Q&A with AJ Hassan, Executive Creative Director, R/GA Chicago
By She Runs It
What has been the most difficult moment in your career, and how did you overcome it?
I don’t know that there has been any one moment that has been most difficult. There have been a number of times over the course of my career when I’ve encountered situations that have frankly made me consider leaving the business because it became too political, or too sexist, or too unsatisfying. But every time I got to that place, I was re-inspired by what I most love about my work – creativity. The joy of getting lost in my imagination; the adrenaline rush of a great idea; seeing how I touched someone else with that intangible thing that fell out of my brain. Creativity is a magical human power that we get to share with the world, and it’s a pretty fantastic thing to get to do as your job.
What is your best piece of advice for young women looking to have a career in advertising?
Show up and speak up. In this business, having a point of view is imperative to making the work better.
You will undoubtedly find yourself in positions where you will be outnumbered by a room full of men, which can be intimidating, especially early in your career. But that’s when it matters most. Trust your voice, and others will too.
You are connected to two remarkable, empowerment campaigns: LIFEWTR and Always “Like A Girl.” Both are so empathetic, you clearly brought your unique perspective to these campaigns. How would you advise other women to bring their emotions and experiences into their work?
The best stories are rooted in the truth. It can be your truth or someone else’s truth, but authenticity matters. Consumers aren’t a species unto themselves, they’re people. Mine your experiences – sincerity resonates.
If you could trade places with one woman in the world, for one day, who would it be?
Ruth Bader Ginsburg. It would be incredible to spend even an hour inside the mind of a woman who wields fiery logic and the letter of the law to save humans for real.
What’s the best piece of advice you have received?
The mark of great idea is when you want to run and tell someone about it.
Finish this sentence: I am AJ and I Run ___________. (playing off of She Runs IT)
#LikeAGirl (of course.)
What do you believe to be the biggest obstacle women face in advertising, and how can it be fixed?
Being seen – and heard. I’m in a position where I’m responsible for hiring, and curating creative teams. The number of women’s names that come across my desk compared to men, is staggeringly small. Whatever the reasons may be; unconscious bias, fewer women CDs to influence hires, or the sheer ratio that we’re still outnumbered in a historically male-dominated industry. More leaders – women and men – need to take initiative to more deliberately seek out great female talent. Because the more perspectives we hear, the stronger our craft becomes and the more our messages resonate.