Senior Manager - Strategy & Insights at Leo Burnett
Anna started off her advertising journey as a creative before joining strategy, making her that rare hybrid planner that can blend both disciplines. With six years of strategy experience spanning different industries, she worked on amazing campaigns, launched many successful products, won new businesses, and earned many international and regional awards, including the Global Effies, AME, MENA Effies, WARC, Cannes Lions, Dubai Lynx, Webby Awards, and Clio Awards. Anna has been ranked as one of the top 10 planners in MENA by B&W Report.
Why did you choose this career path?
I didn’t choose advertising because I saw Mad Men or an amazing ad that inspired me. I chose it because of my passion for fine arts and my desire to pursue a [career in] creativity. I saw advertising as a space where I could put my creativity to good use.
How did you land this job?
My plan was to become an art director, but my career took a different turn when I got an opportunity to join strategy at FP7 McCann Dubai. Five years later, I was offered a role at Leo Burnett by the same people who hired me as a junior strategist.
How do you compare your work life vs what you imagined it would be?
Very different from an art director, to say the least! But much better than I imagined. I miss Photoshop but I love the fact that, as a strategist, I get to do both – think client business and be creative, finding creative solutions to real business problems for my clients.
What do you wish you had been told before you started working?
As a fresh creative graduate, I lacked confidence in my strategic knowledge and was scared to express my opinion, always worrying I would sound stupid. I wish someone had told me that it’s okay to not know or lack experience; that no one expects you to know everything at first.
What is the best thing someone could tell you about your work?
The best thing to hear from your colleagues/clients [is] “It’s daring, it’s scary, it’s uncomfortable” – this means I did something different. But the best thing from people outside of the industry is when the work gets shared and talked about, which means it’s made an impact.
What is the worst thing someone could tell you about your work?
The worst thing to hear about my work is that it’s uninspiring. Coming from a creative background has helped me in this, as I first judge the work I do myself and, if it doesn’t inspire me, how can it inspire the creatives?
What’s the most valuable lesson you have learned at work so far?
One of my mentors once told me, “Work for experience, not money.” Six years later, it was the most valuable advice – I chose to stay where I’d get the best experience instead of going from agency to agency for more money and bigger titles, and the rest followed.
Who’s your role model?
I don’t have a role model, but I believe there is something to learn from every person – good or bad. You learn what you want and don’t want to be like, and who I am today is the sum of every individual I have worked with throughout my career.
If not this, what would you be doing?
Helping people in need. I’m very happy that I get to do that in advertising too. A recent campaign I worked on for Home Centre, “The Homecoming,” [was] the first initiative by a brand in the Middle East to challenge the cultural taboo and [promote] adoption in the region.
What do you see yourself doing in 10 years?
Honestly, there’re a few ways this could turn out.
1. I’m a CSO and still a killer strategist.
2. I pursue my art, and I’ll know how to advertise my brand.
3. I open a nonprofit organization and, you guessed it, I will advertise it too. Ambitious? Yes. Impossible? I think not.
The 30 Under 30 ranking was first published in Communicate's Q1 2023 print issue.