A child of the Great Depression who grew up in Far Rockaway, Queens, avidly reading books and listening to radio, Byron Lewis got a sense from an early age that the media wasn’t geared toward African Americans. And that ultimately planted a seed that led him to start an agency.
“I began to wonder why I felt a certain way and I was sure the media of that era — the way we were depicted, stereotypically, in negative terms — shaped [people’s] attitudes,” says Lewis, who founded UniWorld Group, an African-American and multi-cultural agency, in 1969, in an interview with Beet.TV.
The company was foundering seven or eight years after its inception when Lewis had the inspiration to develop a radio soap opera about black life and experience, which aired for 39 weeks and was sponsored by Quaker Oats. That marked a turning point for the agency.
WPP bought a 49% stake in UniWorld Group in 2000. Lewis stepped down as its CEO in 2012.
This segment is part of Beet.TV’s “Media Revolutionaries,” a 50-part series of interviews with key innovators and leaders in the media, technology and advertising industries, sponsored by Xaxis and AOL. Xaxis is a unit of WPP.
Lewis was interviewed for Beet.TV by David J. Moore, Chairman of Xaxis and President of WPP Digital.