TUESDAY 8 MAR 2022 5:38 PM


This International Women's Day, Communicate magazine spoke to Joanne Merecido, head of group marketing and business development at LEAP. Merecido talks about her career journey so far, creative empathy, and why inclusivity is the best way to champion equality.

Can you talk through your career journey so far?

Well, I’ve had anything but a direct route to my role here at LEAP, so bear with me! I’d like to say I knew that I always wanted to work in the creative industry – or work in marketing, but if I’m honest, I didn’t even really know what it was. Most of my early career was in marketing roles in Financial Services, where I worked in Wealth Management and then transitioned into Asset Management. Whilst in Asset Management, I lost my dad which really gave me a new perspective on what it was that I wanted to do. I had been exposed to various creative agencies during my time in Financial Services. Funnily enough, I came across LEAP whilst I was at J.P. Morgan Asset Management, as we did and still do provide their creative in-house studio support. Moving agency side, I pivoted into Business Development, working in advertising, brand design and packaging and market research before coming full circle at LEAP.

My hybrid role across Marketing and Business Development allows me to steer marketing activity to not just be ‘sales support’; instead, all our marketing activity synergises with our new business objectives in a strategic, holistic way. My aim is to focus on unpacking the challenges brands face and help by applying our creative empathy approach. Despite only joining LEAP a year ago during lockdown, I have enjoyed every moment and am delighted to be working with some of the world’s most incredible brands within LVMH like Dior and Moet Hennessey, as well as Amazon. 

What is creative empathy and how does it operate?

Great creative needs the ‘big idea’, but often these big ideas just don’t come to life in the way they’re meant to. In the dba’s ‘What clients think 2019-20’ report, the second biggest criticism of agencies was ‘Lack of follow through’. Agencies performed well at the conceptual stage of a project but were weaker at the production and delivery stages. This disconnect is why we have spent the last 25 years applying our approach of creative empathy, which means acting as more than just a production agency; instead, we are brand custodians. Our dedicated accounts team become an extension of the brand, getting under their skin to understand more than the creative brief. It’s understanding the business challenges and taking a complete 360 view of how to best bring the creative to life.

In the past year what project have you worked on that you are most proud of?

We were delighted to work with TikTok and their creative agency AKQA Amsterdam on their International Women’s Day campaign last year. Women are shockingly under-represented in music, so to challenge this head-on and raise the voices of female performers, TikTok worked with AKQA Amsterdam to develop a digital and social campaign with targeted short-form content, which we at LEAP brought to life. We delivered bold text animation and video clips, all set to a banging soundtrack by Nina Nesbitt. From the outset, time was tight as our production teams raced against the clock to produce nearly 80 short films in just a week! 

We took a collaborative approach across our teams - Film and Post, Language and Culture, and Digital Production - nothing was outsourced, enabling complete control of the entire creative. Through this approach, we were able to apply creative empathy and deliver speedy editing, localisation, and versioning. We’re really looking forward to seeing this year’s campaign, which has seen us working with the brilliant creatives at AKQA and TikTok once more.

How do you think recent societal changes, from the pandemic to Black Lives Matter and Reclaim These Streets, have changed the way brands communicate with their internal teams?

What a two years it has been! Change and instability have been ubiquitous, and we have definitely seen how these have affected brands. In fact, earlier this year, we re-launched LEAP Create, one of our partner agencies based in Chichester. The re-launch was to re-focus the business into the employer brand and internal communications landscape. This was in response to changes we could see in our clients, who were putting more focus on their internal brand and their internal voice. Managing director Sara MacGregor, and group creative director Roger Cayless, have been tackling client, and industry themes in the world of ‘people communication’ through their latest podcast LEAP Listens – talking about everything from ‘The Confidence Gap’ to ‘Employer Tone of Voice’.

How do you think the comms industry can best support women and champion equality moving forward?

No industry is really doing this fantastically well, but inclusivity is the best way the industry can champion equality. This means creating inclusive boards and creative inclusive workplaces – different points of view makes both business and societal sense. I am personally active in driving the equality agenda as a member of WACL (Women in Advertising and Communication Leadership) and President of Lean In Food For thought London (with 1300 active UK members) – it’s important to show-up to the conversation.