Leo Q & A

Thanking those who forged a path forward

As Black History Month comes to a close, our celebration of those individuals that changed the industry continues.

Black History Month offers time for reflection and celebration– a celebration of the incredible pioneers on whose legacy communities are built and a reflection on the progress needed in the year to come.

This Black History Month at Leo Burnett was driven by joy and retrospection. After a year that posed seemingly insurmountable hurdles, a social justice movement finally overtook the national stage and spurred a greater need for community than ever before.

This year, we are honored to spotlight the incredible trailblazers who brought their creativity and drive to Leo Burnett and who continued to change the world after their time with the agency:

Carol H. Williams

Carol Williams

A native Chicagoan and resident of Oakland, Carol works to better the world wherever she is. She dedicates her time to the empowerment of women, the African-American community and the talent of the future across the US; she has been doing so since her first days in the agency business.

Carol’s career began in 1969 in Leo Burnett’s creative department. There, as a Junior Copywriter, she began honing her skill as a strategic creative, who could bring insights to life through iconic lines and images for well-known brands. Throughout Carol’s 13-year tenure at Leo Burnett, she pioneered essential client relationships, fostered meaningful mentorships with up-and-coming creatives and became the agency’s first African American Female Creative Director and Vice President.

Carol created: “Nothing quite as good as biscuits in the morning” for Pillsbury (1969); “Say hello to Poppin’ Fresh Dough” also for Pillsbury (1972); “So smooth and creamy you can spread it with a paper knife” for Pillsbury Supreme Frosting (1975); “Strong enough for a man but made for a woman” for P&G Secret Anti-Perspirant (1974).

Carol has received numerous professional honors and community awards during her career. Passionate about community service, she has used her talent and resources to help dozens of philanthropic endeavors, including the Rainbow/PUSH Coalition, the Congressional Black Caucus, NAACP, U.S. Dream Academy and the National Newspaper Publishers Association. In 1977, Carol received the Advertising Woman of the Year Award from the Women’s Advertising Club of Chicago.

Now, Carol is the Owner, President, CEO and Chief Creative Officer at her own agency—the Carol H. Williams agency—she provides outstanding work for clients such as Chevrolet DTU, Disney, Allstate and My Black is Beautiful.

With each achievement and door opened, Carol shares and reinforces a strong set of values, many of them passed down from her parents. Values that she passes on to the younger professionals who she mentors or takes under her wing. Carol believes in hard work, perseverance, avoiding the limitations of the word ‘never’, refusing to settle for good enough, finding ways to turn losses into wins and nurturing the possibilities and dreams of others.

Don Richards

Don Richards

Don began his career in advertising at Leo Burnett in 1966. Don worked under the Media Research Director at Leo Burnett, Dr. Seymour Banks, who was also his professor at the University of Chicago. After Don joined the Media Research team, he was promoted to Account Executive on the Pillsbury account. His success on the this account allowed his career to blossom and he worked on several other major accounts including McDonalds and Proctor & Gamble.

At that time, Don was part of a very small faction of African Americans who worked in the major advertising agencies. Not only were there few advertisers of color, but there were even fewer minority suppliers such as film directors, photographers and graphic designers. Amongst a sea of white faces, Don made it his mission to bring more diversity to all aspects of advertising.

In pursuit of this personal commitment he took a job at the 4A’s in New York as Director of Diversity in order to recruit minority college graduates for major ad agencies and identify and utilize more minority suppliers in advertising.

Don was able to kickstart the advertising careers for a generation of people of color. His dedication to make advertising a more welcoming place and his big-picture view of the industry meant that Don was able to identify rising minority talent across a variety of disciplines.

The roads that he paved for others were based on paths that he’d walked before—created by Black professionals before him that inspired Don to give back in kind. “I’d like to give a special thanks to Tom Burrell and Carol Williams who were pioneers in advertising and mentored me in the early days of my career,” says Don.

Michael Hall

Michael Hall

Michael Hall is a advertising and marketing services veteran, who spent more than two decades at Leo Burnett.

During his tenure at Leo Burnett, Michael served as Executive Vice President, as well as U.S. Director of Strategic Planning, a big-picture position that required a dedication to maintaining the holistic health of the agency.

Michael developed and implemented Leo Burnett’s foray into the multicultural market. His ability to champion large-scale endeavors made him an asset to some of the most well-known brands that work with the agency, including McDonald’s Worldwide, Pillsbury and Green Giant.

After his time at Leo Burnett, Michael served as CEO of CSMG – a global sports management and media firm. Michael holds a B.A. from Williams College and an MBA from Stanford University and has significant senior level experience in creating, managing, and integrating communication service firms in both the general and multicultural markets.

When Michael reflects on the meaning on Black History Month, the Malcolm X quote “by any means necessary” resonates with him and it aptly showcases the creativity and courage that real change requires.

Barabara Dent

Barbara Dent

During Barbara’s 32-year tenure, she served as legal counsel for Leo Burnett in various roles, rising to Executive Vice President, Deputy General Counsel before joining Publicis Groupe US Re:Sources Legal in 2016 as Assistant Deputy General Counsel.

During her time at Leo Burnett, Barbara was a member of the Leo Burnett USA Management Operating Lead Team and the Leo Burnett North America Deal Team. In her roles, Barbara advised business leaders on all aspects of marketing, promotional, advertising, contract and corporate matters. Over the years, she has driven thousands of contracts ranging from music and celebrity deals from the top industry talent to various Fortune 500 contracts. As an advisor and negotiator, she collaborated with the agency and its iconic clients in handling regulatory, litigation and arbitration matters. Barbara also served as Leo Burnett’s liaison with industry groups.

With both a Juris Doctor from Georgetown University and Master of Science Degree in Journalism from Columbia University in New York, Barbara has a unique respect for this business as well as the law. Before joining Leo Burnett in 1987, Barbara was an attorney at Chicago’s Sidley and Austin law firm. She started her professional career with the National Association of Broadcasters in Washington, D.C., and worked on Capitol Hill as a Press Assistant for a United States Congressman.

Throughtout Barbara’s career, she has taken every opportunity to pioneer a way forward for Black professionals like herself and has never shyed away from being the first to do anything. As we celebrate Black History Month, she’s reminded of a Langston Hughes poem that contains a key piece of advice for the next generation of executives:

“Hold fast to dreams, For if dreams die Life is a broken-winged bird, That cannot fly.”

Barbara’s dreams and aspirations have not only resulted in an exceptional career but they’ve also inspired others to dream alongside her and know that they belong in any room where big things are happening.

Within the storied 85 year legacy of Leo Burnett, there has been no shortage of visionaries, of pioneers, of those who create their own rules to better the work and better the world. This Black History Month we are honored to celebrate a few of our own and those in the community who work to improve it.