Karina Ogandjanian is what we call the perfect example of what cultural richness can inspire you to become. Born in Tashkent, Uzbek Soviet Socialist Republic in an Armenian family with ancestors from Shushi, Armenia, she later moved to Moscow to Study Arabic linguistics at Moscow State University. She didn’t realize it back then, but this move would have soon become life-changing, with bittersweet transformative features. There she would meet her life partner, who is now also her business partner. Later on, they moved with their two-year-old son Serguei to Dar-as-Salaam, Tanzania, with a diplomatic mission of the Soviet Union.

This time was one of the most influential to her journey: she attended the Women’s Diplomatic Group, was exposed to the vast international community, the concept of TWIGA that she would soon implement with her husband in 1993.

The political changes in their country soon had an impact on their perspective. In a single day, the Soviet Union became Russia with 14 countries around. Staying there in Dar-es-Sallam, in front of the Russian Embassy, they knew that life as they had known it will completely morph and most probably would they will get the chance to pursue a different career path back home. That’s when the concept of TWIGA was born.

They significantly capitalized on what they had learned from diplomatic life, especially abroad. Knowledge of foreign languages, diplomatic discussion rules, and diplomatic etiquette, pro bono work for a society and women power through organizations like Diplomatic Women Group – all that helped significantly to be ahead of the market and set up a new company with a new mission, goals, corporate culture and long-term development.

Now, TWIGA is present in five key vectors: Creative, Media, PR, Marketing Services and IT, Data and Tech in several countries of the ex-Soviet Union. Plans are huge for further development. Creativity has brought Karina much acclaim, including being a judge at Cannes Lions Awards.

She has definitely inspired her two children, as now their son Serguei has joined the company as the new CEO of TWIGA Russia. Their daughter Anna is also a creative soul, graduating from the Moscow State Cinema School and currently launching a creative agency of her own.

Karina si doing what she enjoys most: building creative excellence, doing industry-related non-profit projects like Russian Advertising Academy support and development of the CMO Club in Russia.

Let’s take a dive into her perspective:

WHAT WOULD MAKE YOUR SOUL SING? WHAT MAKES YOU HAPPY?

I absolutely adore creativity in almost all formats. Good design or modern art as part of it bring a lot of happiness to my life and can change my mood immediately.

Another point of happiness comes from looking at people who can grow/ become older happily and beautifully: you all know people around you who are becoming happier with the age. That is an attitude but also new opportunities of the new world.  

A CHILDHOOD STORY THAT ANNOUNCED THE CREATIVE PERSON YOU ARE TODAY

I was probably 7 years old kid attending an art class at a Soviet school. My drawing (a wonderful colorful rooster for some reason) was sent to the German Democratic Republic for a contest. Some probably remember those signs of friendship and attention to education and art during the socialist era of the region.

My rooster won a prize though my mom insisted that this happened as my family name coincide with the name of the well-known Armenian artist and probably it was a mistake. Don’t think my mom doesn’t love me, she promised she does. This was an IT moment anyway when I felt the art can go places and might bring me somewhere interesting. But the travel was quite long.

BEST CONTEXT EVER FOR INSPIRATION WAS

Cannes Lions jury experience – it changed my understanding of creative trends, level of personal honesty and intentions of juries, thousands of creative people around – it all was quite an inspiration for future development.  

THE PROJECT YOU LOVED MOST

The Longest Hand Shake – we won a Lion with it. The project was about people being people first above all political agendas. Though I personally did want to attract people’s attention to the Armenian genocide of 1915, but with a lot of love, not the destruction and hate. When smoke goes down love will rule. Click here for video.

THE PROJECT OTHERS  LOVED MOST

Spartak Campaign – we created the most loved communication for Moscow Football Club Spartak at the moment when it was at its lowest, not delivering what fans were expecting from the best football team of the country. We created a campaign called DNA and then another one We All of the Same Blood – and supported the Club, the Fans, and unintentionally – the significant part of the Russian society. Click here for the official information on the campaign.

THE BEST THING ABOUT RUSSIAN CREATIVITY IS

It’s becoming SO visibly different from other parts of the world with a lot of national heritage behind it with the salt and pepper of today’s Russia and its underground culture. I believe we are on the way to finding our style of modern Russian creativity (in marketing communications – for sure)  and this is our input into the new creative movement around the world.

BEST STATEMENT OF RUSSIAN  HUMOR

Russian Stand up – bold, funny, and (sometimes) with good taste.

ADVICE FOR INTERNATIONAL HEADHUNTERS, RELATED TO RUSSIAN CREATIVES

Don’t look into Russia, we need all our creatives here, there is not enough for our growing market! Ukraine has wonderful creatives too – just go to Ukraine! (no jokes – Ukrainian creatives are amazing!)

BEST PLACE IN MOSCOW

For me – my office on the Moscow river bank with incredible people inside and a touch of Africa. Now probably is the time to explain why Africa and a little about myself. Before establishing a creative agency back in 1993 my husband and partner through years was a young diplomat with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Soviet Union and we live a beautiful and full of local dramas diplomatic life in Tanzania, East Africa. That’s why we have a Swahili name of our Agency and an African heritage around our office.

The office is not the only place I love in Moscow. Moscow is an incredible city: just imagine a snowy night in the center with absolutely beautiful lightning on the old churches, buildings, and little city center lanes – it is like in Schelkunchik/ Nutcracker of Chaikovsky… You have to see it to feel it and it most probably will change your life.

BEST PLACE IN RUSSIA

So many… St. Petersburg as a renowned and most spoken about… But I love Moscow – for the beauty of the place, the opportunity for anything around, and a mixture of all nationalities of the ex-Soviet Union – it brings a lot of colors, tastes, and feelings to the city.

MOST DISTURBING CLICHÉ ABOUT RUSSIA, IN THE MEDIA OUTLETS OF THE WORLD

The most irritating cliché for me is that Russian women are JUST beautiful. They are smart, strong, intense, free, intelligent, well educated, and yeas, they are beautiful.

RUSSIA SHOULD BE KNOWN FOR

New Russia should be known for Creativity. Not only Rodchenko, Malevich, Tolstoy or Dostoevsky, or Chaikovsky of our glorious past, we have plenty of creative heroes of today. Just look at our museums of modern art as well as penetration and love of art among Russian citizens all over the country. The definite trend is visible here – new creative centers appear in the Russian cities/ regions though before they were known as industrial places – just have a look at Yekaterinburg…

YOUR VIEWS ON SPIRITUALITY

Spirituality is a part of creativity and definitely part of the modern world, a new world. And as we speak of Russia I believe a spiritual revival is a significant part of the changes that are going on in Russia at all levels. 

YOUR VIEWS ON MONEY

Good staff but not enough to live for or move anywhere as taken alone

AN INSPIRATION SOURCE YOU RECOMMEND FOR A YOUNG CREATIVE

Come to Russia to see museums, modern places but most of all – live with interesting people of Russian modern culture, including underground creatives.  

A RUSSIAN BASED FEMALE TALENT THAT DESERVES TO BE PROMOTED AT AN INTERNATIONAL LEVEL, AS AN EXPONENT OF LOCAL CREATIVE SPIRIT

For me, it is Svetlana Tegin, a Russian fashion designer who creates new modern fashion with a taste of the inteligentzia heritage. Svetlana just recently finished her project as a costume designer for a great saga about Russian musician Vertinsky – so tasteful recreation of the epoch.


Photos courtesy of Karina’s album. Click here to check out TWIGA.