National Museum of American History Collects Hispanic Advertising

Smithsonian Adds Collection From Advertising Pioneer Isabel Norniella

The Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History has added business records, campaign materials, scrapbooks and personal artifacts related to the 50-plus-year career of advertising and media executive Isabel Norniella. She began her advertising career in Havana in 1956 with the agencies Mestre Conil and McCann Erickson doing media market research and motivational research after receiving her degree in advertising management from the University of Puerto Rico. Norneilla’s papers add to the national narrative of Hispanic advertising history and join an extensive set of archival materials and campaigns collected earlier through a collaboration with AHAA: The Voice of Hispanic Marketing. The collections are held in the museum’s Archives Center.   

Norniella moved to Puerto Rico where she worked in advertising beginning in 1959 and eventually founded her own agencies: Publitec de Puerto Rico Inc. in 1969 and Public-Centro Inc. in 1972, which includes film production, and she opened Publitec U.S.A. Inc. in Miami in 1973 as a full-service agency. Norniella is the founder of  Olé TV Media which, since 1994, has been broadcasting a variety of educational and arts, cultural and entertainment programming on cable and over Internet Protocol (IPTV) and at as well as offering programming on

The museum’s Hispanic Advertising Initiative is an extension of the “American Enterprise” exhibition that prominently features the story of advertising and marketing, including an 80-foot-wall with advertisements and popular slogans and a business section exploring the growth of the advertising industry. 

“Hispanic entrepreneurs changed the face of American advertising,” said Kathleen Franz, the museum’s curator of American business history. “Norniella’s donation documents the evolution of how major brands targeted the Spanish-speaking market, not just in Cuba and Puerto Rico, but in the U.S. as Hispanics became a large U.S. consumer group.”

Norniella donated a substantial body of her Spanish-language radio and television commercials covering a range of clients from Cutty Sark, Stokely Van Camp’s, Uncle Ben’s, Planters, Star-Kist, Westinghouse, Maybelline, Coppertone, Café Estrella, Firestone and Yoo-hoo, a chocolate beverage, and others. She has worked with several charities and provided numerous public service announcements to the archives. Her donation also includes her early Hispanic market-research materials as well as scrapbooks and photographs of her career and background material on Olé TV. She also donated two dresses that she wore to accept awards and honors in her field. 

Through a collaboration with AHAA: The Voice of Hispanic Marketing, the museum has collected from Latino agency founders and creative leaders including Michelle and Joe Zubizarreta of Zubi Advertising in Miami; Gabriela Alcantara-Diaz, founder of Semilla AD, representing The IAC Group of Miami; Alex and Cathy López Negrete of Houston-based Lopez Negrete Communications; Hector and Norma Orcí of Orcí Advertising (formerly La Agencia de Orcí) of Santa Monica, Calif.; Tony Dieste of Dieste Inc. in Dallas; and Sara Sunshine, representing the legacy agencies, SAMS (Spanish Advertising & Marketing Services), the first recognized U.S. Hispanic agency founded in 1962, and Siboney Advertising. The legacy of Sosa, Bromley, Aguilar & Associates, an agency founded in San Antonio in 1981, is represented through objects, visuals and print campaigns as well as business records. The museum also holds the Clotilde Arias archives, which reflects Arias’ work on Madison Avenue in the late 1940s as a copywriter who rose to head Spanish-language advertising at the Robert Otto Agency. Previously she was at J. Walter Thompson.

The museum’s Archives Center holds archival materials (documents, photographs, film, video and oral histories) and three-dimensional objects (packaging, point-of-sale displays, premiums, signage, and personal objects from ad agents). It preserves significant campaigns from companies such as Alka-Seltzer, Federal Express, Cover Girl and Nike as well as the records of the NW Ayer Agency.

Through incomparable collections, rigorous research and dynamic public outreach, the National Museum of American History explores the richness and complexity of American history. The museum helps people understand the past in order to make sense of the present and shape a more humane future. For more information, visit Located on Constitution Ave. between 12th and 14th Streets N.W., the museum is open daily from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. (closed Dec. 25). Admission is free. For Smithsonian information, the public may call (202) 633-1000.

# # #

Media only:

Melinda Machado            
(202) 633-3129

Amelia Thompson            
(202) 633-3129