Nina DiSesa

Former Chairman and Chief Creative Officer, McCann

In 1973 Nina realized she would be better at writing ads than Broadway plays, and left New York to work for Harry Jacobs and Bill Westbrook in Richmond, Virginia. After 10 intense years she was ready to go back home, and got her first job at a big New York ad agency: Young & Rubicam. 

At Y&R Nina learned that the quickest way to stand out in an agency of 1,200 people was to find a mess and volunteer to fix it. According to Nina, “a secure and comfortable job is not only boring, but it can stymie your growth as a creative thinker. We need problems to solve.” 

After four years of working on Jell-O, Frito-Lay and KFC, Nina took the leap to McCann/NY as a writer and Group Creative Director managing the AT&T, Nabisco, Waterman Pens, and Alka-Seltzer accounts. 

In 1991, JWT hired Nina as Executive Creative Director of its Chicago office. It was there where her left brain started talking to her right brain. She credits that with her evolution from a self-involved writer to a creative leader and mentor.

In Chicago, Nina met James Patterson, who was then the Global Chief Creative Officer of JWT. “Nina was fiercely competitive and masterful at handling the men without us resenting it,” he said. “She manipulated me with her charm, and I didn’t care.”

Nina returned to McCann/NY as EVP, Executive Creative Director in 1994. She led a successful team who enjoyed an unprecedented 3-year growth period that added over $2.5 billion in billings to the New York office from accounts like MasterCard, Verizon, Staples, Wendy’s, Kohl’s, and Avis. And during her tenure, McCann won multiple Agency of the Year awards, including Adweek’s Global Agency of the year both in 1998 and 1999 and Ad Age’s Agency of the Year in 2000.

In recognition of her contributions, Nina was named Chairman and Chief Creative Officer, the first woman at McCann to earn this title and one of the first in the entire industry. 

Nina was one selected one of Fortune Magazine’s 50 Most Powerful Women in American Business in 1999 and in 2005, she received the coveted Matrix Award for Advertising. She served as Co-Chairman of the Advertising Council’s Creative Review Committee, as a board member of the American Association of Advertising Agencies, Co-Chairman of the CRC for the Partnership for a Drug-Free America, and as Vice Chairman of the AEF (the Advertising Education Foundation.) In 2010, Nina was named by Ad Age as one of the 100 Most Influential Advertising Women in the last 100 Years.

In 2008, Random House published her book Seducing the Boys Club. Her message was that when men and women learn from each other and celebrate their differences they can accomplish anything. 

Inductee, Advertising Hall of Fame 


Last Updated: March 2022