Chisholm, Samuel J. 1942–

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Samuel J. Chisholm 1942

Advertising executive

Made a Steady Career Climb

All the Way to CEO

Helped U.S. Census Bureau


In the year 2000, Samuel J. Chisholm, head of The Chisholm-Mingo Group, Inc., initiated an innovative ad campaign for the U.S. Census Bureau. The result was a census return rate of 66 percent, five points above the Census Bureaus goal and a halt to the ten percent drop in returns over the past several decades. Not only did Chisholms bold campaign aid the Census Bureau, but it also strengthened his advertising agencys fortunes at a time when financial pressures were forcing such firms to merge in order to survive. Of the top four African-American ad agencies, Chisholm-Mingo is the only one to remain fully black-owned. For these achievements, Chisholm-Mingo was named by Black Enterprise magazine as the BE 100 Advertising Agency of the Year and Ernst & Young nominated Chisholm as the Entrepreneur of the Year for 2001. In a company profile in Black Enterprise, Chisholm said, How and what we do is different from our counterparts, because were more problem solvers and decision makers than just makers of ads. And that makes all the difference in the world.

Made a Steady Career Climb

Samuel Jackson Chisholm was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on May 15, 1942, to Thomas and May Jackson Chisholm. His higher education began at Virginia State University in Petersburg, where he graduated with a B.S. in business administration and accounting in 1965. He took graduate studies at New York University and served in the National Guard from 1966 to 1975. In 1979, Chisholm married Thelester McGinns. They have two children, Heather and Jason.

Chisholm began his career as a claims adjuster for Corn Products Corporation in New York City in 1965 and then went to Phelps Dodge as a junior accountant. He began his advertising career as a media planner with Benton & Bowles in 1967. Two years later Chisholm joined Jack Tinker & Associates as assistant media director, quickly moving up to advertising/sales promotion director for Continental Can Company, where he stayed until 1974. For the next six years, he served as account supervisor for Uniworld and Marshalk. Among his accounts were Coca-Cola Food Divisions Minute Maid juices, AT&T, and Avon Products. In 1980 Chisholm became vice president and management supervisor at what was then The Mingo Jones Group in New York. Although he insisted he never planned to stay for a long spell, he kept moving up in the company. He was promoted to senior vice president and director of client services in 1984 and became executive vice president and general manager two years later.

All the Way to CEO

In 1988 Chisholm was named president of the agency. A year later, the unexpected death of 49-year-old company founder Frank Mingo put Chisholm in the advertising hot seat. He became chairman and chief executive officer (CEO) of what is now known as The Chisholm-Mingo Group, Inc. (CMG), in 1990 and has

At a Glance

Born Samuel Jackson Chisholm on May 15, 1942, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; son of Thomas J. and May Jackson Chisholm; married Thelester McGinns, 1979; children: Heather, Jason. Education: Virginia State University, B.S., 1965; New York University, graduate studies.

Career: Corn Products Corp., claims adjuster, 196566; Phelps Dodge, junior accountant, 1967; Benton & Bowles, media planner, 196768; Jack Tinker & Associates, assistant media director, 1969; Continental Can Company, advertising/sales promotion director, 196974; Uniworld and Marshalk, account supervisor, 197580; Mingo-Jones Group, vice president/management supervisor, senior vice president, director of client services, executive vice president, general manager, president, 198088; Chisholm-Mingo Group, chairman, CEO, 1989-.

Member: Board member: Connecticut Committee of the Regional Planning Association, Traffic Audit Bureau, New York Board of Governors of the 4As, Advertising Council, World-Wide Partners, Advertising Hall of Fame Council of Judges, American Advertising Federation Foundation, Urban League of Southwestern Connecticut Madison Avenue Initiative.

Awards: National Business & Professional Men & Women, Dollars & Sense, 1990; Kappa Alpha Psi Community Award, 1990; Outstanding Minority Business Award, National Minority Business Council, Inc., 2000; Entrepreneur of the Year, Ernst & Young, 2001.

Address: Chisholm-Mingo Group, 228 E. 45th St, New York, NY 10017.

maintained the companys philosophy ever since: to reach the head, we touch the heart.

In the years since Chisholm took over, the firm has grown from an advertising agency to a full service multicultural marketing company. It targets African-American, Hispanic, urban, and emerging black markets. Chisholm-Mingo clients are offered services in creative and media areas, direct marketing and research. A subsidiary of CMG, known as Chisholm Mingo Plus (CMP), was initiated in 1989 to provide public relations expertise. The company also expanded to include CM Consulting.

Chisholm understood that advertising has changed a good deal from a quarter-century ago. Today clients have to be given a full range of services, which include helping them out of a crisis. Such was the case with the restaurant chain of Dennys, which ran into one of the all-time worst cases of negative publicity in the 1990s. After repeated incidents, Dennys was sued for racial discrimination, and CMG took over the account in 1996.

Chisholm felt the trouble was that the general market kept fueling the problem. So he instituted a program of positive commercials on Sunday morning talk shows. In addition, well-placed press conferences announced Dennys commitment to the community and its efforts to fight racial discrimination. When asked how to stop the conversation that continually gave Dennys bad publicity, Chisholm answered, You close the book.

Helped U.S. Census Bureau

Besides standing up to pressures to merge with other companies, CMG under Chisholm has stood up to its competition. Unquestionably, its biggest coup for 2000 was becoming one of five advertising firms sharing &103 million in the U.S. Census Bureaus first-ever paid ad campaign. Chisholm testified before the U.S. House of Representatives in July of 1999 on his companys participation. In his speech, he noted an important change CMP had made in the original tagline for Census 2000, which was This is your future. Dont leave it blank. Said Chisholm, quoted in a House of Representatives transcript, In understanding the mindset of the African American marketplace, the Chisholm-Mingo Group has modified this tagline for the black American markets . The sense of importance, urgency, responsibility to community, family and self must all be communicated. The African American communication programs re-expression of the tagline was synthesized to a single but vitally important word change. This is our future. Dont leave it blank.

With the success of Census 2000, Chisholm has put his firm in a good position for future government contracts. In addition, CMG has made inroads in the travel market, which until recently has been slow to reach out to the African-American community. Chisholm has secured contracts with Royal Caribbean International which operates cruise lines, Greyhound, Disney Tourism, and the railroad giant Amtrak. It operated a 22,000-mile intercity passenger rail system that serves more than 500 communities in 45 states.

The companys handling of two well-known accounts have given Chisholm-Mingo, under Chisholms direction, a solid future in the often dicey world of advertising. A statement from his office read, He [Chisholm] understands the power and the value of the African American consumer . Sam Chisholms plan for the future is to make The Chisholm Group, Inc., better not bigger, smarter and more strategic. Samuel Chisholm has proven that it is possible to succeed, despite the climate of the business.



Black Enterprise, June 2001.


Biography Resource Center (October 30, 2001). (October 23, 2001). (October 15, November 9, 2001). (October 15, 2001). (November 9, 2001).


Release from The Chisholm-Mingo Group, Inc., (November 2, 2001).

Corinne J. Naden and Rose Blue