Women to Watch
EU 2019
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Nafisa Bakkar

CEO, Amaliah.com

Nafisa Bakkar

CEO, Amaliah.com

When Nafisa Bakkar and her sister Selina launched Amaliah, it was out of frustration that there were so few fashionable clothes made for Muslim women.

Three years later, Amaliah is a robust media site hosting articles and videos that provide a platform for the voices of Muslim women and helps brands learn about and engage with the Muslim community. As CEO, Bakkar has worked with brands including Lush, eBay, Amazon, Marks & Spencer and Pinterest.

In February 2019, Amaliah acquired Halal Gems, a website that reviews halal food and restaurants in the United Kingdom and United Arab Emirates.

Bakkar has progressed from coding Amaliah’s original webpage to managing the platform’s business development, finances and even its design. In her spare time, she manages a coding scholarship for Muslim women. She’s also a board trustee for the EY Foundation, a nonprofit aimed at helping young entrepreneurs succeed.

Earlier this year, Bakkar was featured in “It’s Not About the Burqa: Muslim Women on Faith, Feminism, Sexuality and Race.” The book includes essays from 17 Muslim women in fields from media to law.

What advice would you give to your younger self?
“I spent ages waiting for people to tell me I could do it or that I was onto something and I just wasted so much time not believing in myself.”
If you weren’t doing this job, what would you be doing?
“I’d make a good hostage negotiator. I’m pretty good at negotiating as I head up commercial and I’m pretty good at motivating people and helping them see a way out in tough situations.”

Ana Balarin

Partner and executive creative director, Mother London

Ana Balarin

Partner and executive creative director, Mother London

Ana Balarin is part of the four-person management team currently running Mother London, Ad Age’s International Agency of the Year. Together with her husband, Hermeti, she also heads up creative for Mother, the agency behind headline-grabbing campaigns such as KFC’s “FCK” apology ad, which went viral during the fast-food chain’s supply crisis last year, and Greenpeace’s “Rang-Tan” ad highlighting the use of palm oil, which has had 80 million views.

Balarin says she could never have dreamed of that 15 years ago, when she arrived in the U.K. from her native Brazil. At the time, she wasn’t even working in advertising: She was pursuing a career as a physiotherapist, while Hermeti Balarin tried to break into the ad industry. (She herself had studied at ad school in Brazil, but dropped out, finding the industry in Brazil too much about “fame, glamour and awards” for her liking.)

Three years later, however, she agreed to join her husband as creative partner, and in 2007 the pair snagged a sought-after placement at Mother. In their first week, they created a campaign for Boots that the CMO “bought on the spot,” she says, and later went on to win awards at Cannes.

There followed a meteoric rise for the pair, who were named executive creative directors, making memorable campaigns for Ikea and Moneysupermarket, and eventually partners.

Balarin says her rise through the ranks at Mother keeps her grounded and gives her an insight into what it’s like for younger creatives, particularly younger women. When she first started at Mother, she says she had great female role models at the agency, such as Kim Gehrig (now a top director), so she has been lucky.

Her partnership with her husband goes back to high school: She confesses that the pair talk about work all the time, including during their commute and after their 3-year-old son goes to bed.

Calm and unassuming, Balarin says she is the more “pragmatic” of the pair, whereas he is the more “emotional.” It’s a combination that clearly works.

Yet underneath that calm exterior there’s clearly a more anarchic side to Balarin. Her favorite thing about her job is “the random crazy nature of coming in every morning not knowing how my day will turn out.”

What advice would you give to your younger self?
Don’t compare your career path to others. People have different stories, there’s no shortage of happy endings and they don’t all look the same.
What was your worst career mistake?
Spending too much time discussing things that didn’t really matter or make a difference.
If you weren’t doing this job, what would you be doing?
Running a bookshop, somewhere by the sea.

Laura Jordan Bambach

Chief Creative Officer, Mr. President

Laura Jordan Bambach

Chief Creative Officer, Mr. President

Laura Jordan Bambach’s career has two sides. She’s the chief creative officer of Mr. President, an indie creative agency based in London. But she’s also a longtime advocate for gender equality and diversity who co-founded SheSays, a volunteer network that helps women break through in the creative industries.

Now there are 40,000 members in the SheSays community, and the group is active in 20 countries. But when SheSays was founded 12 years ago and “we started calling ourselves feminist, feminism was seen as so deeply uncool,” Bambach says. “We got shit from men and also from young women” who thought gender equality had already been achieved.

The MeToo movement helped change things, as has the wider conversation about workplace challenges for women, such as the pay gap. Now, Bambach says, “the idea of being feminist is accepted again. It’s wonderful. There’s an understanding of what feminism means—it’s just about equality of the sexes.”

Bambach also co-created VOWSS, a showcase for the best work created by women, and co-founded The Great British Diversity Project to show that diversity powers effective creative work.

A former president of the D&AD Awards, Bambach moved to the U.K. 18 years ago from Australia. She worked at agencies including Glue London, LBi and Dare before joining Mr. President soon after its founding in 2012. The agency’s clients include Method, the sustainable cleaning brand, The Body Shop and Stonewall, the U.K.-based LGBT advocacy group, for which it recently did a campaign on Amazon Alexa devices to encourage people to ask LGBT-related questions.

Bambach’s agency life and advocacy work often dovetail, as they did this year when she spearheaded Mr. President’s campaign for children’s charity Plan International. Called “Girls Get Equal,” it ran in dozens of countries, pushing for power, freedom and respect.

In addition, Bambach has co-authored a book, “Creative Superpowers: Equip Yourself for the Age of Creativity.” Bambach’s section focused on making things, because she sees a distinction between making and merely doing. Making means “experimenting more and creating things by doing them rather than just thinking about them first,” she says. “You’re lending something to culture, doing something genuinely useful, genuinely surprising. You know when you have a piece of work like that because you feel it.”

What was your first job?
My first job ever was after school and at weekends, manning the cheese counter of a deli chain in a mall … My first full-time job was running the business I set up at uni—and doing all the design and coding too. It was called Joystick Digital Media.
What was your worst career mistake?
Being way too optimistic about an opportunity. But that’s also the best career success I’ve had too. You’ve got to scare yourself to make things happen!

Melissa Chapman

Chief content officer, Jungle Creations

Melissa Chapman

Chief content officer, Jungle Creations

As chief content officer of British media/marketing company Jungle Creations, Melissa Chapman’s job is to bring strategy and order to the wildly unpredictable, well, jungle that is the social video ecosystem. “Trends, algorithms and platforms can chop and change,” she notes, and best practices are always in flux: “Should this piece be vertical, widescreen, five minutes or 15 minutes?”

Although the ground is perpetually shifting beneath her feet, Chapman says she maintains focus by obsessing about the one constant: “Storytelling is the thread that runs through it all. As long as you keep this right, the rest falls into place.”

Things have certainly fallen into place for Chapman and her Jungle Creations colleagues (nearly 200 of them, mostly in East London, with the rest in satellite offices in New York, Los Angeles and Toronto). The five-year-old startup, founded by serial entrepreneur Jamie Bolding, generated 39 billion video views in 2018 across its various channels on Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and YouTube—often in partnership with brands such as Oreo, Apple, Disney, Baileys and Hasbro. British newspaper The Independent once called Jungle Creations “the unknown company behind the internet’s biggest viral videos,” but you almost certainly know one or more of its media brands, including VT (Viral Thread), Twisted, Nailed It, Four Nine and Food Envy.

A 2015 journalism graduate from the University of Essex, Chapman has been with Jungle Creations virtually from the start (except for a brief detour to work at the TheLADbible Group, another British viral-content publisher). Though she and her team have racked up plenty of industry honors—including a 2018 Cannes Lion win for “Little Casanova,” a VT branded-content video campaign for digital-identity platform Yoti—she cites collaborative work with organizations including #CookForSyria, the World Wildlife Fund and International Women’s Day as among the most rewarding.

If it seems like Jungle Creations has hit upon a formula for viral-video success, Chapman begs to differ. No matter whether she’s working with her editorial team, a nonprofit or a multinational brand, she says she has one rule: “Don’t let formulas and formats dictate the story. Let the story dictate them.”

What was your first job?
I worked in a cocktail bar. I actually really enjoyed it! Mojitos were my specialty, in case anyone fancies one.
What advice would you give to your younger self?
You don’t need to know everything. Learning is good and getting things wrong is part of the journey to getting things right.

Jamelia Donaldson

Founder, TreasureTress

Jamelia Donaldson

Founder, TreasureTress

Women of color account for a disproportionately large share of the hair-care market in the U.K. and across Europe, yet they have trouble finding the right products. And when they do it’s often in the wrong places—shops with “terrible lighting, terrible customer service and a terrible shopping experience,” says Jamelia Donaldson. “There are tons of great natural hair products coming out,” Donaldson says. “But are women in Europe able to access them? No. And if they are, do they want to go to these places to access them? The answer is also no.”

So the London-born former asset manager and publicist took things into her own hands, launching TreasureTress two years ago as a subscription sampling box, which now links hair products for women of color to people in 26 countries including Japan, Dubai, Romania, Germany, Italy and the U.S.

TreasureTress introduces women to new products monthly online so they can find what they like and what works for them. The service also provides a sort of influencer and digital marketing hub for the far-flung brands, giving feedback on how their products are performing and customer opinions.

“For a lot of brands, we’re not just a subscription box but actually a full-service agency to allow them to launch their products in a very informed and authentic way,” Donaldson says.

TreasureTress grew out of solving a problem Donaldson found, but it was far from where she started. At 19, she was an intern with Coleman Entertainment Group, where she worked in New York and Beijing for such PR clients as Naomi Campbell and Tatyana Ali. She later worked in asset management, but started working on developing TreasureTress on the side before taking the plunge into a full-time direct-to-consumer business.

What advice would you give your younger self?
Pay attention to the things you’re passionate about and stay committed to securing them. A lot of the time, if we can’t see that we can monetize something we give up on it quite early, when in fact if we actually follow through we may be able to make a career out of it, or use it as a creative outlet.
What was your worst career mistake?
When I was working in the corporate world I didn’t realize I was very much in control of my career versus taking a very passive role. I wasn’t aware that you could opt for a pay increase or a promotion or more flexible hours instead of leaving completely. So I would have asked to reduce my hours to allow me to gradually leave the company and do TreasureTress full-time.

Meg Donovan

Head of marketing strategy, Europe, the Middle East and Africa, Uber

Meg Donovan

Head of marketing strategy, Europe, the Middle East and Africa, Uber

A recent commercial for Uber in Pakistan took a nontraditional approach. The spot, meant to highlight Uber’s new Share ETA travel feature, depicts a woman who takes her Uber, driven by a female employee, home to her kids and husband, who is a stay-at-home dad. “In my career, especially at Uber, I’ve tried hard to showcase progressive characters and casting,” says Meg Donovan, head of strategy and marketing for the Europe, Middle East and Africa regions at the ride-sharing company. “While that may not be something that’s as progressive in Northern Europe, for example, when you run an ad like that in Pakistan, it makes an impact.”

Donovan, who joined Uber nearly five years ago as one of its earliest marketing employees, debuted the spot, part of a larger campaign to reestablish trust in the Uber brand, last year in 14 countries. It was the 10-year-old travel brand’s first multi-country brand campaign.

Donovan, who has a team of five, is tasked with marketing to a diverse group of countries and cultures. It’s no easy feat, especially for a brand as reputation-challenged as Uber, which has been criticized for having a boys’ club culture and has also encountered safety issues for passengers. Yet Donovan, who is based in Amsterdam, is up for it. Born in Los Angeles, she majored in communications and minored in sociology at Northeastern University before building her career at a series of ad agencies that included AKQA. She transitioned to mobile ad tech startup Appsnack before her move to Uber. Now she’s charged with humanizing the technology that underpins the ride-share app, with stories about everyday people and how they use Uber.

“One of the most interesting things about being a marketer at Uber is that your role isn’t just to position the brand and tell stories,” says Donovan. “It’s your job to be really close to customer insights and be a fierce advocate for doing the right thing by riders, drivers and the community.”

What was your first job?
Before university, I waitressed in the summertime for extra cash. It ended up helping me land my first ad agency gig in Boston—because my first hiring manager had also been a waitress before going into advertising. She knew that if I could survive the pace of a restaurant, I’d be just fine in advertising.
If you weren’t doing this job, what would you be doing?
If it was a viable job to be a singer in an Alanis Morissette cover band, I would take it in a second. I do a killer karaoke version of “You Oughta Know.”

Rachel Forde

CEO of UM U.K.

Rachel Forde

CEO of UM U.K.

In the months since joining UM U.K. as its new CEO last July, Rachel Forde has taken a notable cultural leap toward more gender equality.

Since joining the agency from Publicis Groupe, where she worked for two decades, Forde has shifted the UM executive board from 85 percent male to a 50/50 split of men and women. She has also increased maternity and paternity leave.

But her influence is more than just cultural: Under her leadership, the agency is on track to increase revenue more than 30 percent.

In addition to her role at UM, Forde served as a member of the Women in Advertising and Communications London executive committee for five years, and chaired the organization’s Future Leaders Award committee from 2017-2018, which seeks to commend notable women leaders in the advertising and communications industries by giving them financial awards for training.

During her time on the committee, Forde introduced 100 percent bursaries for women entrepreneurs, those who worked in tech and startup companies as well as charities including the Abram Wilson Foundation for Creative Arts.

Prior to her time at UM, she led the rebranding of Mediavest Spark to Spark Foundry.

What was your first job?
I got a weekend job at a British shoe store, Bally, when I was 16. If you’ve spent any time in a shoe store recently, you’ll know the shoe is only the start of the journey: You also need to bear in mind the layers of services around the shoe—sizing help, shoe health, accessories and so on. Bally may have been the perfect start to a career in the media!
What was your worst career mistake?
Not joining Facebook when it was a small office of two above a restaurant in Soho, London.

Zuzanna Gierlinska

Head of automation, Europe, Middle East and Africa, Spotify

Zuzanna Gierlinska

Head of automation, Europe, Middle East and Africa, Spotify

Zuzanna Gierlinska has grown Spotify’s programmatic business across Europe.

As head of Spotify Europe’s programmatic arm, Gierlinska has been tasked with (among other things) the monumental challenge of making it easier for marketers to buy ads based on what Spotify’s users are listening to, with the right ad in the right context. She has also capitalized on the growing trend of agencies moving their budgets toward a programmatic- first model, a move that gave Spotify the ability to make buying ads on its platform significantly easier.

Digital audio is booming in both popularity and ad spend, but a lack of technology has historically held it back from gaining a larger share of advertising budgets. But Gierlinska, who has more than 19 years of experience in the digital advertising landscape, is part of a major leap forward that has occurred within the last two years.

In her spare time, Gierlinska has launched a popular breakfast club where attendees from the U.K., the Netherlands and Italy meet to discuss ad tech’s most pressing issues. That has inspired a future goal for Gierlinska: she hopes to one day run her own tea shop, complete with “dainty cakes and fancy tea cups,” she says.

What advice would you give to your younger self?
Take time out to consider what you really want to do with your career. In the fast-paced world of media, it’s all too easy to get caught up moving from one job to the next, specifically when companies start to head-hunt you. It’s so important to take a step back and think beyond the immediate here and now to what the future could look like.
What was your worst career mistake?
Being lured by the promise of a big, shiny company without truly considering if the role was right for me. Not taking the time to ask myself what I really wanted to achieve, but instead trying to fit into a remit that wasn’t suitable for me just to get myself through the door. Ultimately, working for my dream company but in a job that wasn’t at all suited to me made me very miserable and I set myself up to fail.

Natalie Graeme

Co-founder, Uncommon

Natalie Graeme

Co-founder, Uncommon

Natalie Graeme founded creative studio Uncommon in 2017 with Lucy Jameson and Nils Leonard, after all three resigned from Grey London the year before. The exodus shocked the U.K. ad industry, and speculation about what the trio would do next ran rampant. In the short time since its debut, the fledgling shop has grown from three (admittedly big) names and a handful of borrowed desks to 45 people working with 18 brands, including British broadcaster ITV and the World Wildlife Fund.

“One of the things I’m most proud of is being a destination for people that were maybe a little bit frustrated with the industry,” Graeme says. “We hopefully are finding ways to allow people to work on the sort of things that they want to work on, work in the way that they want to work and allow diverse minds to find a role in the industry. It doesn’t need to feel like there’s an efficient machine that’s being built. It can be far more fluid than that.”

As a former managing director at Grey and head of business development at Mother London, Graeme runs the business side of the studio, and the shop specializes in brands that are “at a moment of change or that are being disrupted,” she says. In October, Uncommon helped online clothing retailer ASOS launch Collusion, a new gender-fluid fashion brand for young people.

The campaign featured 100 people from across Britain who were just turning 18, with a focus on diversity of shape, size, gender, identity and ethnicity. “You always start out with a hope that people will get excited,” Graeme says, “but the sorts of brands that have picked up the phone [to call Uncommon] have all tended to be brands that are aware that there’s something more that they want to do for their team.”

In addition to helming a new company, Graeme is also a board member of diversity and inclusion advocacy group Creative Equals and a leadership mentor for SheSays.

What was your first job?
I was a fishmonger at a counter at a Waitrose. I can fillet or gut whatever fish you need. I ran it really efficiently.
What was your worst career mistake?
Fishmongering. No, I’ve definitely mucked up stuff. I didn’t put myself out there early enough. I hid my light under a bushel. Over the years I’ve started to recognize how important it is to network and be a part of the industry.

Lucy Jameson

Co-founder, Uncommon

Lucy Jameson

Co-founder, Uncommon

Since Grey London CEO Lucy Jameson resigned from the agency to form Uncommon, the nascent studio has grown from just the three founders, working with borrowed equipment, to a team of 45 working with 18 brands, including fashion label ASOS and Unilever.

The shop’s breakthrough work was for Ovo Energy, a British company that offers customers the option of 100 percent green energy. The campaign featured TV footage of climate change deniers arrayed on a horde of power-wasting appliances. A pivot to a majestic view of a wind turbine is accompanied by metal chords from Slayer and quotes from the pivotal climax of “Network.”

"It shook up a dull category,” Jameson says. “It was a perfect encapsulation of what we wanted to be about—brands that actually deserve to exist in the world.” It was also a client relationship born of good positioning, and a boon for a shop just getting off the ground, as none of the principals had been allowed to bring clients over from Grey. “Ovo literally had read about us and thought, ‘Oh, they’ve got the same attitude as we do. We should go talk to them,’” Jameson says.

Prior to Grey, Jameson spent nearly 20 years at DDB as an award-winning planner, and that experience has helped define the kind of work she wants to be involved with now. “There were a lot of clients who came to you because they just wanted more of the same,” she says of her time in holding company agencies. At Uncommon, “pretty much every single client had a sense of frustration with the status quo and a sense of wanting to change things. That’s been really consistent in a way that I don’t think was true when I was at big agencies.”

“I think clients have come to us for a very particular reason, and long may that carry on, because it does tend to mean that they’re the more ambitious clients.”

What was your first job?
I had a summer job selling underwear at Marks & Spencer. That was at the seaside where I grew up, so you’d get a lot of tourists coming in, looking at me and saying, “I need a nice bra for my girlfriend or wife.” Lots of inappropriate conversations.
What advice would you give your younger self?
I’m pretty happy with how things have gone. Hold true to what you like doing and it’ll probably work out in the end. Maybe I’d have said in my early 20s, “Stop going to so many parties and get your shit together a bit earlier.”

Louise Johnson

CEO of Fuse

Louise Johnson

CEO of Fuse

The same year Louise Johnson became CEO of Fuse, she increased year-over-year revenue by 10 percent. Johnson, 39, got the post in 2018, and is the youngest CEO within the U.K. branch of the Omnicom Media Group company, which counts as clients Pepsi, Nissan and Google. Fuse is a leader in sports and entertainment marketing, and is the only agency that services four sponsors of the Union of European Football Associations, Europe’s football governing body.

Among the changes Johnson has put in place: She has restructured the agency’s approach to pricing and diversification, which Fuse says now accounts for half of revenue. Johnson has also doubled down on analytics, implementing a partnership division composed of data scientists, marketing researchers and social analytics experts. She’s also overseen the development of Fuse Live, a social analytics tool that gives insights on live events, and created Fuse Ventures, which resulted in the launch of a culinary-oriented program called Salt.

What was your first job?
I started my career as an assistant, generating sponsorship for the music documentary “Festival au Désert” in Mali, Africa. This culminated with the crew and myself living in the Mali desert near Timbuktu for a month, which was certainly an experience I’ll never forget.
What was your worst career mistake?
Joining a high-profile bank at the height of the financial crisis. Although I have to say, I learned more in six months managing the bank’s exit from all its major sponsorship contracts during the crisis than anywhere else.
If you weren’t doing this job, what would you be doing?
I always wanted to win an Oscar and be on the cover of Vogue by the time I was 30. You can imagine my disappointment on my 30th birthday! On a serious note, I love my job and wouldn’t be doing anything else.

Debora Koyama

Chief marketing officer, Europe, Mondelez International

Debora Koyama

Chief marketing officer, Europe, Mondelez International

Debora Koyama joined Mondelez International in January 2018 as chief marketing officer for Europe—the snack maker’s largest market, with annual revenue exceeding $10 billion, or nearly 40 percent of the company’s total.

Koyama began by designing an internal marketing roadshow called Ignite, speaking with roughly 500 marketers at multi-day workshops in London, Moscow, Hamburg and Paris. She also led the introduction of a boot camp program called Ignite Idea Labs, in which marketing staffers attend a day of workshops to help develop their ideas (much like startups would receive coaching) before presenting their pitches to the European executive leadership team. The first event took place in October in London, with final pitches in December at the Mondelez European headquarters in Zurich.

Another of her projects in 2018 was preparing to launch refillable stainless steel tins for Milka biscuits, part of TerraCycle’s Loop Initiative for consumer packaged goods subscriptions at the World Economic Forum in Davos in January 2019. The same month, Koyama added direct responsibility for the global and regional brands and innovation teams at Mondelez, the marketer of brands such as Cadbury and Milka.

Koyama holds bachelor’s degrees in architecture and communications from universities in Brazil, where she was born and raised. Internships at ad agencies, design agencies and production companies let her experiment with different spaces in the industry. “I tried different things until I found out that I really liked marketing, which was a good blend of creativity, aesthetics and business,” she says. While she is passionate about arts and culture, if she weren’t in marketing, she thinks she would have been an entrepreneur.

Early in her career Koyama worked on marketing Diageo liquor brands such as Baileys in Sao Paulo. She joined Kraft Foods in Brazil and then moved to the U.S., where she got an MBA at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management and spent a few more years at Kraft before joining L’Oreal and later AB InBev. Being at Mondelez is a bit of a return, as Koyama worked on brands including Milka while at Kraft. She left Kraft in 2008, four years before Kraft and Mondelez split into separate companies.

What was your worst career mistake and what did you learn from it?
Trying to do too much and almost getting totally burned out.

Chiara Martini

Global head of content and media, Diesel

Chiara Martini

Global head of content and media, Diesel

When a store selling what appeared to be Diesel knockoffs appeared during Fashion Week last year, jaded New Yorkers didn’t think much of it—until they realized the shop was a branding effort by the fashion house to take control of the counterfeit conversation. Eager for a chance to snag limited-but-authentic “Deisel” merchandise, shoppers quickly descended on the store, one of the recent marketing efforts from Chiara Martini.

Brands need to build emotional connections and make their voices heard in the cultural conversation, says Martini, who is based in the brand’s Veneto, Italy, headquarters. “The way to build it always comes from culture and behavior and not necessarily from the universe of the brand,” she notes.

Martini and Diesel followed the Fashion Week shop last fall with “Hate Couture,” a collection of apparel emblazoned with the negative online messages and comments celebrities such as Nicki Minaj and Bella Thorne have received. That campaign was a way for consumers to take back the hate that breeds so robustly online, Martini says. Apparel featured trolling comments like “slut” and “the bad guy.” Shoppers were also able to customize their own apparel to combat bullying.

Diesel works with Publicis in Milan.

A Brazil-born marketing veteran who earned her chops with stints at agencies such as Ogilvy, Leo Burnett Sao Paulo and DDB, and brands including Heineken, Martini joined Diesel two years ago. At Diesel, she’s charged with making the 41-year-old marketer relevant again by refreshing its storytelling and communications. Martini works with a team of eight, four on the content side and four on the media side. Having experience from both the agency and brand sides helps improve her job, she says.

“I do like this versatility,” she says. “As a client it helps me a lot to understand the process of the agency.”

What was your first job?
My first job was as a copywriter intern at Leo Burnett Sao Paulo, back in 2002, during my second year at university. It was really good to have a closer look inside of a big agency and understand better all the different departments.
If you weren’t doing this job, what would you be doing?
I would love to be a vintner—a winemaker. Follow the entire process from harvest to bottling. Pure passion and craftsmanship. I guess these last two years in Italy have had an impact.

Anna Qvennerstedt

Global executive chairman, Forsman & Bodenfors

Anna Qvennerstedt

Global executive chairman, Forsman & Bodenfors

If the merger of Forsman & Bodenfors with Kirshenbaum Bond Senecal & Partners proves successful, Anna Qvennerstedt will have a lot to do with it. Qvennerstedt, who has been with Sweden-based Forsman for more than 15 years, was named global executive chairman of the combined agencies when the deal was announced in late 2018. The new entity, which took the name Forsman & Bodenfors, seeks to leverage the historical strengths of both shops. The merged agency has more than 600 employees across seven offices and is owned by MDC Partners.

“It’s a good match ... because we bring different skill sets,” Qvennerstedt says. Forsman is known for its creative prowess underpinned by a non-hierarchical, collaborative style that encourages staffers to pitch in on clients, even if they are not assigned to them.

“If you get stuck, you ask people for help. That is a collective work model,” she says.

Under Qvennerstedt’s leadership, the agency is spreading this culture to the legacy KBS workforce. “We just believe there is a great opportunity in taking that to a global scale,” she says. “We see how clients are really interested in what we can do for them through this way of working.” But at the same time, Forsman is tapping into KBS’ expertise in data and analytics and user-experience development, she says.

Qvennerstedt, who lives in Stockholm, considers herself a copywriter first and still engages in the craft for Forsman’s clients, which include Volvo and Ikea. The agency has won its share of creative awards, but that is not what motivates Qvennerstedt. “True innovation doesn’t happen if you spend your time thinking about awards,” she says. “Because that will only take you to a place where you are unconsciously replicating stuff.”

What was your first job?
My very first job was a cleaning job at McDonald’s. My first job in the industry was as junior copywriter at a very small Swedish agency.
What was your biggest career mistake and what did you learn from it?
I have made many mistakes but I don’t think any of them affected my career in a bad way. If I should mention one specific mistake, maybe I’d pick that time when we did an alcohol awareness campaign for the Swedish government, targeting young adults—and some of the kids we cast managed to get drunk on set. We were hunted by national media for weeks.

Caitlin Ryan

Director of Facebook’s Creative Shop and media, Europe, Middle East and Africa

Caitlin Ryan

Regional director, Europe, the Middle East and Africa, Facebook Creative Shop

Caitlin Ryan knows firsthand how Facebook can help grow small businesses, since it helped her with her own café in London.

The Australian native now works with brands like the BBC and Ikea as director of Facebook’s Creative Shop—the in-house agency team that teaches advertisers best practices for the platform—for the Europe, Middle East and Africa region. Ryan employed many of those practices when growing her family of coffee shops, Lantana Cafe, years before she ever worked at the social network.

The ad industry veteran joined Facebook last year, but the platform was instrumental in her small business for years. When she first conceived of the London coffee shop, she found like-minded Aussie expats on Facebook longing for a taste of home. So she started a Group for people who missed Australian coffee culture.

Now, when Ikea needs advice on Groups, to build communities interested in its furniture, for example, they come to Ryan. For the Swedish retailer, she helped the company foster a group dedicated to sustainable living. “It’s important brands understand what roles they can play in sensitive community ecosystems,” she says. If they just barge into the conversation, “brands are dead at the disco.”

Ryan says she is particularly interested in using technology to solve problems, as when BBC introduced the first female “Dr. Who” and wanted to drive more viewership among young women. Ryan helped the broadcaster come up with dozens of variations on ads to find which ones appealed most to the desired audience. “On Facebook, you let the algorithm find the audience,” Ryan says. “You put the creative out there and let the creative find the audience.”

What was your first job?
At an agency called Barraclough Hall Woolston Gray, which was eventually bought by BBDO, a direct-response specialty agency, and it had brands like Volkswagen. We had to think about how to build brands in those days through direct mail. The agency became Proximity BBDO, and became a digital agency, where I became the creative director, then executive creative director.
What advice would you give to your younger self?
One stupid one, because I’m Australian: Put on more sunscreen. My professional one is around trusting your instincts. We probably override our instincts a lot of the time when it comes to reading people.

Aline Santos

Executive VP of marketing, chief diversity and inclusion officer

Aline Santos

Executive VP of marketing, chief diversity and inclusion officer, Unilever

Unilever’s Aline Santos was into direct-to-consumer marketing well before it got fashionable in packaged goods. As a 19-year-old student more than 30 years ago at Fundacao Getulio Vargas in Brazil, she started a side business selling silk underwear to female and male students, using catwalk fashion shows among other tactics.

But she was losing so much sleep as a full-time student and part-time entrepreneur that she got sick. Her doctor convinced her parents to make her stop selling underwear, and she concentrated on learning marketing instead. After graduation, she took a job with Unilever in Brazil, with the idea of learning more about marketing, then going back into business for herself.

“I promised myself, ‘I’m going to stay at Unilever a maximum of two to four years,’” Santos says. “But Unilever is so charming and exciting in so many ways that that plan didn’t work.”

Thirty years later she’s still there, having worked her way through the food, personal-care and home-care businesses, mostly in Brazil, and since 2016 in the company’s London headquarters, now as executive VP of marketing and chief diversity and inclusion officer.

Santos sees her priority as “putting creativity at the center of everything we do,” which has included helping open in-house production facility U-Studio in 23 countries and essentially “becoming the biggest agency we have.”

Santos has spearheaded the company’s efforts to “unstereotype” its advertising to portray a more “authentic representation of people,” she says. That also includes helping diversify Unilever, where 49 percent of employees now are female, and helping launch the Unstereotype Alliance, a group dedicated to improving the portrayal of women in advertising globally, along with the United Nations and other major marketers, agencies and media companies.

Santos also has helped lead efforts to digitize Unilever’s marketing, and develop small teams to launch new brands like Love Home & Planet, a line of plant-based, vegan and cruelty-free cleaning products using a “lean like a startup” approach.

Part of that includes leading the Unilever Foundry effort to connect the giant marketer with more than 5,000 startups, developing pilot projects that often lead to permanent assignments. “It’s a very different marketing culture we are creating here,” Santos says

What advice would you give your younger self?
Don’t allow people to put you in a box. You can be whoever you want to be.
What was your worst career mistake?
The biggest mistake I made was not to move to London earlier. I spent most of my career in Brazil, and I hesitated to move to London because of personal reasons, because of my family. Since I’ve moved, my life changed dramatically in a positive way. The opportunities open to me were incredible. The people I met, the associations I’m now part of, this really changed my life. I’ve met so many people, the royal family, or just people in the street.

Sasha Schmitz

Managing director, Europe, Middle East and Africa, MightyHive

Sasha Schmitz

Director of accounts and operations, Europe, Middle East and Africa, MightyHive

Sasha Schmitz has been a leader in expansion at MightyHive, which is now part of Martin Sorrell’s S4 Capital. During her time at the company, which bills itself as “a new breed of media consultancy,” Schmitz grew the Europe, Middle East and Africa team from three women to a 30-person team with offices spanning London, Stockholm, Paris and Milan.

In 2018, she secured key European clients and helped increase MightyHive’s European revenue by triple-digit percentages.

Schmitz is responsible for fostering relationships with strategic partners such as Google, and was invited to speak at Google Events and to lead advanced marketing learning programs for 200-plus European marketers. At the EMEA Google Marketing Platform Summit in Dublin, she spoke on a panel called Connecting Data, which covered relevant industry topics on technology and data.

Schmitz has been tapped to build relationships with creative agency MediaMonks after the S4 Capital merger in late 2018.

What was your first job?
I worked as a customer service and facility supervisor at a fitness center. It was unrelated to what I studied and had nothing to do with what I wanted to do long-term. But it was also one of the best jobs I had. I learned a lot about managing difficult personalities and working in ambiguous environments. I also worked with an incredibly close team, so while the line of work was not something I was passionate about, I still really enjoyed going to work every day. A strong team culture is something I have now tried to foster in every other job I have had.
What advice would you give to your younger self?
Don’t be shy about building relationships, and say yes to exciting but sometimes scary opportunities. From my first days at MightyHive I was interested in understanding the broader vision that the leadership team had for the company, so six months into the job I asked Pete Kim, our CEO and co-founder, just that. I was able to learn from that meeting, while simultaneously showcasing my own capability and desire to be a part of the conversation. I believe that initial discussion helped set in motion a course of events that has presented me with innumerable opportunities in my career at MightyHive, including moving to London and starting our EMEA team.

Karina Wilsher

Global CEO and partner, Anomaly

Karina Wilsher

Global CEO and partner, Anomaly

Anomaly always seems to be one step ahead of the business forces that threaten to derail agencies, and Karina Wilsher is a big reason for that. She has helped push the shop to advise brands on innovations, not just advertising, while also playing an influential role in forming “The Last Silo,” an initiative that integrates multicultural insights into every piece of work rather than isolating them as a separate practice. Wilsher, a London native who joined Anomaly nine years ago, was promoted to global CEO in January.

In August she spearheaded the formation of Unreasonable Equals, which consults brands on driving gender equality through marketing and product innovation. The effort extends beyond marketing messages into shaping how products are developed, named and priced. Gender bias exists because the people developing the products “have tended to be men, and therefore the [female] representation isn’t even built into product development,” Wilsher says. For instance, Anomaly is advising some financial services clients about new offerings that could be better suited to career and life journeys taken by women. “All of the steps in a woman’s life dictate a different perspective,” Wilsher says.

She is shaping the agency’s strategic direction while also finding the time to manage several key accounts, including liquor giant Diageo. And she is also an executive board member of Effie Worldwide and a founding member of Time’s Up Advertising.

What was your first job?
A Saturday job at the local newsagent where I grew up. I was supposed to “man” the counter for a few hours at the crack of dawn. At that time of the morning, all the customers were in a hurry to get their newspaper and cigarette fix, shouting stuff like “20 B&H, darling” and I had absolutely no idea what they were talking about. I quit a couple of weeks later because I got a “proper Saturday job” at Boots in the town center, with a friend. Things were looking up!
What advice would you give to your younger self?
You don’t have to tolerate stuff at work that you wouldn’t tolerate outside of work.
Illustration by Tam Nguyen. Photos courtesy of subjects. Web production by Corey Holmes.