Uncle Ben, Serving Up Grains of Wisdom

Uncle Ben has a new role. The smiling black advertising icon has been criticized as a stereotype. Now he has a fictional online office as company chairman, from which he answers letters and dispenses "Benisms."

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STEVE INSKEEP, host:

And let's stay down south for a moment. That's where a fictional character was born and went on to become one of advertising's most enduring figures. Today's last word in business belongs to Uncle Ben, who gets a makeover and a promotion. Uncle Ben is the smiling African-American face on the box of rice that bears his name. But his name does not seem too friendly to people who say the character is a stereotype.

So now Uncle Ben has a new image. He's not serving rice anymore. After 60 years he has been promoted to company chairman. He has a fictional office online, which displays his busy schedule and answers letters from customers. He's even published Ben-isms, little grains of wisdom about rice. For example: rice, because six billion people can't be wrong.

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INSKEEP: Oh, this is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. And I'm Steve Inskeep.

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