Mara Lecocq Lets Her Conscience Guide Her Career to Make the Ad World Better for Women

Jobs are meaningless if they aren't helping her empower others

Mara Lecocq can be described as nothing short of ambitious—and even that’s an understatement. Damien Lecocq

From authoring books teaching young girls to code to helping launch Time’s Up Advertising on anonymous professional networking app Fishbowl (before taking the helm as its director of brand and community last month), Mara Lecocq can be described as nothing short of ambitious—and even that’s an understatement.

Growing up in the Philippines before moving to Paris at 14—while her parents immersed her in both the arts and technology worlds—gave Lecocq a unique perspective on advertising (and societal norms). “My dad pushed me into technology,” Lecocq said. “He taught me how to dismantle a CPU when I was 6. I was the first kid [in my circle] who could code my own website from scratch in 1995.”

Meanwhile, she was taking oil painting lessons, and her artwork began being hung in exhibits when she was only 5. “My parents never called me a girl. They called me a human,” Lecocq said, which has led her to view men and women as merely “human beings.”

Lecocq readily joined the advertising industry in 2005 as an art director at BETC in Paris. From there, she had stints at AKQA and Tribal DDB, and freelanced with DDB, Digitas, Grey and 72andSunny, among others. Her portfolio would probably make most creatives green with envy. Yet, Lecocq said working at “cool agencies” didn’t fulfill her.

In 2016, Lecocq quit her full-time position at AKQA to focus on her own ventures aimed at empowering the “disempowered.” First, she founded Secret Code, a series of children’s books that allows young girls to customize the characters (hero programmers) to look like them. She created “Where Are the Boss Ladies?” for identifying agencies with female leadership. At the Time’s Up Advertising (TUA) launch event, Lecocq came with a three-page Google doc that suggested leaders create a dedicated TUA chatroom on Fishbowl, opening the door to her current position.

Like most creative people, Lecocq said she’s constantly thinking about “what’s next,” but for her, what’s next must always align with her values. She believes in Fishbowl’s mission; there, she’s been able to mentor other rising creatives. “I love that. I love helping out,” Lecocq said.

Big Mistake

“Believing that you alone can save your project,” Lecocq said.

Lesson Learned

“Great work happens when all stars align: great brief, boss, team and the most underrated and important star—a great client,” she explained. “You just can’t always control that.”

How She Got the Gig

“Once I got into the 12-year mark of my career, I felt I was lacking a sense of purpose,” Lecocq said, explaining why she then quit her full-time position at AKQA to start ventures that aimed to empower others, including “Where Are the Boss Ladies?” and the Secret Code series. While her true passion remains focused on helping others, something she feels she gets to do as a director at Fishbowl, she’s continued to freelance for agencies including Grey, McCann and 72andSunny.

Pro Tip

“Your success and sanity depends on your boss,” Lecocq said, advising that it matters more to do “better work for a good boss at an under-the-radar agency than a bad boss at a good agency. The good boss will make you grow, protect you and teach you how to be a great leader. The bad boss won’t care about you—and worse, [will] teach you terrible habits.”

This story first appeared in the April 15, 2019, issue of Adweek magazine. Click here to subscribe.
@kitten_mouse Lindsay Rittenhouse is a staff writer at Adweek, where she specializes in covering the world of agencies and their clients.