No Commercial Breaks

Smart and driven, Renetta McCann heads one of the nation's leading media companies

“One look at me and you can only imagine the boundaries i’ve had to negotiate, the challenges I’ve had to traverse,” said Renetta McCann during a ceremony honoring her as the 2002 Advertising Woman of the Year. McCann was chosen in June by the Women’s Advertising Club of Chicago, an 81-year-old association that advocates for women professionals in the field.

“Such are the trials of being a short person,” said McCann before an audience of peers, journalists, friends, and family gathered for a luncheon at The Drake hotel in downtown Chicago. Many burst into laughter, some shaking their heads amusingly. McCann smiled.

Standing at 5 feet, she is short — “a respectable 60 inches,” asserts the 44-year-old executive. But because McCann’s huge reputation precedes her, height is just one aspect of her physicality that’s surprising. The other two are race and gender. McCann is an African American woman and CEO of Starcom North America, one of the largest media companies in North America.

Starcom, which launched in 1999 under McCann’s leadership, maintains contracts with leading companies including Hallmark, Polaroid, McDonald’s, Sara Lee, and Showtime Networks.

“Renetta was one of the architects behind Starcom’s remarkable performance in 2001 and in 2000,” says Jack Feuer of the industry trade magazine Adweek. “She has a great deal of influence over how the process of media planning and buying is conducted today and how it will be conducted in the future.” McCann’s efforts have contributed to two consecutive years of 20% growth for Starcom North America, and she has doubled her staff to more than 600 employees.

Boasting $4.6 billion in billings, the company recently snagged the Walt Disney World account worth $600 million, thanks to McCann. Under her leadership, the company has developed a number of technological initiatives to further business strategy. They include Web-based communication tools that allow real-time data comparisons with clients and optimizers. McCann’s company has also invested in proprietary research to better understand how customers are connected to the media.

McCann sits on several boards including the Audit Bureau of Circulations, and she is the media policy chair for the American Association of Advertising Agencies.

Her strides speak volumes to her excellence in advertising as a media strategist, company head, and industry leader. This is why BLACK ENTERPRISE chose McCann as our 2002 Corporate Executive of the Year.

“Boundaries, what boundaries?” McCann says at The Drake. “Pretend they don’t exist. That’s right, just ignore them.”

McCann, who grew up the oldest of five children on the South Side of Chicago (where she still resides), had to ignore a lot. Like the time when, as a senior executive at Leo Burnett advertising agency handling a multimillion-dollar account, a publisher marveled at how articulate she was. “I was 18 years in on a particular account,” McCann recalls. “Now I’m 23 years in, and still when I show up, people don’t expect me to be me.”

Even if they haven’t laid eyes on McCann, clients expect a sharp, no-nonsense media strategist and an efficient manager of resources and people. “She is a

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