Ad Age DEI Council
Published on November 30, 2022
Ad Age’s DEI Council brings together some of the most influential leaders from the marketing, agency, media and tech worlds to act in an advisory role to ensure the publication is representing the viewpoints and exploring the critical issues of people of various racial, ethnic, social and economic backgrounds. The council, launched in fall of 2020, regularly meets with the Ad Age editorial staff to take a candid look at the publication’s coverage, as well as events programming, all with the goal of advancing diversity and inclusion within the newsroom.
Current DEI Council Members
Creative director, SS+K New York
Lucas is an advertising creative director at SS+K in New York City and a member of Ad Age’s Diversity and Inclusion Board. Throughout his career he’s worked on brands such as The New York Lottery, Hornitos Tequila, TGIFriday’s, Vibram FiveFingers, Mike and Ike candies, Honda, and Mastercard. His work has earned Clios, Gold Lions, One Show Pencils, and was also nominated for a Creative Arts Emmy.
Through Instagram, Lucas is a transgender activist and has been featured by companies such as Alan Cummings’ brand RockSoup, MarcoMarco Underwear, LogoTV, Tinder, OUT Magazine, BravoTV’s “Get A Room," Tom Hardy, and MTV’s “One Style Fits All."
While not grinding in his day-to-day, Lucas enjoys staying active by hitting the gym and hiking with his two Boxer dogs.
Gonzalo Del Fa
President, multicultural, GroupM
As president of GroupM Multicultural, Del Fa plays a key role in all aspects of the multicultural and diverse media and marketing efforts initiated by all GroupM agencies: essencemediacom, Wavemaker and Mindshare. The goal of the division is to provide clients with a truly relevant and informative point of view of diverse audiences across the U.S., resulting in tailored communications strategies based on in-depth knowledge of consumers.
Under Del Fa’s leadership, GroupM Multicultural handles $1 billion in billings from clients such as Nestlé, Target, L'Oréal, General Mills, Uber, JPMorgan Chase, Mars, Unilever, AARP, Bayer, Universal Pictures, Coca-Cola, Doordash, Purina and Google.
Del Fa joined the GroupM family in 2003 as managing director of MEC Argentina. In 2006, he moved to New York to launch MEC Bravo and in 2010 he was instrumental in combining all the agencies under the GroupM Multicultural banner.
In 2014, Del Fa was awarded Ad Age’s Media Maven of the Year award and in 2016 he was nominated for the Crain’s Visionary Award. In 2017, he won the Executive Leadership Award, and in 2018 he was recognized as one of the most influential Latinos in New York by El Diario. In 2019, Del Fa was recognized by Adweek with the Stellar Marketing Execs Of The Year Award and in 2022 he was named one of the 20 Most Influential Latinos in Marketing and Media. In addition to his role at GroupM, Del Fa is the chairman of the Hispanic Marketing Council (HMC).
Prior to joining GroupM, Gonzalo worked at American Express Argentina, BBVA, Hachette Filipacchi and Editorial Televisa.
Founder, chief creative officer, Hyphenated
Los Angeles-native William Esparza didn’t grow up seeking culture, he was creating it. At age 12, Esparza’s fascination with letterforms turned him into an urban scrawl, known through the L.A. graffiti scene. He designed album covers for Ice Cube, Snoop and the Eastsidaz. His approach and craft in design was refined at Art Center College of Design, which caught the attention of TBWA\Chiat Day and made him a part of the original MAL team. Soon he went to work for other top agencies such as Cutwater, Martin Agency, and R/GA where he ran an off-shoot known as Hustle.
At RGA and Hustle, Esparza was instrumental in driving the agency's partnership with Apple's Beats. This partnership has delivered some of the most iconic work coming from both brand and agency in the past decade, bringing home nine Cannes Lions in one year for the "Straight Outta Somewhere" meme generator. More than 9 million memes were created, with everyone from The White House to other brands, such as Snickers, taking part.
Esparza’s creative company, Hyphenated, empowers rising creative voices to co-create shared progress for brands and their people. Fueled by the crisis, his conviction could not be greater and his vision has come into focus, with partners like Nike, 2K, TaskRabbit, MUTHA, Mason Dixie Foods and more.
Esparza’s work has earned honors from Cannes, The One Show, D&AD, Clios, AICP, LIA, Creativity Magazine, Adweek, and The FWA. His work has also been featured in the New York Times, Huffington Post, Mashable and MOMA’s Museum Archive. Will was listed as one of Business Insider’s “30 most creative people in Advertising.”
VP, head of marketing and communications, BlueLinx Corporation
Seth Freeman is an insight-led, possibilities-driven brand executive with an extensive career leading marketing strategy and innovation across the consumer packaged goods, hospitality, and restaurant industries. He brings a record of developing integrated campaigns that accelerate growth, capture market share, and garnered recognition and awards for building awareness and preference.
He is currently vice president/head of marketing and communications for BlueLinx Corporation. He was previously with Focus Brands, where he oversaw commercial strategy for the Schlotzsky’s brand, including menu innovation, promotional calendar and content development, and overall brand experience.
He also previously led integrated marketing as chief marketing officer for Buffalo Wild Wings. Freeman has also served in marketing leadership roles at Russell Athletic, The Coca-Cola Company and Intercontinental Hotels Group (IHG).
Freeman holds a Masters of Business Administration degree from Georgia State University and Bachelor of Business Administration from Howard University. He is a proud husband and father of three, an avid Ohio State Buckeyes fan, and has been active in the community as a Boys & Girls Club of America Alumni Brand Ambassador.
Jacqueline M. Gagne
Senior VP, multicultural marketing, Warner Bros. Discovery
Jackie Gagne currently serves as senior VP, multicultural marketing at Warner Bros. Discovery, responsible for leading strategy and development of marketing programs to drive brand engagement among African American, Latinx, Asian and LGBTQ+ audiences. She was named to this position in June 2020.
Under Gagne’s leadership, the multicultural marketing team supports all original programming franchises, leveraging cultural insights to create culturally-relevant campaigns and brand experiences. Her team was named a “Center of Expertise” Excellence within WarnerMedia in 2019 and began sharing best practices across the company’s portfolio of brands including HBO and HBO Max.
During her tenure, Gagne has been instrumental in establishing HBO’s multicultural marketing strategy and building the team that executes it. In addition to overseeing an extensive list of award-winning promotional campaigns and experiential events, she has used the platform to highlight diverse voices and storytellers through numerous initiatives including HBO Power of Visibility (POV) which celebrates the diversity of the behind the scenes talent that brings HBO’s programming to life, the HBO Max Asian Pacific American Visionaries short film competition for emerging directors of Asian and/or Pacific Islander descent, and most recently, the launches of Human by Orientation, HBO Max Pa’lante! and HBO Max Scene in Black.
Gagne also currently serves on the board of ColorComm, a leading national platform that addresses diversity and inclusion across the communications, marketing, media and advertising arenas. In 2018, she received the organization’s Circle Award, which recognizes women of color who help strengthen underrepresented voices in the industry.
Gagne holds a Bachelor of Arts in Literature and Rhetoric from Binghamton University. She lives in Maplewood, NJ with her husband and two children.
Ahmad Islam began his entrepreneurial journey when he launched his first agency, commonground, in 2003, after 10 years of preparation for his entrepreneurial adventures with multinational powerhouse Nike and global ad agency Leo Burnett.
Throughout his career, Islam and his teams have steered the development of business, driving award-winning marketing programs for clients and iconic brands and companies such as PepsiCo, Frito-Lay, Facebook, General Mills, Lowe’s, LVMH, Brand Jordan, 24 Hour Fitness and many others.
Islam has also put that expertise to work by advising and partnering with innovative startups such as BREAKR in getting their brands off and running.
Prior to beginning his entrepreneurial journey in 2003, Ahmad was VP, account director, at Leo Burnett, where he oversaw the development and implementation of the agency’s successful Effie Award-winning “Army of One” campaign. The “Army of One” campaign was one of the first initiatives to utilize broadcast TV to drive traffic to the web in an effort to engage consumers with long-format branded digital content.
Islam has been inducted into the Chicago Area Entrepreneurship Hall of Fame. He was also named among Crain's Chicago Business Top 40 under 40 list. His companies have won numerous industry awards including being named Ad Age Small Agency of the year.
Ahmad is a native of Springfield, Ohio, and earned a Bachelor’s degree in Business Psychology from Miami (OH) University and a Master of Science degree in Sports Marketing from West Virginia University.
He balances his zeal for his craft with a deep commitment to his wife Tanisha and their three teenagers, Gabriel, Selena, and Faroh. Ahmad and his family spend time advocating for autism awareness. The Islam family established Gabriel’s Horn, a foundation dedicated to advocacy, awareness, and actions intended to enhance job opportunities and support life skill development for differently abled young adults, including 19-year old Gabriel, who is on the autism spectrum.
Chief marketing officer, Eos Products
Soyoung Kang is the Chief Marketing Officer at Eos Products, the Gen Z focused beauty brand, where she is responsible for driving the overall strategy, planning, and operations for marketing, product and e-commerce.
Previously, Kang was senior VP of brand development at Bath & Body Works and has also held senior roles at Victoria’s Secret and Boston Consulting Group.
Kang is on the board of directors at Bob’s Discount Furniture, holds a B.S. from MIT and an MBA from The Wharton School, and was a Fulbright scholar.
Chief commerce officer, Group Black
Cavel Khan is the chief commerce officer of Group Black, responsible for commerce strategy and implementation.
He was the chief revenue officer of Tumblr responsible for global revenue, revenue operations, business marketing, ad tech and programmatic partnerships, and revenue strategy.
Prior to Tumblr he was the senior VP of client partnerships, North America at Vice, where he oversaw sales and account management teams. Khan was also a senior manager on the CPG vertical at Twitter. He led a team responsible for building partnerships and growing revenue with Twitter’s largest CPG advertisers across the U.S. He also led the CPG Mid-Market sales channel in a similar capacity.
Before joining Twitter, he spent eight years at Microsoft in multiple roles. First, as part of the client services organization, building out the East Coast search teams supporting Bing. He then focused on building advertising partnerships across Microsoft’s display, mobile, and gaming platforms.
He is a 2020 Inductee into the American Advertising Federation’s Advertising Hall of Achievement and a 2019 recipient of the America on Tech Innovator and Disruptor Award for Sales. He is also a 2020 Advertising Club of New York ICON Award recipient. He earned his MBA in marketing from Zicklin School of Business in New York.
Cavel served as co-chair of the Advisory Board of ADCOLOR, a non-profit focused on diversity in advertising. He is a member of the advisory board for both TechBeach and America on Tech. He is also a board member of the Community Roots Charter schools in Brooklyn. He lives in Brooklyn with his family.
CEO, Alma Advertising
Isaac Mizrahi is a world class, award winning marketing executive who spent my 30+ years career working with brands such as Coca-Cola, Bellsouth, Nextel and Sprint, in several different functions covering multiple geographies.
Isaac has been a speaker in several multicultural marketing conferences and has been featured in the New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle, PBS, Ad Age, Ad Week and other industry publications. In 2006 he was recognized as U.S. Hispanic Marketer of the Year by “Marketing y Medios” for his work at Sprint-Nextel. In 2022 Isaac was selected by AdWeek as one of the country’s 50 top Marketing executives.
Over the past decade he has transitioned from the client side of the business to the agency side, working with corporations like McDonald’s, P&G, PepsiCo, MolsonCoors, Google, Lilly, State Farm, among others.
Isaac also has a monthly online column on Forbes.com where he writes about Multicultural Marketing in America for thousands of readers and is the author of an upcoming book “Hispanic Market Power – America’s Business Growth Engine” to be released in Q1 2023.
He was born in Rio de Janeiro Brazil and I live in the U.S. since 1999 in the beautiful Miami with his wife, his two sons and his dog Ollie.
Global CMO, R/GA
Ashish Prashar is a former political press secretary and campaigner, but since being incarcerated as a teenager, his true life’s work has been as a vocal justice reform advocate.
Since joining R/GA from consultancy Publicis Sapient, Prashar transformed agency communications, helping accrue accolades including ranking second on Ad Age’s A-List.
After starting in journalism, Prashar moved into U.K. politics, handling communications for the Conservative Party, Tony Blair, and serving as then-London Mayor Boris Johnson’s press secretary. Since moving stateside, he’s campaigned for Barack Obama, Joe Biden and Democrats in 2018 midterms.
Ashish has developed programs for formerly incarcerated people, including a U.K. youth mentorship program. He’s advocated, campaigned for—and often helped write—legislation including bail reform, ending solitary confinement, clean slate, and voting rights restoration. While juggling parenthood and work, he continues sitting on boards of myriad organizations, and mentoring formerly incarcerated individuals. His advocacy in business includes Responsible Business Initiative for Justice board membership, influencing R/GA’s hiring policy removing background checks, and advising major companies on rewriting hiring practices. He regularly publishes justice reform editorials in outlets including ABC, CNN and NBC.
Senior VP, marketing, Group Black
Ryan Robertson is senior VP of marketing at Group Black, and previously served as the global head of marketing for Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen at Restaurant Brands International (RBI).
Recognized in the 2019 class of Ad Age’s 40 Under 40, his past roles include head of multicultural marketing at Diageo, and innovation director for Diageo’s whiskey portfolio, inclusive of Crown Royal, Bulleit Bourbon, and IW Harper. He was also the brand director for Cîroc Ultra-Premium Vodka, where he managed the strategic partnership with Sean Combs.
Prior to Diageo, Ryan was at the helm of the Vitaminwater brand at The Coca-Cola Company, spearheading the brand’s growth strategy, communications, equity, innovation, and entertainment partnerships.
Ryan has led breakthrough campaigns, and won numerous industry awards and accolades, including nine Cannes Lions. He has over 18 years of experience in driving meaningful connections with consumers and building brands for companies like Procter & Gamble, Unilever, and LG Electronics.
Other recognition includes: Brand Innovators Top 40 Under 40, P&G Alumni Network Leaders Under 40 award, and Top Diverse Emerging Leaders by The Diversity MBA organization. He holds a B.S. degree in Marketing from The University of Tennessee and an MBA from Xavier University.
A lover of music and entertainment, he has worked on the development of several projects in the indie film space. Ryan is a four-time Emmy-nominated executive producer for the award-winning web series “Issa Rae Presents King Ester,” and music supervisor for the episodic series “Sauce.” Previous projects include music consultant on “Wades World,” and music supervisor on the “Brooklyn. Blue. Sky.” web series.
Sheereen M. Russell
Senior VP, ad sales and inclusive content monetization strategy, Warner Bros. Discovery
Sheereen Russell is responsible for driving sales, educating marketers, and developing content and data-based solutions to engage brands and consumers across the Warner Bros. Discovery portfolio of cable, social and digital platforms. She also leads efforts to deliver on WBD’s commitment to diversity and inclusion in front of and behind the camera, while partnering closely with programming and merchandising teams across all platforms to develop diverse and inclusive content and sponsorship opportunities.
Prior to WBD, Russell had a successful decade long tenure at Viacom, where she rose through the ranks and became VP of brand sales—building innovative solutions for key advertisers within MTV’s portfolio of live on-air awards shows, experiential tentpoles, premium programming and digital platforms. She was awarded the 2013 Presidential Award at Viacom for her revenue-driving performance and team leadership.
Russell headed to Viacom from Time Warner/Time Inc. in 2006 after serving as the national sales and marketing director at Sports Illustrated. She began her media and entertainment career as a publicist for Time magazine.
Russell earned a B. A. in communications with a minor in journalism from Wake Forest University. She currently resides in the New York area with her husband and two sons.
Detavio Samuels serves as CEO of Revolt, America’s fastest growing Black-owned media company. Detavio sits at the intersection of culture and content and is one of corporate America's youngest and most accomplished senior executives.
With his background as a millennial with over a decade of executive experience, he has helped a decorated roster of top global companies such as Walmart, McDonald’s, AT&T, Chrysler, the NBA and Johnson & Johnson build impactful brands with deeper connections to their consumers.
Samuels has been recognized for his work as a marketing executive, receiving honors including being named TV Executive of the Year by Digiday, one of the top 100 Content Leaders by CableFax, and a Trailblazer in Media by 100 Black Men of NY. In addition to his notable work within creative industries, Samuels is also an Amazon best-selling author.
Samuels received his B.A. from Duke University, along with an MBA and Master's degree from Stanford University, all by the age of 25.
Creative director and creative consultant
Storm Smith was the first Deaf woman to have been recruited by BBDO Worldwide. She continues in roles of creative director for collaborative brand projects, motivational speaking on larger scale events, and a thought leader for inclusive change in the creative, media and advertising industry. Her storytelling work helped shine a positive light on critical societal issues such as people with intersectionality of disabilities, youth, LGBTQIA+, Black, Indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC).
With brand collaborations, Storm has served in her role as an Amazon Studios consultant on Academy Award nominee Amazon’s film “Sound of Metal,” which earned her and the marketing team the Variety Social Impact Marketing Award. Collaborations have included working with Apple, Marvel's “Spider-Man: Miles Morales” and Netflix's “Politician” actress Natasha Ofili on social impact projects, Academy Award-winning actress Marlee Matlin and Tony Award nominee actress Lauren Ridloff for the largest Deaf non-profit organization, former Harlem Globetrotter, Crissa Jackson on behalf of her advocacy for young girls in sports, Gallaudet University's first music video campaign: “We Belong” and more.
Advocacy at heart, she is an appointed advisor for Crip Camp x Adobe for talents of color with disabilities. Storm’s tireless efforts to promote diversity, inclusion and accessibility have earned her a special recognition from President Barack Obama for the 30th anniversary on ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act), 2021 Variety’s Social Impact Marketing Award, ADCOLOR Unsung Community Hero award and an award from the City of Los Angeles.
She has been featured in numerous major publications including Condé Nast, Forbes, PopSugar, Los Angeles Times, ABC's Localish, Billboard, Muse by CLIO, Campaign, TV Guide, Adweek, Ad Age and more.
Kwame Taylor-Hayford is a creative executive and entrepreneur with a career spanning advertising, fashion and philanthropy.
Taylor-Hayford is a co-founder of Kin, a company that advances social change through culture for Mailchimp, Delta Air Lines and Ben & Jerry’s. Prior to launching Kin, he was managing director of brand at Chobani, where his team was named 2019 In-House Agency of the Year by Ad Age and, citing the creative work on the brand, Fast Company included Chobani on its Most Innovative Companies list three years in a row.
Before joining Chobani, Taylor-Hayford was a partner at Sid Lee, and has also led teams for Anomaly and Saatchi & Saatchi in New York. His work for Procter & Gamble, Apple, Mailchimp, Uniqlo, Spotify, Nike, Stella Artois, Budweiser, Captain Morgan, General Mills and JCPenney has garnered recognition from the Emmys, Cannes, D&AD, One Show, ADC, LIA, Andys, Clios, Shots and EFFIE.
Taylor-Hayford was included in Adweek’s Creative 100 list in 2022, Ad Age’s 40 Under 40 list in 2020, and was inducted into the American Advertising Federation’s Hall of Achievement in 2019. He was also on Crain’s New York list of Notable Black Leaders in 2021.
Taylor-Hayford serves on the board of trustees for D&AD and the board of directors for SATURDAY MORNING, a non-profit he co-founded in 2016 to shift perception on racial bias and injustice. He is also co-owner at August Market, a design-led company for the socially, culturally and environmentally conscious.
Co-founder and CEO, Walton Isaacson
As the CEO and co-founder of Walton Isaacson (WI), a full-service advertising agency with offices in Los Angeles, Chicago, Dallas and New York, Aaron’s focus is squarely on identifying unseen opportunities rooted in cultural insights and connections. He is transforming the definition of the agency model by prioritizing diversity of thinking, encouraging disruption and homing in on strategic solutions that defy tradition.
Walton began his career as a marketing executive with PepsiCo where he was quickly promoted to brand management for the Pepsi and Mtn Dew brands. Walton then started his own company, Aaron Walton Entertainment (AWE), which he sold in 2002 to Omnicom Group’s DAS division. Aaron was named president of Omnicom’s Radiate Entertainment Group, and led over 40 networked agencies in strategic growth initiatives.
Partner, head of brand strategy, Goodby Silverstein & Partners
Bonnie Wan is reimagining the reach and role of strategy for brands as well as everyday people. As head of brand strategy for Goodby Silverstein & Partners, Wan builds brands through strategic offerings including Brand Camp, a concentrated, radically collaborative six-week strategy sprint that drives business growth through actionable brand strategies. Her leadership has earned GS&P the Cannes Grand Prix Lion in Creative Strategy; gold, silver and bronze Effies; a Grand Ogilvy; and ANA’s Grand Multicultural award.
Wan is honored to serve on Ad Age’s Diversity Council as well as The List, Ad Age’s and Meta’s mentorship program matching industry leaders with next-generation talent. She has chaired Ad Age & Creativity’s People awards jury and was named 2022’s “Chief Strategy Officer of the Year.”
Beyond the industry, Wan is creator of “The Life Brief,” helping people live with greater clarity and courage by teaching them how to write creative briefs for their lives. “The Life Brief” has evolved from an agency talk into a workbook and speaking opportunities at Apple, SXSW, Accenture, Change.org, Goop and Jane Goodall’s Activating Hope Summit. Wan has signed a deal with Simon & Schuster to publish “The Life Brief” book in 2024.
Wan has appeared in Masterclass on Advertising & Creativity, Katie Couric’s “Katie” show, and HuffPost Live. Wan and her family are featured in the documentary film “The Big Flip,” which chronicles breadwinning moms and their stay-at-home husbands.
Wan is a graduate of NYU. She lives in San Anselmo, California, with her husband, four kids and Charlie the dog.
Strategic advisor, Columbia University
Kai D. Wright advises C-suite executives, founders and celebrities on subjects including brand building, digital and DEI/culture.
A frequent speaker at major conferences and Fortune 100 companies, Wright is an author and lecturer at Columbia University. Most recently, he was a global consulting partner at Ogilvy.
Since 2020, he has been a member of the Ad Age Diversity Council; he hosts the Ad Age video series “System Overload: How Change Happens,” which brings together top business strategists to demystify how to activate change management for DEI progress.
He has been recognized as a global leader by Thinkers50, WARC, Business Insider, Bloomberg, Black Enterprise, Forbes, and the Advertising Research Foundation.
Kai graduated with a master's in strategic communication from Columbia University and a bachelor’s in economics from The University of Chicago. An avid traveler, he lived in Germany during his childhood, and has visited over 20 countries.