As much as we love the show Mad Men, the popular TV series has never really given pioneering black advertising executives their proper respect. As The Root’s article “The Other Mad Men” pointed out in 2010, Madison Avenue was not as lily white as the popular cable-TV show implies. With Mad Men heading into its seventh and final season on Sunday, we wanted to pay tribute to some of the men and women, past and present, who have made their mark in the world of advertising.
Monique L. Nelson, a 2013 The Root 100 honoree, is CEO of UniWorld Group, the longest-standing multicultural advertising agency in the U.S. Founded in 1969 by Byron Lewis—who is also on our list—the company moved Nelson into the top spot last year after she put together a team and asked Lewis if she could move “from background to lead.” The company’s clients include Ford, CVS Pharmacy and Marriott International.
Bozema Saint John, who was recently named global director for Beats Music, is a marketing whiz who masterfully fuses pop culture and commerce. As director of cultural branding, music and entertainment for PepsiCo Inc., Saint John helped make the soda giant the music industry's second-largest sponsor, spending $325.1 million on concerts and events in 2012. A 2013 The Root 100 honoree, Saint John put the company’s brand at some of entertainment’s largest events, including the BET Experience, the MTV Music Awards and Beyoncé’s Mrs. Carter Show World Tour. She was also behind Beyoncé’s lights-out halftime show at last year’s Super Bowl.
Steve Stoute is CEO of Translation, an advertising, marketing and branding agency whose clients include McDonald’s, Coca-Cola and Bud Light. Stoute is the author of 2011’s The Tanning of America: How Hip-Hop Created a Culture That Rewrote the Rules of the New Economy, which was recently made into a four-part docuseries for VH1. Stoute has worked with artists such as Lady Gaga and Jay Z, and Translation was behind the campaign for the Nets’ move from New Jersey to Brooklyn, N.Y. Follow the philanthropist, pitchman and “part postracial philosopher” on Twitter.
Industry veteran Jeffrey Bowman is managing director and senior partner at ad giant Ogilvy & Mather. During his time at Ogilvy, Bowman has become one of the top leaders in multicultural marketing. Bowman, who earned an MBA from Clark Atlanta University and a marketing degree from South Carolina State University, directed market planning at Sears and worked at Dell, Whirlpool, PepsiCo and Miller Brewing Co. Follow him on Twitter.
In 1988 former NFL player Don A. Coleman, who had worked for the black ad firm Burrell Advertising, started his own company, Don Coleman and Associates. After buying a firm targeting Latinos and Asians, Coleman rebranded his company as Global Hue. Its clients include Jeep, Verizon and Wal-Mart. Follow Global Hue on Twitter.
Robert Wingo, CEO and president of SandersWingo, is adaptable. He made smooth transitions from the U.S. Army to the apparel business to advertising, joining the agency—which began as Sanders Advertising—in 1983 as president and partner and emphasizing a regional and national approach that targets general, urban and Latino markets. SandersWingo was the Black Enterprise 2009 Advertising Agency of the Year. Follow SandersWingo on Twitter.
Lagrant Communications, headquartered in Los Angeles, was founded more than 20 years ago by CEO Kim L. Hunter and targets black and Latino consumer markets. Clients include H&R Block, Harley-Davidson, MetLife, the American Heart Association and the American Cancer Society. Hunter is also chairman of the Lagrant Foundation. The nonprofit group provides scholarships, career-development workshops, internships, mentorship and educational-enrichment programs to minority students pursuing undergraduate and graduate degrees in advertising, marketing and public relations. Follow Lagrant on Twitter.
J.D. Michaels is senior vice president and director of tactile production and creative engineering at BBDO New York. The Yale grad has been in the industry since 1992. He considers one of his specialties to be “magic,” and appropriately, Michaels was the producer and project manager for the promotion of HBO’s series Game of Thrones. In 2010 he won an AdColor Creative Award.
Coltrane Curtis, the founder and creative director of branding firm Team Epiphany, considers himself an influencer, not an innovator. His clients—which include Timberland, Nike, Pepsi and EA Sports—clearly disagree and get the firm’s motto, “We influence influencers.” The Morehouse graduate has a degree in marketing and previously worked at Marc Ecko Enterprises. He was the recipient of the 2010 AdColor Innovator Award. Follow him on Twitter.
Ann Fudge got into merchandising as a member of the teen board of Hecht’s department store in her native Washington, D.C. A professor at Simmons College urged her to pursue a career in business, and a Harvard MBA led to a career in advertising at General Mills and Kraft Foods. She came out of retirement in 2003 to serve as chairman and CEO of Young & Rubicam Brands, making her the only African American to head a major advertising agency. She resigned in 2007 and now devotes her time to corporate and nonprofit boards.
Herb Kemp, the former president of UniWorld Group, was a senior executive at J. Walter Thompson and Ogilvy & Mather before joining UniWorld. Kemp, who earned an MBA at Dartmouth’s Tuck School of Business, also worked for 11 years with the Chisholm-Mingo Group. After retiring in 2000, he ran his own consultancy, What’s Black About It? LLC. In 2005 he co-authored What’s Black About It? Insights to Increase Your Share of a Changing African-American Market. Kemp died in 2011 at age 69.
In 1986 Carol Williams, from Chicago’s South Side, founded the Carol H. Williams Advertising Agency. Fourteen years earlier Williams, while still an advertising intern, created the Secret antiperspirant campaign “Strong Enough for a Man, but Made for a Woman.” Now her clients at the nation’s largest independent female-owned black communications agency include the U.S. Army, Buick and Wells Fargo.
J. Melvin Muse has been CEO of Muse USA since its founding in 1986. He also created that company’s predecessor, Muse Cordero Chen Inc., a Los Angeles firm specializing in multiracial marketing. He is the author of The Shaman Chronicles, Book One: The 7 Senses of Multicultural Marketing.
In 1969, with the help of venture capitalists, former newspaperman Byron E. Lewis founded UniWorld Group to market to blacks and Latinos, who together equaled only 16 percent of the U.S. population. By 1995 UniWorld was running national general-market accounts, including M&M/Mars 3 Musketeers. The chairman emeritus was inducted into the Advertising Hall of Fame in 2013.
In 1979 Keith Lockhart and Theodore Pettus founded the Lockhart & Pettus ad agency. Black-owned hair-care-product maker Carson Products became one of their first customers. Other clients included Chrysler, Dark & Lovely, Pepsi, KFC and Panasonic. The firm was closed in 1997.
Frank L. Mingo Jr. changed the way minorities were viewed in ads, initially as the first black executive at the flagship J. Walter Thompson and later as a vice president at McCann Erickson. Mingo hit his stride when he and Caroline R. Jones founded Mingo-Jones Advertising in 1977. The firm specialized initially in “crossover ethnic campaigns that later became general-market advertising.” The most famous was “We Do Chicken Right” for Kentucky Fried Chicken. The agency was renamed the Mingo Group in 1986. He died in 1989 at age 49.
When Frank L. Mingo Jr. died in 1989, Sam Chisholm, the Mingo Group’s chief operating officer, took over and repositioned it as an urban-marketing expert. He also added public and community relations. In 1996 Chisholm, who had worked at UniWorld, renamed the agency the Chisholm-Mingo Group. It was one of five firms to be part of the $103 million ad campaign for the 2000 census. Chisholm is now CEO of Chisholm Consulting Inc.
In 1963, after graduating from college, Caroline R. Jones joined the J. Walter Thompson secretarial pool but left it to become a copywriter. After working at several black agencies, she became the first black female vice president of a major agency: BBDO. In 1977 Jones co-founded Mingo-Jones Advertising, which created “We Do Chicken Right” for Kentucky Fried Chicken. Nine years later she opened Caroline Jones Inc., where she created the “Because You’re Worth It” campaign for L’Oréal. Jones died in 2001 at age 59.
Thomas J. Burrell first got hooked on the advertising industry while working in an ad-agency mailroom. He later wrote copy on national accounts for major agencies, including Leo Burnett. In 1971 he founded Burrell McBain Advertising, which became Burrell Communications, and landed McDonald’s and Coca-Cola as clients. Burrell, who retired in 2003 as chairman emeritus, is a member of the Advertising Hall of Fame. In 1999 ad giant Publicis purchased 49 percent of Burrell Communications.
After working at two Chicago ad agencies, Barbara Proctor created Proctor & Gardner Advertising in 1970 to market to black communities. Clients included Kraft and Jewel Food Stores. A 1977 Ebony article quoted Proctor as saying that she considered herself to be part of a trend toward “conscience” marketing that played a constructive role in consumer communities.
In 1953 Vincent Cullers began his career as an art director at Ebony. Three years later he founded the nation’s first black advertising agency, Vince Cullers Advertising. He crushed stereotypes and portrayed black Americans and black culture positively. Cullers launched the first targeted national network-television ad campaigns featuring African Americans with Bristol-Myers’ Bufferin. You can see his Afro Sheen ad here. In 2006 he was inducted into the Advertising Hall of Fame. Cullers died in 2003 at age 79.
In 1945 Georg Olden joined CBS and rose to be its on-air promotions chief. In 1961 he entered mainstream advertising, became the group art director of BBDO Television, and later joined McCann Erickson. Olden, a graphic designer, also designed the Clio statuette, advertising’s Oscar, and won seven of them. He once said his goal was to expand acceptance of, and opportunities for, black Americans in business. He died in 1975 at the age of 54.