Deutsch New York hires FCB’s Samira Ansari as chief creative officer
The ad vet of more than two decades led award-winning work for Michelob Ultra, U by Kotex and more.
Deutsch New York has named creative veteran Samira Ansari as its new chief creative officer.
Ansari last served as executive creative director at fellow IPG agency FCB New York, where she was responsible for the agency’s Anheuser-Busch InBev portfolio and led projects such as the award-winning Michelob Ultra “Courtside” campaign as well as the new “McEnroe vs. McEnroe” push, an hour-long program debuting on ESPN outlets tonight featuring tennis legend John McEnroe competing against virtual versions of his former self. Over her career, she’s also worked on other major brands and clients including Procter & Gamble, Kimberly-Clark, Mass Mutual, Kellogg and Gap.
Ansari will begin at the agency on June 1 and report directly to Deutsch New York CEO Val DiFebo. She’s tasked with shaping the agency’s culture and overseeing creative for all the agency’s clients, including PNC Bank, Tata Consulting Services, ClearChoice and the global and U.S. Galderma business. She replaces former CCO Dan Kelleher, who left the agency last fall after a mutual decision to part ways.
DiFebo told Ad Age that she knew immediately that Ansari was the right person for the job because it was clear that she was at once a strong leader, expert communicator and big creative thinker.
“Samira talked not only about the work, but how she and her team got to it in circumstances that weren’t always optimal, and sometimes, with people who weren’t yet proven,” DiFebo said. “We need a leader to draw the best out of people, to inspire.”
Ansari was born in Iran and in the early '80s emigrated to Australia with her family during the Iraq-Iran War. Her first job in advertising was at Australia’s Cummins and Partners, where she was part of the team that successfully launched Virgin Airlines in Australia. “I remember Richard Branson came into the office, and it was literally my first client interaction,” she laughed. She later moved on to Paris to work at Saatchi & Saatchi and then spent more than a decade in New York, at agencies including JWT, Leo Burnett, TBWA\Chiat\Day, Grey and Johannes Leonardo, before landing at FCB.
Early on, Ansari said, she was “very aware of being a female creative” and was adamant about avoiding typically “female” categories such as feminine care and beauty. So initially, she found herself working on “planes, trains and automobiles.”
Once in the U.S., she said she couldn’t avoid the “pigeonhole,” and the first brief she got, at JWT, was for tampons, for U by Kotex. Fortunately “we had really brave clients,” and what resulted was a breakthrough, brazen campaign that poked fun at the tired conventions of the category and arguably paved the way for the more honest, taboo-breaking campaigns of today.
“My philosophy is that a great idea can come out of any brief for any brand,” Ansari said. “It doesn't have to be a shiny brief or anything of that sort.”
What’s important, she noted, is a “true partnership” between agency and client, in which “we're all pulling our sleeves up together and solving the problem together. Sometimes I feel like I know my client's business better than they do because I feel responsible for their brand. If you know the brand as well as you should, then you can solve their problems.”
On what she hopes to achieve as a leader, Ansari said she hopes to emulate the mentors of her past. “I've worked with many different creative directors over my career, but the ones that have gotten the best out of me are the ones who have really pushed me to be my best self, and have made it fun along the way.”
“We’re so proud of Samira and all that she’s achieved at FCB," said Emma Armstrong, president of FCB New York, in a statement. "She’s an amazing combination of talent and kindness, and we can’t wait to see her light the world on fire in her new role. Although big shoes to fill, we’re eager for the next great talent to step in and grow with us.”
Ansari is the latest in a string of major Deutsch New York hires, bringing new shape to the agency following its much-publicized split from sibling Deutsch L.A. in 2020. Earlier this year, the agency named Miriam Franklin executive VP-head of integrated production and Melatan Riden executive VP-head of art and design. With Ansari on board, the agency’s executive leadership team is now 71% female, with 12% identifying as diverse. Overall the agency is now 58% female, with 33% of staffers identifying as people of color.
DiFebo said she didn’t intentionally fill the ranks with female leaders, noting ”we always look for the best person.” That said, “from my experience, I know this is stereotypical, but women kick ass because they get to the task and they are not so much worried about their egos. [With us] in a room, we're going to feel very different than a lot of other agencies. And I think that's a good thing.”