Next Creative Leaders: Mara Binudin-Lecocq

Posted on Nov 02, 2016

What's your "How I broke into advertising" story?
My dad was a advertising creative director in the 90s. He had a copywriting background. When I was a kid, people asked me, "Do you want to work in advertising like your dad?" and, because I was an introvert, I would say, "No way! I never want to do something where I need to speak to a lot of people in meetings." So I decided to pursue art instead.

I did an applied arts school in Paris for three years where I did graphic design, advertising, illustration, then a last year specializing in digital visual communication. My school was one where agencies would fight to have the students as part-time interns. I had two options: intern at a music design studio, or at a big ad agency. Guess which one my dad recommended? So I went to Euro RSCG Paris and ended up following in my dad's footsteps, doing everything that scared me.

What made you put yourself forward for Next Creative Leaders?
I'm passionate about giving young women the confidence they can become leaders one day—and want to show them a different, more modern leadership style that will actually inspire them.

What piece of creative work are you most proud of and why?
I'm currently creating a customizable children's book where your girl is a fearless tech-savvy hero. You personalize the name, skin color and hair style of the girl you want to inspire and she receives a classic paper picture book at home. This is my way of helping to solve the problem of diversity in the workplace. 80% of the jobs in the next decade will require technology skills. These are high paying jobs that change the world, and girls, and girls of color, need to get in there.

You have a unique approach to freelancing. Care to share?
I believe we absolutely don't have to go up the corporate ladder without any breaks. People get burnt out because they think they have to be at 110% for thirty years, but I believe in cycles: full time big agency, freelance, full time small agency, in house, strategy agency, start your own thing, back to big agency. The grass isn't greener anywhere else. There are great things and not so great things everywhere you go.
What do you want your legacy to be?
You can be a great leader and not be an asshole.

A lot of the creative geniuses who make the news are actually abusive (like Steve Jobs). And because of that, there's this strong sense that you need to be tough and "not give a shit" to succeed. I don't buy that. I want to show people you can be tough inside but nurturing outside.

Other than awards and fancy titles, what do you consider your biggest accomplishment?
Having a young man tell me that he "wants to be like me one day" and having other young men tell me I'm "an inspiration." To me, that's proof that the world is changing and gender will no longer be a "thing" when millennials start taking over agencies.

If you could go back five years in your career, what advice would you give to you?
Don't beat yourself up and think you suck. You're actually pretty awesome.

After I became a manager, I kept thinking "Geez, if I had known that back then that all the effort I was putting in my job was way above average, I would probably not have cried as much."

What inspires you?
Humble people making shit happen.

What was your biggest learning experience in the past year?
Finally understanding what drives me: work that has an impact. In a nurturing environment. That stuff comes before money.

Any secret creative weapons?
If you look at a bunch of awesome creative for a few hours, you'll suddenly have so many ideas. Get inspired, it's not copying. Picasso's unique style comes from ancient African mask design. He got inspired by a strong base and made it stronger and unique. Also when you're drying out concepting, always go back to the strategy and what your larger goal is. That will help take your ideas to the next level.

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