Thursday, February 17, 2011

Creativity: 'Black History Month: an interview with Roy Eaton'

[Roy F. Eaton during his pioneering career in advertising]

The pianist Roy F. Eaton, whose website is, has been featured frequently at AfriClassical. Today we post a link to an interview about his career in advertising:

By: Geoff Edwards, Published: Feb 16, 2011
"It's Black History Month again and for 28 shorts days, sandwiched between our favorite shows and sporting events, we'll be blitzed with stories of African American accomplishments." "Enter Mr. Roy Eaton, the first black creative in a general market agency – Young & Rubicam (according to my research, at least). He's 80 years old today and still lives in NYC, but in 1955 he was our industry's version of Jackie Robinson. The son of Jamaican immigrants, Mr. Eaton grew up in a modest home in Harlem, NY. During his youth, he lived through two periods of history that greatly influenced the rest of his life: the devastation of the Great Depression and, the boom of Jazz in his neighborhood, Sugar Hill. The first gave him his tenacity to live life to the fullest, and the second - well, this left an impression on him that lead to his playing piano in Carnegie Hall in the late 30s, and in the early 1950s, earning the Kosciuszko Foundation Chopin Award.”

“Geoff: What work were you the most proud of doing?

“Roy: I worked on several accounts at the agency, but the work I'm known for is Piels Beer, Texaco, General Electric, Kent cigarettes, and Gulf Crest, and the Beefaroni jingle that had kids singing for their suppers for a decade or so. For Kent Cigarettes, I knew there was a new filter innovation that they wanted to push, so I wrote music to convey the sense of newness and creativity. I got to work and crafted a jingle based on the modern jazz then being introduced by Miles Davis, Charlie Parker, and Thelonius Monk... it caught on because it was different from anything else at the time. The Kent Cigarette work aired as radio, and as live commercials during programs like the $64,000 Challenge. That program was like the Who Wants To Be A Millionaire of its day. Everyone watched it. Not to mention the fact that $64,000 was a lot of money at the time. As for my copywriting, one of the most effective campaigns that I worked on was for Gulf Crest gasoline. Gulf Crest wanted to expand to a larger market. I came up with the slogan, 'Gulf Crest every 1,000 miles keeps your engine clean.' which positioned the new super-premium gasoline not just for luxury cars, but as a tonic for all cars. The line was very well-received and the campaign escalated sales for the brand. The campaign line that I wrote for Texaco was something I'm proud of too: 'You can trust your car to the man who wears the star'. (Advertising Age named that Texaco jingle from 1962 as the foundation for one of the twentieth century's top 100 creative campaigns.)”

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