Marketing Game Changers 2022: Abu Dhabi Airports‘ Huda Al Shamsi

Vice-president of marketing, brand and communications, Abu Dhabi Airports

Additional positions: Member of the advisory committee at Al Forsan ­International Sports Resort

Years in current position: 4 

Years with company: 4 

Size of department: 24 

Previous jobs

Director of marketing at KBBO Group.

Head of marketing and communications – under the Cultural Programmes and Heritage Festivals Committee – at the Abu Dhabi Department of Culture and Tourism.

Project manager at Sorouh.

Recent campaigns

Following months of creative planning and collaboration with our most important stakeholders, we conceptualised the ‘Change Starts Here’ campaign, which served as the foundation for the public launch of our new corporate and brand identity. The integrated approach was strategised to achieve the following objectives under our new identity: to raise awareness of our redefined purpose, shaping the future of airport experiences; to communicate our mission statement, to provide a world-class airport ecosystem; to challenge the current perceptions of Abu Dhabi Airports; and to reinforce our position as the gateway to Abu Dhabi and a global travel hub. Our external effort was supported by our ‘Champions of Change’ campaign, an employee-centric initiative which was designed to cascade our ­redefined values across our organisation.

What is your objective in your current role?

To drive the ongoing transformation and cultural change that is happening at Abu Dhabi Airports by communicating a powerful change story. I am an avid believer in driving positive and sustainable change through people, and one of the most effective ways to do this is by ensuring that a shared sense of priority exists across the organisation. 

Do you have a guiding principle?

Make a real difference and know what you want people to remember you by. 

How do you make agency relationships work?

By defining clear objectives: Working with three different global agencies who specialise in different areas, it is especially important to set clear and specific objectives. This will help define goals, facilitate planning and provide direction, as well as set expectations and recognise what measurable success looks like. 

Synergy and collaboration: For example, the launch of our new brand is an example of what we can achieve when we co-create and communicate. 

Transparency and open communication: It builds trust, boosts morale, improves teamwork and encourages people to share their creative input freely, which almost always leads to better results.  

What work do you wish you had done?

I would like to work on more campaigns that are rooted in corporate social responsibility (CSR). Raising awareness on important topics such as gender equality and female empowerment has always resonated with me, and one of my personal goals is to make a real difference through the work that I do. 

What is the biggest challenge in marketing at the moment?

Measuring and articulating the business value of marketing to the wider organisation. It is always a challenge to demonstrate the full impact of our work to executives who are deemed ‘non-marketers. Fortunately, data analytics have become more advanced in recent times, and we now have access to host of tools which can help us measure impact and effectiveness of our efforts, quantifying the return on investment to the rest of the business.

What is the next big opportunity in marketing?

The metaverse – an immersive digital environment that allows people to communicate virtually using augmented-reality technology – is being seen as the future of human interaction. For marketers, this represents an opportunity to engage and interact with consumers in new and innovative ways, pushing the boundaries of what is possible. 

Recent achievements

Launching the new corporate identity for Abu Dhabi Airports, which included crafting a vision and mission which accurately captures its ambition for the future, developing a refreshed brand architecture and designing a new visual identity. 

Organising and hosting Air Expo 2022 at Al Bateen Executive Airport.  

Spearheading the cultural transformation at Abu Dhabi Airports through the Champions of Change campaign.

Rapid fire

  • What are you working on?
    Fostering personal and professional growth.
  • Who are you following?
    His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan.
  • What are you craving?
    Exchange of knowledge.
  • What are you hiding from?
    Uninspiring work.
  • What app are you
    glued to?
  • What are you listening to?
    Meghan Markle’s ‘Archetypes’ podcast.
  • What are you reading?
    When Women Ruled the World by Kara Cooney.
  • What are you watching?
    The Crown.
  • Where are you travelling?
  • What is your good habit?
    Laughing – it’s good for the soul.
  • What is your bad habit?
    Not working out as much as I should.

Agency reference


John Brash, founder & chief executive, Brash

I’ve had the pleasure of working with Huda for over 10 years on various brand programmes. Her main achievement recently has been leading the marketing and comms programme on a significant major corporate identity re-brand, a brand with an ongoing legacy and great significance to the country and government – formally ADAC, now ADA. This involved strategically managing various key aspects of the brand programme, from defining the vision and mission and a name change through to designing a complex brand architecture model, covering all five ADA airports and companies with a robust, world-class and future-proof brand system.

The significance of the project put great pressure on the team. Huda managed her team and the stakeholders – including the chairman and the board – with direction, insightful decision-making and clarity. Her creative agencies both respected and enjoyed the process and her clear communication. The brand launch was a huge success with fabulous feedback from the business, the employees, clients and partners. The next stages are now cascading the new brand throughout the business, internally and externally with clients and partners. 

Whilst this project would be more than plenty to manage for most, Huda is simultaneously leading a similar parallel project on the new Midfield terminal

Two key aspects of her professional drive and approach come to mind that characterise my collaboration with her. First – and my favourite – is her ability to think big and grasp the magnitude of the opportunity. Many marketers play safe but Huda pushes her team, myself and my agency Brash to produce work that is not only powerful and world-class but also relevant to the business and the industry. Second is her conviction that brand begins at home – so we worked together to create an engaging and dynamic internal engagement programme to help employees (and ultimately the business) understand and embrace the brand, delivering personal and professional growth and success. 

Huda listens, gains profound insights and makes extremely well-informed decisions. She is optimistic and solution driven. Above all, she gets the bigger picture and pushes for excellence in all she does.