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Creativity Squared: Sarah Mestarihi’s Multitude of Creative Lenses


The creative director at M&C Saatchi MENA on the power of asking yourself ‘so what’ and the creative benefits of a multicultural background

Creativity Squared: Sarah Mestarihi’s Multitude of Creative Lenses

Sarah Mestarihi joined M&C Saatchi Doha in 2019, having previously been creative director at Grey Doha. Her work saw her be featured at the Lisbon International Advertising Festival, winning a Gold Award amongst many other international awards. 

Whilst at M&C Saatchi, Sarah has been instrumental in reinvigorating and restructuring the creative team. She also holds a Master’s degree in Visual Arts from the University of the Arts in London, where she achieved several recognitions and awards, and was named to the Dean’s List.


I think of myself as extroverted in a creative aspect yet introverted in a personal aspect. This balance also reflects my approach, as I live out loud for my work, however, choose to stay private in my personal life. 

I definitely see the world in technicolour and a multitude of shades, and I like to think of myself as a citizen of the universe – I come from a very multicultural background, so rather than tying myself to a particular place, I choose to tie myself to my experiences as a whole. This is definitely an aspect of my life that drives my creativity forwards, and I feel everyone can be creative given the right opportunity, insight and learnings. 


When it comes to judging the creativity of a piece of work, I like to understand the insight and see if it is disruptive emotionally – anything that engages with you in this way has a purpose beyond itself. 

I think over the years the criteria has shifted a lot, because in the world of endless digital content at our fingertips being in tune with pop culture is key. I feel if something you see or hear stays with you and makes you react in a certain way, then it has fulfilled its purpose. 

It is frustrating for many creatives today that the majority of our work can feel disposable, as users scroll through their feeds without stopping, but when you reach a piece of communication that you like and that makes you stop for a minute… that can be very fulfilling!

From my personal work, I usually would like to think that I’ve created engaging campaigns. When my father watched a TVC I did for Netflix and Ooredoo and actually felt that it spoke to him, that became my favourite campaign to date.


When starting the process of making creative work I usually like to think of a sentence that I feel would pull it all together, beyond the creative platform. What is the one thought I want to leave in people’s minds.

Usually writing a manifesto helps me reach that point, but before writing there’s a lot of thinking, a lot of staring at the TV with my brain floating elsewhere, and then a lot of questions of what is the outcome we desire. 

Something I learned from one of my CCOs in the past that has stuck with me is the ‘so what’ test. I think of a brief and as I read it, I say to myself: So what? Then I see where the answer leads, and then I go down that rabbit hole of ‘so whats’ until I can’t reach any further and I look at all the different approaches. In those I see a campaign.

Once I’ve done this it’s time to sit with the team and see how all our minds approached the same brief and to find which idea feels most valid, because you can ideate forever, and a campaign never feels truly done. There’s always a better way, or something you didn’t think of yourself. However, with deadlines you know that you have an end point to meet, so even if you don’t feel done yet, at some point you have to stop.


When it comes to external factors that have shaped me, I think coming from a household that spoke four languages, as my mother is Pakistani and my dad is Jordanian, made me realise at an early age the power of words, as well as the strength of communication. Add to that growing up in Qatar, which was a country foreign to both my parents, it shaped my views and helped seed my creativity. 

I looked at life through many different lenses, all derived from my family and surroundings, and I keep thinking my open mind allowed me to fly. 

Now feeling creative and doing something about it are two different things. So, I worked, tried hard, and still continue to try to hone my skills, as much as I can. However, no matter what you learn at art school you only begin learning once you are an Ad person at an agency watching creativity become bigger than yourself. 

I think from years of working in agency I feel two things are crucial – the right culture and the people, and the right clients. This is why I love working at M&C Saatchi, I feel we understand that not every client is the right client for us, and that people and culture come first. 

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M&C Saatchi MENA, Thu, 25 Nov 2021 15:57:00 GMT