. I was punching them; I was fighting them," he says. "Then they threw gas (canisters) into my cell. I put my clothes to my mouth and fought them when they came in."

The guards overtook him, dragged him off and shaved him. But for Zaeef, that wasn't the point: He'd resisted.

Asked whether his time at Guantanamo had changed him, Zaeef said that it only further convinced him that America was the enemy of Islam.

He gets regular news reports about the Taliban's brutal campaign to reassert itself in southern Afghanistan.

So, as he did for more than 1,000 days in Guantanamo, he sits and waits for his next chance at power.

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Thursday, June 05, 2008,2:58 AM
Obama has had Clinton's card since day 1


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,2:40 AM


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,1:47 AM
How Pepsi-Cola Wooed Black Consumers, Invented Niche Marketing
Review by Carly Berwick

June 4 (Bloomberg) -- In 1940, Pepsi-Cola Co. President Walter S. Mack, competing against the behemoth Coca-Cola Co., made a historic marketing decision: to hire the company's first black salesmen to target black consumers.

``The Real Pepsi Challenge: Breaking the Color Barrier in American Business,'' is a gently didactic exhibition at the Queens Museum of Art in New York. It tells the story of the 12 black men who worked at Pepsi as their ``special markets'' sales team from 1940 to 1951, through news clippings, letters, vintage audio recordings and contemporary video interviews.

Blacks made up a consumer market of an estimated $8 billion at the time, yet most corporations never considered the demographic in their sales pitches, by design or neglect.

Mack's hiring of Herman T. Smith as its first black soda salesman was so unusual it got a mention in the March 18, 1940, edition of the New York Times, which is reproduced in the exhibition.

So, too, are numerous columns from the Chicago Defender, one of the many black papers that chronicled the comings and goings of the Pepsi salesmen as if they were celebrities -- which, in a way, they were.

Photographs of the Pepsi special-markets team show confident men in fashionable suits. The team, started before World War II, sputtered toward its end, as did Pepsi's fortunes, with sugar rationing. Then, in 1947, former actor and National Urban League organizer Ed Boyd took over the team and reinvigorated its efforts.

Top Talent

Boyd brought in top talent to sell Pepsi to black consumers and to bottlers, who often required extra convincing to send more soda to black communities.

The segregated South was hostile territory for the salesmen, who had to explain to corporate accounting why they never submitted hotel receipts: Hotels wouldn't let them stay there.

Even Mack and other self-identified liberal Northerners used egregious slurs, and Pepsi itself continued to run racist advertisements. One 1944 ad shows black-faced ``natives'' hailing the Pepsi skywriters from their tropical island.

Pitch letters Boyd wrote to bottlers are particularly moving and in pristine condition. He experimented with innovative marketing strategies, such as offering to print free football schedules for black colleges. One 1948 letter detailing the program begins: ``Dear Sir, I am sure you aware of the interest this Company has shown in worthwhile activities among the Negro race.''

Niche Marketing

This was the advent of niche marketing, and it worked. Sales in targeted communities shot up over one concerted two-week campaign by 13 percent.

PepsiCo Inc. (the company changed its name in 1965) is a sponsor of the exhibition: Its early efforts at workforce integration are clearly good public relations almost six decades later.

The show's curator, Stephanie Capparell, is the author of the 2007 book ``The Real Pepsi Challenge: The Inspirational Story of Breaking the Color Barrier in American Business.'' While the stories of Smith, Boyd and their co-workers are well told there, the exhibition's pictures, letters and audio clips offer a wider audience vivid portraits of a dozen salesmen who showed everyday grace in trying times.

On view through July 27 at the Queens Museum of Art, Flushing Meadows Corona Park, Queens. Information: +1-718-592-9700; http://www.queensmuseum.org.

(Carly Berwick is an art critic for Bloomberg News. The opinions expressed are her own.)

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Oriental Trading Company