About Natalie Cooke, Group Managing Director, M&C Saatchi UAE

Natalie is a senior agency professional with over 15 years client and integrated agency experience in the UK, Europe, APAC and MENA. A career that has spanned, London, Hong Kong, Singapore, Korea and the Middle East, Natalie has driven meaningful change for her agency teams and consumers having worked on global brands from Shell, Philips, Samsung, Neom, Mobily, Starbucks and Yum!. 

As Group Managing Director of M&C Saatchi UAE, Natalie leads a diverse agency team of over 75 people. During her tenure in the region Natalie has led her agency team in terms of capability and client growth, with the agency being awarded multiple awards and winning significant new business across geographies, most recently across KSA. As a female leader, Natalie is passionate about combatting gender bias in advertising and believes that it must be central to the UAE’s efforts in reducing gender inequality in line with its development goals 2030. 

Her agency team create and lead meaningful change for their clients. For Natalie, change is a commitment, not a catchphrase. Advertising/marketing and PR not only shape our culture, but co-create it. The ideas that Natalie and her team sell to their clients and their brands appeal to emotion; they influence values, attitudes and perceptions of the world.  

In 2020 she led an initiative for international day of the girl asking employees to sign the agency’s first “gender discriminatory practices in advertising” policy as an addendum to their own employment contracts. 

Her thoughts for the industry 

Finally, we all ready to connect again, in-person, in public, in our offices and as humans having been through the last 2 years, we want to be together. 

Whilst we have all seen that technology can connect us when in-person contact is impossible, but our innate need to be physically present with one another hasn’t gone away. 

The human spirit to forge powerful human connections has never been stronger.  Brands that base their campaigns and communications on honesty, empathy and authenticity are the ones that will continue to thrive.  Empathy being an important word.  As a leader, if I am speaking to another human being and that human being is going through a tough time, a time of uncertainty or a time of self-doubt then listening and responding with empathy is the most powerful weapon.

Brands that are able to tap into that emotion and speak to their audience with that kind of empathy are the brands that will triumph. 

This also means beyond the big brand awareness campaigns and more importantly throughout the entire customer journey. To do this successfully it starts with a much richer and deeper level of understanding. 

This should be about both mindset and behaviour which is often overlooked in our region where sadly many of the global brands continue to act and think “glocal” – tweaking global creatives to make them fit for market. Often the downfall of the brand truly being ingrained in local culture and its audiences lives.