Every year, BIMA celebrates 100 of the people who are leading the industry right now. We’re not talking about work and projects – we’re talking about the leaders, pioneers, entrepreneurs and changemakers – the people we look up to. In the BIMA100 Voices series, LBB is publishing enlightening conversations with these inspiring people.
Today we’re speaking with Natalie Narh of Ogilvy UK. Here she talks about her inspirations, how she overcame her “creative identity crisis” and how, through her tech start-up New Comma, she’s aiming to empower others to execute their own creative ideas and “make it easier for people who look like me to also have the opportunity to create and tell their own stories.”
Tell us about your career path – what led you here?
My freedom to experiment led me here. I would say I’ve grown up in a pretty creative home, and I always say my sister and I are every parents’ worst nightmare – I work in advertising and my sister is a full-time fine artist. We wouldn’t have been able to do that without their support. They’ve always given us autonomy over who we wanted to be, how we wanted to get there, and not to be confined by our age, gender, race, or whatever else society decides to define us as - that really helped me get to where I am today.
During my undergrad study I started freelancing as a hybrid creative. I had experienced the classic “Creative Identity Crisis” and wasn’t sure what to call myself as I wore a lot of creative hats. My solution was to start going by the name “Latch Productions” so I could do anything I wanted creatively under that umbrella. Within that entity I was offering services as a photographer, videographer, graphic designer, web designer, animator, video editor and a DJ alongside my studies in International Media and Communication. A few months before I graduated I started experimenting with stop motion animation, and the first draft of that experiment is what I used to apply for my Pipe Creative Internship at Ogilvy UK back in 2018. Prior to the Pipe Internship in the UK, I had also spent a month working at Ogilvy Ghana that also helped me carve out what I was looking for in adland. With both internships, I finally learnt how to define myself as a creative, and that led me to the full time role as a Social & Content Creative at Ogilvy UK that I’ve assumed since August 2019.
I’ve always loved the impact that comes with community building, from founding the Smart Steps Club as a seven year old where I hosted weekly meetings at my mum’s gym to teach my friends cool facts about music, astrology and science, to leading school bands and photography clubs in high school, to managing the Ogilvy Roots network presently at Ogilvy UK as Vice-Chair, and finally to my latest venture New Comma – a professional social networking platform for African creatives to connect, create, learn and earn.
Who has been your greatest inspiration/mentor to date and why?
The inspiration to help others be a better version of themselves in their careers definitely came from my dad. Although he’s in a loosely similar industry to mine (consulting partner at EY Ghana), it’s his initiatives towards supporting West African entrepreneurs and Africans in the diaspora to the business sector back home that definitely rubbed off on me. The desire to do so in an emotionally intelligent manner comes from my mum. She’s an aesthetician and owner of a gym back home in Ghana, and her willingness to always truly understand people and their emotional needs is something I’ve taken from her. Being able to tap into both of these sides is important to me because in the foundation of the business world there’s not a lot of empathy, it’s usually take what you can get and run. However I believe there’s a way to do both, the world is crumbling apart because we’re not doing things with enough heart, and that’s what I want New Comma to change. We want to be able to provide a support system for African creatives that go beyond the tasks they’re able to do for other people.
What gets you out of bed in the morning? What do you love about what you do?
Although I enjoy the process of creating, empowering other people to do the same is what I love the most. I hope to be able to impact a wide range of people to execute their own ideas as creatives. As a Ghanaian Black-British woman, I cannot get my foot in the door and ignore the need to make it easier for people who look like me to also have the opportunity to create and tell their own stories. Providing artists and creatives with a platform, and the opportunity to showcase their talents and abilities is a passion of mine that I work hard to uphold throughout all the facets of my career.
Workwise, what’s exciting you most right now?
New Comma, the tech start-up I co-founded ,is nearing its beta launch in the next few weeks. This is the biggest project I’ve ever led that’s been almost eight years in the making and it’s so exciting to finally see it come to life. I’m a bit nervous about how things will go but I have no doubt that it’ll work out. Follow what we’re up to on at new-comma.com
In your career to date, what has given you the biggest sense of pride?
The suite of creative campaigns I led for Ogilvy UK’s Black History Month last year. As both a creative and leader within the Ogilvy Roots network, having the opportunity to work on projects of that scale for the community I care the most about was an absolute honour. The People Behind the Label campaign for Black Pound Day, the three-part series on Black men’s mental health dubbed “Cut the Stigma”, the Rooted exhibition displaying beautiful Black art are amongst the projects I had the pleasure of working on with the amazing Ogilvy Roots team.
What difference has being part of the BIMA100 made – or what difference do you hope it might make?
I’m hoping being a part of the BIMA 100 Class of 2021 helps to solidify my position in adland as a leader pushing for real change, but more importantly, I’m hoping that it inspires others to do the same.