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Celebrating Black Excellence in Marketing: Leaders Who Paved the Way

By Jennifer Urena-Cruz




As we honor Black History Month, it's important to shine a light on the remarkable


contributions of Black individuals in various fields, including marketing. In the world


of business and advertising, there have been countless leaders whose innovative


ideas, creativity, and determination have left a lasting mark on the industry. Join us


in celebrating the achievements of some of these remarkable individuals who have


significantly influenced the landscape of marketing.



Madam C.J. Walker





Often known as one of the first self-made female millionaires in the United States, Madam C.J. Walker was not only a successful entrepreneur but also a savvy marketer. Through her line of hair care products tailored specifically for Black women, she revolutionized the beauty industry and employed innovative marketing strategies, including door-to-door sales and demonstrations, to promote her products. She began by using a personal approach and selling her products directly to Black women to win over loyal customers, presented her products through lecture demonstrations,  and later employed saleswomen to advance the distribution of her products. Walker helped African American women gain financial independence, changed the black hair care industry, and continues to inspire others with her legacy.


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Clarence Holte





As the first African American to hold a senior executive position at a major advertising agency, Clarence Holte broke barriers and paved the way for future generations of Black marketers. His tenure at BBDO inc. showcased his exceptional talent and creativity, leading to groundbreaking campaigns for brands like Pepsi and General Electric. He specialized in ethnic markets and due to work was often traveling to Europe and Africa, this inspired one notable campaign known as “The Indigenous Americans” which was one of the first advertisement campaigns that linked a brand with black history. After his time at BBDO inc. he founded the Nubian Press and the first book to be published was “The Nubian Baby Book” which was written to introduce African American children to their heritage. Clarence L. Holte's work in advertising and literature reflected his desire to educate people about Black history and culture.


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Carol H. Williams





With a career spanning over four decades, Carol H. Williams is a trailblazing figure in the advertising world. Her career began at Leo Burnett Company where she created some of the most notable advertising campaigns and then rose to become the first female and African American Creative Director and Vice President. After her time working for other companies, she began her advertising agency and continues to captivate and connect with her audiences by driving her campaigns with the question “Whose eyes are you looking through when you view the world?” As the founder of Carol H. Williams Advertising, she became the first Black woman to own and operate a full-service advertising agency. Her groundbreaking campaigns for brands such as General Motors and Procter & Gamble have earned her numerous accolades, including being inducted into the Advertising Hall of Fame.


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Byron E. Lewis





As the founder of UniWorld Group, the nation’s oldest surviving Black advertising agency, Byron Lewis played a pivotal role in multicultural marketing. His agency was one of the first to specialize in targeting diverse audiences, recognizing the importance of inclusivity in advertising. Through his visionary leadership, UniWorld Group became a powerhouse in multicultural marketing, working with major brands like Ford, Burger King, and other Fortune 500 companies. He also worked with the media and founded the American Black Film Festival, produced national media productions, and co-founded two short-lived Black magazines back when there was minimal media directed at Black audiences.


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These extraordinary individuals have not only achieved remarkable success in their respective careers but have also paved the way for future generations of Black marketers. As we celebrate Black History Month, let us continue to honor their legacies and strive for a more inclusive and diverse marketing industry.


In the words of Madam C.J. Walker, "I got my start by giving myself a start." Let’s draw inspiration from these leaders and work towards a future where talent knows no boundaries, and opportunities abound for all.


In solidarity and celebration,


American Marketing Association USF

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