Amanda Abar - POB

Amanda Abar EVP / Client Experience

“I accidentally found advertising while taking a class to complete my Fine Arts Minor. I thought I was going into law, but within the first weeks of the class, I fell in love with advertising and never looked back.”

I’ve always liked oxymorons like “bittersweet,” “lead balloon,” or “silent scream” because it’s similar to the lens I use - there’s always complexity or multiple ways to see, do, or define something. There can be positive in negative… There can be two right answers… etc. I’ve always seen life this way.  Even as a little girl growing up in Grand Rapids, Michigan. I loved winter but didn’t like the cold. Or I wanted to play with Barbies and be the captain of my softball team. Why couldn’t a tomboy wear pink?

Growing up, that paradox made me search for an out-of-state school. I loved my family but wanted independence and to explore new places. I discovered Washington University in St. Louis, and it did exactly what I had hoped. It exposed me to new people, new ways of thinking, and (ultimately) a different career than I thought I wanted.  I accidentally found advertising while taking a class to complete my Fine Arts Minor. I thought I was going into law, but within the first weeks of the class, I fell in love with advertising and never looked back.

I was lucky to start my career in Chicago, working at J. Walter Thompson and Leo Burnett on premium brands like Walt Disney World. While at Leo, I moved to Paris and discovered the positives and negatives of learning a new culture while adjusting to a different way of working. Needless to say, I made several faux pas - like saying hello too many times in one day. I didn’t realize that you said hello once when you first saw someone - that’s it. As a midwesterner, I would never walk by someone and not acknowledge them, no matter how many times I saw them in the day. To me, that would be rude. It was explained to me that multiple hellos were actually an insult because coworkers thought I had forgotten that I saw them earlier in the day. I learned lessons like these, many of which changed me, making me more open to other perspectives. It’s one of the many reasons I am so passionate about DEI+B work. Creating environments that allow for inclusivity, respect, and openness (sometimes through difficult conversations) is a part of the French culture that has stayed with me. I still reflect on my tenure in Paris, where I found personal growth, independence, and humility.

Returning to Chicago, I sought a smaller agency and worked for years at Marc USA in Chicago. Then, as digital became more important to marketing, I found my way to 360i and was a proud founder of their Chicago office.  

During these years, I married a man who was my match, and we balanced each other. He’s my favorite person, and I still learn from him daily. We have been blessed with three children who are the light of my world. They also keep oxymorons an active part of my life.  Now that they are teenagers, I could not love them more. But they possess a unique power to make me angrier than I ever knew I could be… I’m a planner for them and adaptable… the list goes on. My kids have also taught me that life will continually throw curve balls. So, I try to stay on my toes. I threw one at them when we decided to move from Chicago to Kansas City so I could join Barkley.

Barkley intrigued me as an independent, full-service agency. It seemed the perfect place to tie together all the work I’d been doing over the years. I’ve found this true as I celebrate my 4th year at Barkley. 

I’m also celebrating being a breast cancer survivor. Yet again, the experience is complex because I feel lucky - despite having had cancer. I survived. That “awful good” helped me be strong and have hope during a dark time. I focused on the friends, family, and support that helped me beat it.

Q+A with Amanda Abar

PeopleOfBarkley Art DEIB 2


What is one thing you can’t live without?

My family. I’m very lucky to be married to a man who makes me a better person (together for 23+ years) and to have 3 kids that are now at an age where I respect them as people and I enjoy spending time with them. They are each different and so interesting as they figure out who they are. I’m excited to see what they do with their lives.

What is one thing about you that most people at work don’t know?

I actually went to college for a Fine Arts Degree (painting scholarship), then realized that it was more of a passion, then a profession for me. Adding pressure impeded my creativity and removed what made me good at it. So I switched to where I thrived in pressure - business & relationship management. Not wanting to walk too far from the creative space, I discovered advertising - where I could work with creative people and be around fresh ideas all the time.

What's an unpopular opinion you feel strongly about?

I root for Chicago sports teams. I hope (in my lifetime) that the Cubs will win another World Series. And I’m positive that, after so many years of disappointment, the Bears will win a Super Bowl.

Life without social media or life without music? 

Life without social media. Hands down. Already somewhat living that way.  

Do you believe in aliens? Or Why Barkley?

Yes to aliens.

I don’t see how we can be the only life form in the vast universe. Think about it. The universe is infinite. There has to be something out there … whether they travel, come close to earth or care about our planet - that’s another story. Should they even be called “aliens?”  

Why do you serve on the DEI+B Advisory Council?

DEI+B has been a long-time passion for me, although not always labeled the way it is now.  As a woman in business (especially in the 1990’s), I experienced bias and discrimination that gave me a small taste of how cruel and unfair it can be. I want to make changes now so we live in a more inclusive world. Being on the Council allows me to lend my personal experience, knowledge, and access to clients to influence how we work and the work we make.

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