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Renetta mccann takes seriously responsibilities as a minority role model, especially for African-Americans, having herself accomplished a number of "firsts," including being the first African-American media director at Leo Burnett Co., Chicago.

She says of all the accolades she has received, she treasures most the Trailblazer award presented to her in 1995 by an informal group of African-American media profressionals at Burnett. She is the only recipient of this award -- in recognition of the example she sets and for her work for the advancement of African-American professionals within the agency and industry.


Although Ms. McCann, 42, says she is not a mentor to anyone in particular now, she values the relationship she had with her own mentor, Chuck Quarnstrom, who retired from his post as senior VP-media director in 1994.

"Mentoring is very personal and Chuck trained a lot of people who are now media directors," she says. "I don't think he treated me any differently than other trainees, but he set a great example professionally -- and the way I operate today is very much the way Chuck would do things."

Ms. McCann is a founding board member of Targeted Advertising Professionals, a Chicago organization created to aid and enhance the careers of African-American marketing and advertising professionals. She is frequently called upon to be a panelist for the organization's informational seminars.

"I'm not a mentor right now in the traditional meaning of the word," she says. "But I do informally mentor or coach anyone who seeks my help. It could be someone who needs some advice on a one-time basis or someone who wants more. If I can help them, I will. If I don't have the answers, then I try to find the people or resources who might."


Ms. McCann joined Burnett in 1978 as a Northwestern University graduate and, like nearly everyone else at the agency, was hired into a program called Client Services Training (now called Media Training Program).

She says that training program was a draw for her to accept the job offer and become one of 75 hires that year.

"I knew, coming out of school, that I needed skills and more training. I felt confident that Burnett had the program to teach me the next set of things I knew I needed to know," she says, adding that the agency's creative reel was another selling point to her as young hopeful.

"Being able to show icons like Tony the Tiger, things that people have great feelings about; I wanted to be associated with a company that had those kinds of clients," says Ms. McCann. "Burnett brings in people from all sorts of backgrounds to take part in the training program. If there was something special in getting me to join the agency, it wasn't obvious to me at the time."


Ms. McCann says the philosophy behind the training program was to orient new hires to understand the account from the media perspective. She says she liked working on the media side of the business and decided to stay.

The fact she has made a career in media planning is quite notable, given the harsh criticism heaped on the advertising industry for its lack of minority employment in media arena.

Ms. McCann became a media supervisor in 1979, an assistant media director in 1986, a VP in 1988 and media director in 1989. In July 1995, she was promoted to senior VP and now is senior VP-media director for Burnett's Starcom Media Services.

Currently, her account responsibilities include Sprint Corp.'s African-American Consumer Services Group and general-market work on Walt Disney World and Disney Cruise Lines, plus the Procter & Gamble Co. print agency-of-record assignment.

Ms. McCann took a lead role in developing the media pitch when the agency went after Sony's Consumer Electronic Division in 1991; Fruit of the Loom in 1992; Disney World in 1994, the Johnnie Walker global assignment and the United Distillers print agency-of-record account in 1995. In 1996, she led the P&G print agency-of-record pitch, and was a key factor on the team pitching the Sprint African-American consumer products account in '98.

Her cutting-edge thinking was evident in the Dewar's initiative her team planned and executed in 1994. Ms. McCann convinced Dewar's to sign up the brand as charter sponsor for CD-ROM magazine Launch and negotiate a series of interactive ads and placements throughout the issue.


Ms. McCann also was the first Media Department recipient of the agency's Black Pencil Awards, in 1986, which were initially limited to the creative department.

The awards recognize individuals who make outstanding contributions to a client's business; in Ms. McCann's case, the award acknowledged her hand in developing a strategy for Hewlett-Packard Co. that allocated its media dollars in the most targeted vehicles.

"What's happened over time is I've had access to experiences and opportunities that have made [my job] fascinating," she says. "I started with package-goods clients, like Kimberly-Clark, which are the meat-and-potatoes of agency work. And then in the mid-80s, worked on Hewlett-Packard when computers were still in their adoption phase. E-mail was new then. It was a mind-stretching experience, being able to find media solutions for clients' problems."


Ms. McCann believes the diversity efforts and goals set by the agency overall help foster a positive environment, which, in turn, creates opportunity and the foundation for success.

The agency's minority recruitment efforts are spearheaded by Don Richards, senior VP-director of resource development, through internships and on-site recruitment.

"Burnett consistently offers opportunities for the people who choose to come here," she says. "That's the common thread: The agency provides the

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