Uncle Ben Gets Big Promotion

The New York Times examines the revival of “a racially charged advertising character.”

The character is Uncle Ben, the symbol for more than 60 years of the Uncle Ben’s line of rices and side dishes now sold by the food giant Mars.
Uncle Ben, who first appeared in ads in 1946, is being reborn as Ben, an accomplished businessman with an opulent office, a busy schedule, an extensive travel itinerary and a penchant for sharing what the company calls his “grains of wisdom” about rice and life.
Vincent Howell, president for the food division of the Masterfoods USA unit of Mars, said, “What’s powerful to me is to show an African-American icon in a position of prominence and authority. As an African-American, he makes me feel so proud.”

I want to say something here, but I’m left dumbfounded by Howell’s pride.

About David Burn

Co-founder and editor of AdPulp. I wrote my first ad for a political candidate when I was 17 years old. She won her race and I felt the seductive power of advertising for the first time. I worked for seven agencies in five states before launching my own practice in 2009. Today, I am head of brand strategy and creative at Bonehook in Portland, Oregon.


  1. Does anyone else see irony in the company’s name — Masterfoods?

  2. Wow, I didn’t even see that. Now, I’m stupefied.

  3. theo kie says:

    This feels a bit….uncomfortable.
    If nothing else, the shiny-faced execution of the character feels very old-fashioned. This links him too closely to the original Uncle Ben – who’s perceived as a bit of an Uncle Tom.

  4. notice the wedding band on ben’s left hand. please don’t tell me he’s married to aunt jemima.

  5. What does the copy say in the print ad above? Anyone know?

  6. The peanut gallery says:

    It’s nice to see “Massafoods” treats their house coloreds so well.