Next Creative Leaders 2020: Fatima Ansari
on Oct 29, 2020
She / Her / Hers
Hometown and country:
Current employer, city and role:
BBDO Pakistan, Lahore, Copywriter / Sr. Creative
How did your upbringing, family or hometown shape you as a creative?
I come from a family that values and supports arts as both a passion and a career, which is a rarity for a country where professions in science and engineering are the benchmark of success. As a child, I had always been more inclined towards collecting colours and paints than plush toys– some of which I still hold really close to my heart (especially my Crayola pack). My dad would sit me down every weekend to show me the use of each medium and draw his favourite red rose (I still haven’t perfected it) and this bonding led to me developing an interest in everything artsy and aesthetically pleasing.
By the time I reached my teenage years, I had a huge collection of similar coloured gadgets that I had matched with my room’s interior - all bought on the basis of how sleekly they were designed. The child in me that loved arts and design never really died, but grew into being a person who is working to make others fall in love with them too!
What’s your “breaking into advertising” story?
When I look back to see where it all actually started, the phase of my high school pops out as the strongest indicator, because at that time I had earned more awards for making the ‘Best Ads’ at various competitions than for my academics. Without knowing that there was a whole field dedicated for people like me, I enrolled in a business school, letting go of Arts as a major due to lack of Art university options in my city. But I never let go of my passion – I continued working in the media arts domain and in hindsight that turned out to be the best option for me. While studying, I was approached for a part-time marketing opportunity by a start-up which led me to being the creative behind one of the most viral food start-ups in the country, to date.
What’s the piece of work you’re most proud of and why?
In a country where you are bombarded with problems to be solved on a daily basis, the most difficult to work for are the ones that resonate with you on a personal level– that was the case with the campaign, The Hot Tea Stain. If there was one beverage that I’d choose for myself, it’d be tea and that stands true for the majority of the people in Pakistan as well. The anti-brief that came from the client Shalamar Hospital became an eye-opener for all of us.
Tea, which is addictively consumed in Pakistan, also turned out to be the root cause behind one in three households having a burnt child victim.
BBDO Pakistan was assigned the difficult task to put the client out of business i.e. reduce the number of burnt child patients. From the selection process of casting real burned children, to shooting them with their marks and hearing their parents and relatives narrate their burn story – everything was painful. Painful enough for us to never want to hear or see a story or a burnt child victim again. A sensitively curated film was made and the whole nation was given a wakeup call to be careful around children with their cups of hot tea.
Hot Tea Stain became a part of a national conversation and trended heavily earning $5M in media, which led PKR 4.6 million in donation for 100 successful reconstructive surgeries and counting. Now every time a teacup is placed infront of me, my natural instinct is move it to a safer place and that is the national impact that we created by changing behaviour and reducing 50% of burnt child cases since the campaign’s airing.
What does being named a Next Creative Leader mean to you?
In an industry where imposter syndrome is the underlying functioning mechanism especially for women, it is important to get external validation and support in order to reset and create better. At this time when my doubts are fuelled on a spectrum of ‘not old enough’ to ‘wow, so young’, Next Creative Leaders comes as a reassurance that I am headed in the right direction. The direction that is now predominantly steered by only one question: What’s Next? This win has boosted my confidence to keep making space for work that challenges the norms, helping me go all gung-ho about my aim of chasing exposure that expands Pakistan's current advertising circle rather than restricting it.
Who has most influenced you in your career thus far?
Without wanting to sound even a little bit cliché, this has to be my mentor Hira Mohibullah. Hira, with her incomparable amount of patience and empathy, held the hand of an amateur who knew nothing about advertising and taught her the skills to be where she is today. From shifting the gears for me into the right trajectory to adjusting the rear-view mirror when things seemed out of sight, the presence of an exemplary mentor has kept it going for me.
This journey has been made incredible with the support of bosses like Ali Rez, who set the vision of fighting the good fight even if it meant being a lone wolf in the jungle of advertising, and my ex-boss and friend, Saifullah Minhas for discovering the creative potential in me and never letting me back down from it.
What is your secret (or not-so-secret) creative super power and how do you flex it?
Time management. Against the popular notion of not binding the creatives by time, I believe in managing mine. My planning helps me mark out time slots for when I have to think creatively, when I have to fill in my creative cup, and when I have to present myself as creative – giving me ample space to do everything and also not do anything, in the very short span of 24 hours, every day.
You’ve done some really powerful work that has had a real impact on real women and girls in Pakistan. What advice do you have for fellow creatives who want to put their creativity towards real, lasting change in the world?
Change starts at home. It starts with actions not words. Creating a positive impact is as simple as figuring out a solution to a problem, something that all creatives around the globe do day in and day out, except it’s not just a one-off thing. It’s not an event or a stunt, it’s a belief that you have the (creative) power to change that leads to consistent efforts being invested into materializing that belief.
My advice would be to start with the problem that you resonate the most with, it could be because you have exposure or insight into its root cause, or because it’s impacting a larger majority or someone close to you. Then treat that as the brief from the client i.e. the humans/the world. Everything else, you’re already a pro in. The deliverables will fall right into place once the creativity is put through the tunnel of acts and not ads this time around.
What do you feel is the biggest challenge facing the creative industry right now and how would you solve it?
Mediocrity– the safe feeling of having successfully done what 100 others have been doing for the past 100 years. If there is any industry that should be running faster than the technology industry, it has to be creative. But we are still tied to the conventional means of measuring every brave idea on the scale of ‘award-worthy’ to ‘client-worthy’. The simple solution is to aim for an amalgamation of both points and to produce creatively effective work that wins– wins customers and wins awards. The winning mindset is applicable through and through– your client is confident in your ability and your consumer is ready for your next one.
What’s the biggest lesson that 2020 has taught you?
It takes years to build and seconds to destroy.
Be a builder – build people up with your empathy, build bridges with your dedication, and build relations with your honesty. There’s already someone destroying something, in some part of the world, so don’t be that person (don’t be like coronavirus).
How have you pivoted your creative process/the way you work while sheltering in place?
Previously my creative process involved being up to date with the recent happenings and that meant having notifications on for every social media application, marking out all the relevant industry events and subscribing to numerous publications. It has shifted to turning on ‘screen time’ reminders, keeping alarms for mandatory breaks/naps, muting WhatsApp groups, taking occasional time off to be with my pet and tuning out news every now and then. The clear headspace helps me in navigating through the challenging times at hand more efficiently.
How do you “fill up your cup” creatively?
By being a listener. There’s always something really comforting in changing your lenses and viewing your world with a different set of eyes. It’s fascinating how all of us following the same precautions, adapting to a similar new lifestyle and being bullied by the same virus have drastically different POVs – all of them which are insights to relevant human behaviour, thoughts, needs, future plans or even current emotional state of being.
How are you caring for yourself during this stressful time? Any self-care tips and tricks you can share?
Social distancing has been the most effective self-care trick for me– creating a virtually clear boundary on social apps between work and personal life. Setting a time limit for when work threads go unread and social threads take precedence. Opting for a break-time activity such as watching shows which require only half of my active brain cells and digital painting which has been a calming exercise for me.
How are you working to celebrate, support or elevate other marginalized voices and experiences?
I have been following a simple three-step rule when it comes to helping the marginalized: take action when I see wrong happening around me (we treat it as a brief at our workplace and come up with creative ways to help solve it). If I am not in a capacity to do that, I use my words to dismiss the wrong (having tough conversations in the drawing room with my family or even friends) and if that puts me under some sort of threat then I take space from the wrong-doer/community. With the communication tools at our disposal, it’s more often the former than the latter.
Creativity can save the world. What real world problem would you want to tackle with creativity, if time, budget and logistics were not an issue?
The access to safe homes. With the world turning upside down on us this year, I have realized the privilege of having walls around me, a roof above my head and people in it, caring for my safety. I want to work towards providing that feeling of safety to all – the orphan kids with no provider, the women in abusive households, the poor families with temporary homes and the homeless.
What or who is currently inspiring you?
Apple, the brand, inspires me— as a creative, as a consumer and as a viewer. It has achieved just the right state of a highly commercial brand which is selling the irresistible urge to upgrade one’s lifestyle by producing above-average priced products. It manages to create the need where it never existed with a product that may or may not have existed before, while still inculcating a sense of belonging. The consistent growth in brand love while keeping up with the ever-changing mindset of its consumer, is a great live case study for marketeers and advertisers.
How are you leaving the work, the workplace or the world a better place than you found it?
Honesty– it has been my go-to tactic for any and every problem and solution. Honesty has equipped to stand for what is right even if it meant that there is only one person voicing in its favour – this will one day mean there is another one rising up for another right. Honesty has empowered me to cut out the fluff and truly align with the vision of creating a positive impact internally and externally as well – actions in every aspect over words. Honesty has allowed me to set a realistic narrative and to have open conversations no matter how uncomfortable the process is – there is no hide and seek. So when I leave, I want the place and people to feel that the value I brought to the table was truly mine and mine alone (no one can replicate you). It’s not that difficult when all you have to do is just be.
If you could go back in time, what pivotal advice would you give yourself before your first day as a professional creative?
It’s okay to accept or ask for help.