Anna Russett: A Social Influencer and The Voice For Millennials

(header photo by Alina Tsvor)

What’s going on introduce yourself to the people

Hello everyone, my name is Anna Russett. I create Internet culture in the form of YouTube videos and other social content. My passion for communicating in contemporary, modern ways brought me to Havas Chicago, where I started working as an intern in 2014, and now work as a Senior Strategist across multiple brands at the Annex, our satellite office in Chicago’s West Town neighborhood. I love to work alongside other creative folks and help guide and strategize our ideas into an executable reality.

How was life growing up for you in Indiana?

I had an awesome childhood. I had the privilege of being raised by two artistic parents that supported me and encouraged creativity at a young age. They introduced me to things like the Internet, Photoshop, and let me dig into social media. 

What was the first creative medium you got involved with?

First and foremost, I started a magazine called Annazine (original, I know) when I was 12. I would feature my friends on the cover and steal remix articles I found online for the inside pages. I’d lay the pages out in Quark, print them at home, and sell them to friends at school.

Photography was next – I think because of my magazine obsession. I got into fashion photography inspired by Vogue, W, and photographer Tim Walker. In the early days I would style my friends, do their makeup, and then we would go out and find spots to shoot. As I got into high school I began doing this professionally. 

You first attended Ball State University and then transferred to SAIC. What caused the transition?

I was at Ball State for two years where I was majoring in Fine Art Photography. I chose Ball State because it was close to home and it felt like more of the safe route to go at the time. When I got to Ball State I focused in on Film photography, which helped me learn the early background of the art. After being in Muncie, Indiana, I realized I wanted to be in a bigger city. I chose to transfer to SAIC so I could meet people in the city and my school that would benefit me once I graduate. We don’t have majors at SAIC, but my focus was in New Media Art and I got a BFA. SAIC allows their students to take whatever classes they feel they need to shape their own practice. I benefitted from this because I’m a very self-governing, but it can be rough for students needing more guidance for career development. Moving to Chicago has been the best decision of my life so far. 

Did you really begin to dive into the Internet and Social media while in college?

I’ve always been obsessed with computers, the Internet and social media, so my work in these areas definitely started before college. That said, the new media classes I took at SAIC helped me look at the Internet and social media through a critical lens. I began to learn the history of the Internet, social media platforms, and found interesting ways to use and misuse these platforms. I realized that the Internet is the best place to create and share contemporary art and communicate ideas with people all around the world. 

What were some of your jobs before getting into the advertising industry?

While in college I was working for a startup in 1871. I was helping this guy get his social media platform up and going. The experience was interesting and had me problem solving in a lot of different ways. I was exposed to a lot of innovation happening in Chicago through 1871. I was also a Teacher’s Assistant at SAIC and really enjoyed this class called “Wired.” I helped teach freshmen how to think about the Internet critically, learn how to code basic html/css, and I encouraged students to think of the Internet and social media as more accessible places to show art rather than galleries or museums.

How did you get into your current agency Havas?

I met the founders of the social currency app Popular Pays when I first moved to Chicago and I reached out to them looking for internship/job opportunities. They told me that Havas was recruiting interns with their app, where you could “swap” for an internship if you had 70k followers or more. I ended up getting the internship. I got a full-time position there after the internship ended and continued to work my way up.

What was your first position while at Havas?

I started as a Content Creator, and I quickly realized that I wanted to have more of a say on what we were making and why, instead of just simply following orders on what to make. I switched roles to Social Analyst where I learned more about social data, metrics, and how all of that works from a paid, earned, and organic perspective. I was promoted to Strategist where I developed social strategies, best practice guides, customer care plans, and more for brands wanting to succeed on social media. Recently I was promoted to Senior Strategist where I continue to help brands with social media, but now I do so for more of our clients across categories and new business.

This past October you just became Havas Sr Strategist. (Congratulations) How did that all come about?

I’m consistently tapped for help around Havas beyond my expected workload. Our teams are often looking for a unique social perspective that is informed by both a strategic and creative point of view and know I deliver on that.

For those that don’t know, what is the current state of advertising in Chicago?

I’m honestly not too embedded in the agency world, seeing as this is my first real agency job. In Chicago, people seem to be more concerned with traditional modes of marketing. 

What are some tips you could tell college graduates to include in their portfolio to get into an agency?

I think it’s really important to work on your own projects that really show passion for the things that you do. I wouldn’t be here in this position today if it wasn’t for my passion for communicating in unique ways on social media. When we are hiring new people, we look for innovative thinkers and people who understand that, right now, contemporary means social.

When it comes to B2B & B2C marketing, what are the best platforms?

It totally depends on your brand’s goals. It’s hard to say that a single platform is best for businesses or consumers. Instead, I’d encourage brands to use social platforms personally and identify unique capabilities within the platforms that will help communicate their goals.

Back in 2015 you stated that Snapchat is your favorite social media platform. Is that still true to this day?

Out of all the walled gardens, Snapchat is still my favorite. A close second I would say is YouTube. Snapchat has been so interesting to me because they are consistently doing different things on their platform. I like having more of a choice on the content I want to see. I don’t like when platforms prioritize what they think is best for me or sneak ads past me. The algorithm updates on many platforms are ruining feeds. For now, that isn’t happening with Snapchat. I click on my friend’s Stories and view their snaps. Simple. 


(Photo by Alina Tsvor)

As one who is constantly using these social media platforms, what are some predictions for the future of social media?

I think social media needs another change. We are in a weird period of these platforms not knowing how to algorithmically optimize in the best way for their users. Right now I feel like some of these platforms are working on the behalf of brands’ interests and not the individual users’ interests. Over the past couple of years, we have seen way too much click-bait across all platforms. I think we are also becoming limited in our social media choices and I’m hoping new social arenas and websites pop up because the web is infinite. Less walled gardens, more interesting decentralized web.

How do you feel when people continue to say that Social media hurts society?

I think that technology throughout history has always affected our relationships – and I’d argue mostly for good. As new technology emerges, some of the old ways of communicating take a back seat and/or become obsolete. Intimacy takes different forms with new technology, but it doesn’t disappear. I like this quote from J.C.R. Licklider. “Life will be happier for the online individual because the people with whom one interacts most strongly will be selected more by commonality of interests and goals than by accidents of proximity.”  

When it’s all said and done how do you want to be remembered?

I’d like to help make big ideas more accessible to the public. I want to be remembered as one who helped educate people in an accessible way. 


Written By: Nicholas Rud