Reema Rao-Patel, Strategy Director, HIGHDIVE

AME Grand Jury POV: Reema Rao-Patel

2021 Grand Jury member, Reema Rao-Patel, Strategy Director for Highdive Chicago shares her industry insights and observations including what stands out in award winning creative work and how the brand's voice has changed during the pandemic.

New York, NY | January 19, 2021

The AME Awards honors campaigns that hit the bullseye for brands, triumphing in both creativity and effectiveness. AME's powerhouse Grand Jury are award-winner's themselves and experts in effectiveness. Their ability to recognize ground-breaking results-driven work truly sets the bar for this year's competition. 

Grand Jury member Reema Rao-Patel is Strategy Director for Highdive Chicago. She's worked at a number of agencies, servicing brands across a number of industries - from home cleaning to home insurance, from beer & wine to meats & cheeses, from tech start-ups to tech giants - and everything in between. Passionate about building inclusive work communities she has been professionally raised in organizations like ADCOLOR, AAF, and MAIP.  Reema strongly believes that the most empathetic humans & marketers make for the strongest brands & businesses.

In the interview below Reema shares her industry insights and observations including what stands out in award winning creative work and  how the brand's voice has changed during the pandemic.

AME Awards: As a strategic creative, what stand-out attributes do you recognize in award-winning creative effective advertising?

Reema Rao-Patel: Above all, effective work is memorable. It doesn’t matter how creative or artful it is; if people don’t remember the idea or the brand, the work doesn’t work. It also has to be meaningful to people, evoke an emotional reaction because it connects to their truth – whether that’s feeling something deep in their heart, laughing from their belly, or overcome with a sense of awe. Finally, the work should be unexpected or surprising in some way. This is an important one to me. We spend an inordinate amount of time producing ideas that we hope and beg for “people in real life” to notice, sometimes forgetting that they simply don’t care. But when you can take them by surprise, you have that much more of a chance of connecting, being remembered, and ultimately changing behavior. The art of the unexpected is also what keeps us creators on our toes and sharp in our craft.

AME Awards: Why are effectiveness competitions like the AME Awards important?

Reema Rao-Patel: Every industry has a system to honor the greatest in its craft -- whether it’s a certification, an honor, a publishing, or a prize. Advertising should be no different. Effectiveness awards in particular also validate the purpose and importance of advertising to clients and businesses. I really do believe that creativity can solve the world’s problems; it’s nice when there’s a metric to prove it so.  

AME Awards: How has the brand’s voice changed since the pandemic confinement measures? Speak to the evolution of brand positioning, values, and tone of voice during COVID.

Reema Rao-Patel: The truth is that brands shouldn’t have had to pivot to the extent that they did as a result of COVID-19. Because this crisis has only confirmed the basics of brand-building: operating with purpose & putting consumers at the center.   

Operating with purpose

The pandemic has forced brands to recognize the necessity of purpose -- and not just to inform your external campaigns and messaging, but to also inform your internal value system, how you operate as a business, and how you hire and manage the people who manifest your purpose. These things have always been important, not just during a crisis. When you function with a clear North Star, forces like COVID-19 don’t shake you as much as it did for many. We’ve seen a lot of brands step up with messages of empathy and action plans that provided tangible value to citizens and frontline workers. But those who already operated with a clear purpose and positioning, felt authentic in doing so. Those who didn’t felt, advantageous. I hope that moving forward, more brands will think about purpose holistically, as well as proactively versus reactively.

Putting consumers at the center

We’ve all felt and read about COVID-fatigue in advertising. There was even a YouTube video going around the web during the early days of the pandemic, parodying COVID ads. Not every big cultural or world event needs a hyper-relevant social post or tailored communication plan (or a custom Zoom background). Sometimes, consistency is what makes people feel safe. Sometimes, a silent brand act is more powerful and meaningful than a loud brand message. Most times, people don’t want a mirror reflecting their lives back at them, especially not their quarantine lives. We also needed a laugh sometimes. We also needed a “fuck this! let’s get through it” sometimes. COVID-19 has unearthed truths that were always true about people. Brands are just now paying attention.

AME Awards: What is your all time, favorite most creative and effective ad and/or ads (share the link or a visual) and why in your opinion did they triumph?

Reema Rao-Patel: It’s a tie between two campaigns for me. The first – British Airway’s “Visit Mum” ( It blends all the ingredients of good advertising and then adds a dash of magic. British Airways needed to improve its numbers for its North America to India route. The most expected way to solve this problem would have been to create a sense of western wanderlust around India. But no. The work beautifully captured the insight that nostalgia and homesickness are powerful motivations for NRIs (non-resident Indians). It tapped into a unique target, a deep tension, and the potential for an airline brand to live in the space of relationship-building, not just air travel. This is work that still makes me go “I wish I did that.”   

The second – “Shot on an iPhone.” Sometimes I hate admitting this because it can feel as trite as saying “I want my brand to be like Nike.” But honestly, the power of this work is how obviously simple it is. I also tend to dislike naysayers who ask, “But is it ownable?” of ideas.

This is a key example that proves if you’re the first to do something well, it’s yours for the taking.