10 Black Ad Tech Professionals Making Waves in Digital Media and Advertising

For some, Black History is a celebration that spans 28 days— or 29 on a leap year. But for others, Black History is every day. And while Black History often focuses on trauma it does not only consist of that.

It is also about the stories of everyday people pushing to make a difference in their families, community spaces, and work environments. In the ad tech ecosystem — the Black ad tech, ad ops, rev ops, and digital media professionals  — are a part of Black History. 

That is why for Black History Month, AdMonsters is celebrating Black professionals making history throughout the ad tech ecosystem.

Back in 2020. we wrote a lot about ad tech’s diversity problem, and in 2023 unconscious bias continues to rear its ugly head when it comes to funding, hiring, and relationship-building within the industry. For that very reason, we’d like to highlight 10 unsung heroes — Black professionals making waves and leaving their mark on the advertising and digital media industry. 

10 Black Ad Tech Professionals

Sheila Marmon, Founder + CEO, Mirror Digital 

Sheila Marmon is passionate about launching and operating new businesses in the digital media industry and has created innovative platforms for over 20 years. Her expertise focuses on growth markets and delivers meaningful ROI for investors and multinational organizations.

As Founder + CEO of Mirror Digital, an interactive media and advertising company, she helps Fortune 500 brands tap into the fastest-growing U.S. consumer base — the multicultural market. Sheila has executed over 800 digital campaigns in this space for clients, including AT&T, Clinique, Comcast, Disney, Ford, General Motors, Intel, Macy’s, Procter & Gamble, Universal Pictures, Walmart, and other leading brands.  

What advice would you give your younger self at the start of your career in ad tech?

Jump in and get involved by learning everything you can and taking every opportunity to be of service. Being one of the few people of color in our industry can be intimidating, but instead of feeling like it makes you an outsider, use your unique POV and lived experience to stand out.

Terry Guyton-Bradley, Director of Programmatic, Red Ventures

Terry is the senior director of programmatic at Red Ventures, Inc. Red Ventures is home to brands such as CNET, ZDNET, Mymove, and Bankrate. He leads the global strategy for RVs programmatic programs across all brands.

Terry is an industry veteran with over 20 years of experience. From the early days of Doubleclick, he has been a leading voice and advocate for programmatic advertising. He participates actively in the industry-wide conversation on data privacy and the plethora of targeting solutions.

Where do you hope to see Black professionals in ad tech in the future? 

We have begun to see Black tech professionals rise to the top of corporations and start their own tech companies. I hope we continue to be influential voices in our industry by sharing our perspectives and values. Everyone needs to know and understand what is important to our culture and how we need to be viewed as major consumers worldwide.

Kerel Cooper, President of Advertising, Group Black 

Kerel Cooper is an award-winning executive with 20+ years of digital media experience building Advertising Operations, Account Management, and Marketing teams.

Kerel is the President of Advertising at Group Black, a next-gen media collective and accelerator focused on advancing Black-owned media properties. In his current role, Kerel leads Group Black’s advertising revenue & operations team, including sales, ad operations, analytics, and customer success. He works closely with the executive team to deliver seamless client and customer experiences.

He also is the co-founder and co-host of the Minority Report Podcast, which highlights people of color, women & LGBTQ+ leaders within business, media, and technology. 

Where do you hope to see Black professionals in ad tech in the future?

I hope to see more black professionals enter ad tech, building great careers and taking on more leadership and executive positions. I wrote People of Color Trying to Break Into Ad Biz: Consider Ad Ops a few years back. I still believe this to be true today because many positions like advertising and revenue operations sit at the center of everything and can open career doors that aren’t immediately obvious. Still, I believe having 360-degree knowledge of the industry is vital to building a great career in ad tech.

Chelly Jones, Director of Digital Ad Operations, Washington Post 

Chelly Jones is the Director of Digital Ad Operations at the Washington Post. In this role, she leads a team of traffickers and ad operation QA specialists responsible for ad-related testing, building, trafficking, and delivery efforts across various digital platforms. She spends her days partnering with Marketing, Product, Engineering, and other operations leads, productizing innovations and editorial initiatives.

Chelly also serves as the inaugural chair of the Washington Post’s Black Inclusion Network. Part of the mission is to enable black employees to realize their fullest professional potential and to foster an environment where culture and connection are embraced in every aspect of their career while at The Washington Post.

What advice would you give your younger self at the start of your career in ad tech?”

I would tell my younger self that “tech” isn’t scary and to run as fast as possible toward the risks that scare you. The rewards are too great not to.

Melissa Bonnick, Executive Director, Head of Programmatic, Paid Media Tagging & Trafficking, JPMorgan Chase & Co

Melissa graduated from St. Johns University with a degree in Journalism and jumped straight into digital advertising, where she has been for over 20 years. Beginning with an internship in ad operations at a small ad network, it was only a short time before she became the ad operations lead.

She is currently at JPMorgan Chase & Co., where she has combined her experience into a role that manages programmatic, paid media ad operations, and tagging & trafficking. She has also spearheaded the diverse spend initiative through programmatic, increasing investment with diverse-owned publishers year over year by 8.3x, with additional growth to come in 2023. As the paid media ad ops, tagging, and trafficking lead, she manages the paid media pixels across all pages and trafficking all in-house campaigns within their ad server.

Where do you hope to see Black professionals in ad tech in the future?

I have worked hard to earn my seat at the table and am present when prominent players in the advertising space are making critical decisions. I hope that when I look around this table, I see more people of color whose voices are being heard and respected. Some of these conversations can be difficult — especially when you are the only POC in the room, but not having the opportunity to have them is even worse.

Albert Thompson, Managing Director, Digital, Walton Isaacson

While carrying the “ethos” of a Marketing Technologist, as the Managing Director, Digital Innovation at Walton Isaacson, Albert Thompson always understood how technology has continued to transform the discipline of Marketing. Thompson spent the past 20+ years honing his cross-cultural communications experience through campaigns touching African Americans, Hispanics, the Queer community, Arab Americans, Asian Americans, Boomers, Millennials, GenZers, Urban culture, and the general market.

Ultimately, his purpose in this business is continuously adding value by “elevating the space” and those connected to him. Since Marketing has been a career choice since the 11th grade, his vision as a practitioner is to retire ALL outdated Marketing paradigms.

What advice would you give your younger self who is starting their career in ad tech?”

Only the consumer is guaranteed to win. Spend more time studying people (as consumers) than studying Ad Tech as a discipline. Then study the CMO because, as the ultimate Marketer, he is everyone’s boss! The Brand team, the agency, and the Ad Tech platforms getting advertiser budgets all report to the head of Marketing. Marketing is the “parent company” – Not Advertising or Ad Tech.

Reggie Hudson, VP, Advertising Operations, The Arena Group

Reggie is a seasoned media executive with over 15 years of digital experience at world-class and niche media companies. He joined The Arena Group in 2022 as the Vice President of Advertising Operations, overseeing the company’s ad tech & digital strategy, programmatic efforts, and direct, social, and email marketing to increase revenue-driven opportunities.

Reggie has also led the diversity, equity, and inclusion at multiple companies focusing on addressing corporate concerns for people of color, women, and the LGBTQ community.

Where do you hope to see Black professionals in ad tech in the future?

I hope to see young black professionals entering the space with new innovative ideas for the industry and I also hope to see companies like Group Black and Reset Digital continue to grow their business models.

Akinwole Garrett, GM, Revolt Podcast Network, Revolt Media & TV

Akinwole Garrett (Aki) is an accomplished senior strategy and business development executive with over fifteen years of data-driven business development and management experience at the intersection of technology, media, and telecommunications.

REVOLT Media & TV appointed Aki as the VP, Head of Business Development at REVOLT Media & TV, founded by music and entertainment icon Sean “Diddy” Combs in 2013. At REVOLT, Aki leads all strategy, new business development, mergers, and acquisitions. In addition to his business development role, Aki is the GM of the REVOLT Podcast Network, which he created in 2022.

Where do you hope to see Black professionals in ad tech in the future? 

I hope to see more Black professionals entering the ad tech space. There is still room for innovation and revenue in ad tech. Given all of the Black creative genius, the ad tech space is yet another place where our people can excel.

Robyn Green, Director of Programmatic, The New York Times

Robyn Green is the director of programmatic for New York Times Advertising, where she is responsible for driving programmatic revenue across mobile, web, video, and audio environments.

She works closely with teams across The Times, including Sales, Ad Solutions, and Ad Ops, to execute a reader-first programmatic strategy that also upholds The Times’s mission and values. Before joining The New York Times, she worked at WarnerDiscovery, AMC Networks, and Hulu.

Where do you hope to see Black professionals in ad tech in the future? 

I hope to see diverse representation in ad tech grow, and I will continue to do my part in demystifying Ad Tech for others starting in the industry. During my first internship in media, I had a mentor who happened to be a person of color. Seeing that representation mattered to me helped me seek out more roles in this industry and eventually move into a more technical side of advertising.

Brian Lee, Head of Programmatic Sales, TIME 

Brian Lee is a marketing leader with 16 years of experience driving results for the world’s largest brands. Throughout his career, he’s been driven by taking on significant challenges and driving results, leading to explosive career growth. Brian has also invested considerable time into thought leadership by either writing, speaking, and/or being featured by AdMonsters, Google, AdExchanger, Cheddar, Black Enterprise, AfroTech, Forbes, Quantcast, Zeta Global, and many more organizations.

In Brian’s most recent role, he was the Head of Programmatic Sales at TIME, developing the global programmatic strategy and go-to-market business plans that played a massive part in the digital transformation of a legacy print organization while helping to prepare the company for a cookieless world.

Brian’s advertising experience runs deep, including time at WPP, Publicis, Dentsu, and IPG across various verticals, including CPG, Tech/Telecom, Finance, Pharma, Retail, and more.

What do you hope to accomplish in the ad tech ecosystem?

I aim to join the C Suite at an organization where I can create an environment for top talent, innovation, and diversity to thrive. I also want to help the next generation of leaders accomplish their goals.

To read more stories in our Black History Month series, check out: