In conversation: Shelina Janmohamed and Karine Santos
Forging meaningful connections
To coincide with International Women’s Day, WPP brings together 16 brilliant women and men from across its global network, in eight conversations about the industry, equality and the impact of our work on wider society.
Shelina Janmohamed, Vice President of Islamic Marketing at Ogilvy, and Karine Santos, Wavemaker Lisbon’s Head of Strategy, discuss pioneering thought leadership and the importance of forging meaningful relationships with clients, consumers and communities.
Shelina Janmohamed: What attracted you to working in the communications industry?
Karine Santos: I came across communications as an industry by chance and found it immediately fascinating. For me, the possibility of helping our clients build relationships between their brands and their consumers, and the process behind that, is one of the things I love the most. It's all about creating connections. I also love how our industry is so connected to the fast pace of change happening in wider society.
How about you?
SJ: I have quite an unusual job. My area of expertise is to think specifically about Muslim audiences, which is something that no other agency does. How I got here is incredibly unconventional. I actually started in consumer marketing, working on technology and products. Then I made one career jump, which saw me publish a book, and I became a newspaper columnist. From there, I made another jump into advertising, where I began to think about how we talk to audiences and what we can do to be ready for a changing world. I'm not from a normal agency background, but that’s great because sometimes there are things that I see that other people don't.
I see forging connections as a big part of what we do in our industry. Our close connections with our clients mean that they see us as trusted advisors and partners rather than simply suppliers
I actually don’t think it was a huge leap to make into an industry that is all about how to fill a gap or a need for an audience. In this particular case, it’s an audience that nobody has realised wants people to engage with them. It’s exciting to have an idea and then to have an environment where you can talk to people in a way that's really authentic, honest and representative. The world has finally caught up with the work that we're doing at Ogilvy. And to be in a position where we’re the thought leader in this space, and to be able to work with the world's biggest clients to see those insights translated into real-world campaigns… what could possibly be more exciting than that?
KS: It’s interesting to hear about your career path which is quite different to mine. I’ve always worked in media. I started about 26 years ago in the media planning and buying team as an assistant and progressed from there. Diversity of experience and backgrounds is definitely one of the things that makes our industry so interesting. Just a few months ago we hosted Walk the Talk here in Lisbon. It was really inspirational. I loved meeting women from all over the world from WPP agencies and hearing about their experiences. It was fascinating to hear that despite working in different sectors and being from different geographies, we have similar challenges.
Are there any initiatives or campaigns you’ve launched that you’re particularly proud of?
SJ: Lots! One was that we published the first ever consumer study about how Muslim consumers in the UK were thinking about finance. To be able to explore for the very first time, what people are thinking and how an entire industry can communicate with them, that kind of groundbreaking work is really why we're here in the advertising industry. We’re here to try and work out what people are doing, what they're thinking and how we can connect with them.
KS: I see forging connections as a big part of what we do in our industry. Our close connections with our clients mean that they see us as trusted advisors and partners rather than simply suppliers.
To be in a position where we’re the thought leader in this space, and to be able to work with the world's biggest clients to see those insights translated into real-world campaigns… what could possibly be more exciting than that?
For me, being able – with the advancement of big data – to build even stronger, more meaningful connections with consumers on behalf of our clients is the thing I’m most excited about right now. What are you most excited about?
SJ: One of the really exciting things that has happened in our industry, but also where we have a long way to go, is that we are trying to challenge the stereotypes in front of our cameras. We know that one type doesn't fit all; that we need to cast in a more diverse way. We need to stop thinking about mums as glowing, nappy-changing angels and dads as hopeless, unable-to-clean, guys in the kitchen. We’re moving forward from that and thinking about the diversity we have, which is exciting.
As a result, we are also thinking about having the right talent behind the camera. Right from the people who are commissioning the work, our clients who are thinking about how they have a more nuanced approach to the world, through to production strategy, to planners and to creative. The whole space needs to be much more textured and have a much better representation of voices, so that we do actually start to be able to deliver the kind of nuance and the kind of personalisation that we're thinking about.
International Women's Day is important because...
KS: … it's a celebration of our resilience and continued efforts to have an equal voice.
SJ: … it's a chance to be a flagship for how we want the other 364 days of the year to be.
Read more from our #EachforEqual in conversation series