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Leo Burnett Company, Limited
175 Bloor Street East, North Tower
Toronto, Ontario M4W 3R9
+416 925 5997

Margaret Arnold

SVP, Director, Human Resources

EVP David Kennedy


Lisa Morch

VP, Director of Knowledge Mgmt

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Springboard: When Careers Take Off - Karen Ellis

Welcome back to Springboard, where we celebrate our stellar employees’ latest career achievements by looking back on those “Aha!” moments that helped them get there.

Karen Ellis, the new global creative director for P&G’s SK-II, passionately recounts her path which echoes the famous words of Leo Burnett the man: “I am often asked how I happened to get into this business. I didn’t. The business got into me.”


It’s tough to identify only one pivotal moment that transformed my ‘career’, as I’d say there have been many.

The first I can say for sure, as cheesy as it sounds, was the fact that my parents sent me to art school. My father, being a hardcore engineer rocket scientist type (no joke – he was one of the team that put the first man on the moon), was adamant that I go to college. And I, having been forced through algebra by age 11, was adamant that I wasn’t going because I never want to do math ever again. Thankfully, he let go of his personal ambitions for me, and opened the door to this thing called art school. The rest, as he likes to joke, was history.

Art lead to typography. Typography led to design. Design led to fashion. Fashion led to beauty. (My first big ‘career’ break was at Estée Lauder in NYC.) Beauty led to beauty advertising. From there developed my keen interest in creating strong positive messaging for women. This led to my campaign for BOSS Orange fragrances. Which led to signing Sienna Miller. Which led to negotiating for the third time in history use of a Beatles track. Which led to recreating “Drive My Car” as a full-length track released on iTunes with Danny and Gaz from Supergrass. Which led to Sir Paul McCartney approving it in 48 hours. Which led to the biggest fragrance launch in BOSS history. Which led to imitation videos on Youtube. Which led to a multitude of press coverage and numerous awards, including a Euro Effie Gold.

I didn’t wake up one day as a kid and say “I want be in advertising.” Advertising found me. I didn’t wake up one day and say, “I want to win awards.” But creating communications that I believe in did just that. So getting back to that pivotal moment, there isn’t just one. It’s really about having a belief in following the path of life. And doing it wholeheartedly, with conviction. (And a sense of humour of course!) Being a creative director is part of who I’ve become. It’s not just what I do. As creatives, we have the incredible opportunity to positively effect change – whether it be changes in brands, changes in perception, changes in the way people think or potentially, even changes in the world. What better use for creativity exists than that?