LAJEANNA MCKNIGHT: Account exec, Ebony

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In climbing the corporate ladder, LaJeanna McKnight makes time to mentor others. In fact, she recently co-founded a new professional organization, New York's African-Americans in Advertising, which already has a solid following.

Ms. McKnight, 24, has been an account exec at Ebony since early 1999. She contends she signed on with the title to learn first-hand why marketers are resistant to advertising in African-American media. She counts Ford Motor Co., Philip Morris Cos. and Universal Studios as her active accounts and is working to sign on new advertisers.

"There are a handful of dormant accounts I have been given that haven't advertised with Ebony in several years. Other marketers that I am trying to win over have never advertised with a black publication," she says.

"To be an account executive at such a young age is tremendous," says Heide Gardner, VP-diversity and strategic programs at the American Advertising Federation.

Ms. McKnight is considered a leader by those who know her, and she understands the value of mentoring. Her skills were recognized and supported early when she was chosen by the AAF as one of the Top 25 Minority Students in Advertising.

Now the AAF has helped her develop the organization she co-founded with Glynnis M. Johnson, who left her post as art director with BBDO Worldwide, New York, last April.

Ms. McKnight briefly worked with the Advertising Women of New York, then moved to Advertising Age as a sales coordinator before going to Ebony.

Ms. Johnson likens Ms. McKnight's potential to that of Marc Stephenson Strachan, partner and chief marketing and operations officer at Vigilante, Leo Group's New York-based urban marketing shop.

"I see her having her own company in two or three years," says Ms. Johnson.

It wouldn't surprise Ms. Gardner if Ms. McKnight winds up on the agency side:

"She could be an executive with a marketer, remain in print or move on to an agency. Her follow-through is outstanding, and her enthusiasm is infectious," Ms. Gardner says.

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