Aline Santos: What makes her tick?

10 Questions for Unilever’s EVP of Global Marketing and Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer.

Thinking big underpins everything Aline Santos does (but without "blue skies") and inspiration comes from many directions - Ridley Scott's Alien, U2 lyrics and Elif Shafak's books.


Aline Santos in her own words

"I’m Unilever’s EVP of Global Marketing and Chief Diversity & Inclusion Officer. I look after marketing services, marketing capabilities, including communication and innovation excellence globally. I also lead the strategy and initiatives that drive diversity and inclusion for all. One year ahead of our target I am glad to announce that the representation of women in management reached 50% at the end of 2019."

1. If your house was burning down, what one thing would you save (excluding people and pets)?

Printed photos and albums, my most cherished possessions.

2. What is your favourite word?

Amor (love in Portuguese).

3. What do you wish you’d invented?

I wish I could invent time travel. I would travel back in time to visit moments in history, but I would also love to travel into the future to understand the true impact of the decisions we’re making now.

4. If it wasn’t advertising, what career would you have chosen?

I would love to be an architect.

5. What have been your best and worst business decisions?

Best decision was joining Unilever many years ago, I started as a graduate trainee! Worst decision was delaying my move to another country. Moving from Brazil to London has been one of the biggest highlights of my career.

6. What is your most over told personal anecdote?

When I was a young girl living in Brazil the Ridley Scott film, Alien, came to my country. Alien was translated into Aline (my name!) and I started to get bullied at school for being a freak and a monster. I was feeling very sorry for myself until I watched the film, which honestly, changed my life. I saw Signoury Weaver play Ellen Ripley, a fearless, strong and badass women! I had never seen such a powerful woman on screen. It expanded my world and made me realise I could be anything I wanted to be. It also inspired ‘Unstereotype’ an initiative we run in partnership with UN Women to advance positive and progressive portrayals of women and men in advertising.

7. What’s been the best thing you’ve read recently (article, book, tweet etc)?

Elif Shafak’s The Forty rules of Love. Elif is a Turkish writer, known for being a feminist and very brave storyteller. It tackles many themes, but I love how it captures the very human and universal struggle between the rational mind and the aching heart.

8. What’s your most hated business jargon?

So many to choose from but I find ‘blue sky thinking’ particularly frustrating. When would we ever want ‘thinking’ that wasn’t big and imaginative and free from practical constraints? Let’s always think big!

9. What advice would you give your younger self?

The world is your home - don’t delay moving to another country! It has been the most enlightening and culturally awakening experience for my entire family. If anyone reading this is lucky enough to work for a global organisation, seek out expatriation opportunities at the earliest opportunity. It is a fantastic trigger for creativity and empathy.

10. What song or film has influenced you the most?

U2 albums are the soundtrack to my life. Every album has coincided with a huge transitional or important moment for me. The song that really jumps out is Stuck In a Moment You Can’t Get Out Of. The lyrics “You've got to get yourself together; You've got stuck in a moment; And now you can't get out of it; Don't say that later will be better; Now you're stuck in a moment; And you can't get out of it.” influenced me greatly.

Quick fire questions

  1. Breakfast / lunch / dinner?
    Always dinner.

  2. Cats or dogs?
    Dogs, dogs, dogs.

  3. City, sea, fields or mountains?
    All the above.

  4. Early bird or night owl?

  5. Head or heart?

Aline Santos is part of the IPA iList team of Judges.

Last updated 21 January 2022