I Has a Dream
Grand Prize Winner

BRAND: Atlanta's Black Professionals
COMPANY: Austin Kelley Advertising,
Ketchum and Folio Z
COPYWRITER: Krystal Falkner
PHOTOGRAPHER: Robert Rostick
SIZE: Full Page

At first sight, the reactions varied.

"A lot of people looked at the headline and said, 'How dare you?!'" recalls Creative Director Lee St. James of his anti-Ebonics ad for Atlanta's Black Professionals. "And then there were a few smiles and sheepish grins. One woman actually hugged me after she read it."

The initial responses may have run the gamut, but after absorbing the ad, virtually everyone saw a clear and pure message"one that resonates with immediacy and power. Says St. James of the approach: "It's not about black or white. It's about credibility and freedom."

And timeliness. The ad appeared amid a storm of controversy surrounding Ebonics, or "black" English. St. James had discussed the issue with several African-American colleagues in Atlanta's Black Professionals. Their consensus was that, even though they believed in the importance of slang and colloquialism, the thought of not fostering proper English in the black community was frightening. "What if Martin Luther King had not spoken as eloquently as he did?" St. James asks. "His credibility would have been diminished."

The concept was to write a headline in Ebonics, but this was a challenge to do without sounding trite or flippant. St. James ultimately decided on Martin Luther King's landmark speech as the appropriate anchor. "Of course it was controversial and we were tweaking people for sure, but the ad had to live up to King's words." Though the headline packs a punch, the visual solution is just as emphatic. "We started out over-designing," remembers the creative director. "Then we came up with a simple representation of King turning his back on Ebonics."

Spurred by myriad news articles and brewing factions, the topical ad was met with a great deal of interest. It ran both in newspapers and as posters; in fact, it was so popular that it was requested by schools stretching from Miami to Richmond. The editorial arena of newsprint proved the ideal medium for such a potent message. "Newspapers get at issues, so there's an immediacy to the advertisement," says St. James. "Another great thing about newspapers is that they're big, almost like posters. That gives them the same stopping power."

©1998 Newspaper Association of America. All rights reserved.


Protest of Athena advertisement