Q&A: Leigh Reyes – ‘There’s Nothing Like Teaching Others as a Way to Keep Learning’

Leigh Reyes is President and Chief Creative Officer at MullenLowe Philippines.

In March she’s heading to Thailand to lead a team of mentors from MullenLowe Group offices as part of the 2019 Young Lotus Workshop – a two-and-a-half-day workshop for ambitious young creative teams from the Asia Pacific and Middle East, which runs during AdFest 2019.

Teams will receive a real brief for a real client – with just 24 hours to meet the deadline.


Barbara Messer recently spoke with Reyes about why she agreed to mentor this year’s Young Lotus teams, her goals for MullenLowe in the Philippines this year, and more.

MullenLowe is hosting the Young Lotus Workshop at AdFest 2019 and you’re playing a big role in shaping the workshop. What made you want to get involved?

There’s nothing like teaching others as a way to keep learning. The Young Lotus workshop is a great opportunity to hang out with a rich, diverse community of talented people, who I hope will continue to grow within the advertising industry to make a difference in the world.

In the advertising and marketing space, we’re used to separating ideas from production, the thought from the making, the head from the hand, the art from the copy, the front end from the back end.


At MullenLowe, we believe that hyperbundling is our force multiplier. Whenever we pull together deep skillsets across a diverse spread of disciplines and channels, we produce sharper thinking and better results.

Is it true Young Lotus teams will receive an actual brief from Google? What do you hope young creatives will learn from the experience of tackling a real-world client brief?

This generation of young creatives has most likely been tackling real-world client briefs since school. The hustle is real.

What makes this experience exceptional is the chance to work on a brief from a client known for ubiquitous innovation. Because creative solutions aren’t necessarily limited to communications, this will be a crash course in the underpinnings of a future-ready career: data-driven creativity, user-experience design, and an analytical approach to strategy.

Was there a transformative, lightbulb moment in your own career when you realized you weren’t so bad at advertising?

Rather than a lightbulb moment, I’d describe my career as headlights in the dark – they illuminate the road enough to make it to the next milestone.

When the Creative Guild inducted me into the Hall of Fame in 2015, I gave a really long acceptance speech, which I’ll summarize: Let others shine. Learn by failing (flearn). Get angry. Never let a good idea die, and to paraphrase Mumford & Sons, “where you invest your time is where you invest your life.” Advertising takes up a lot of our waking (and sleeping!) hours.

None of us is likely to regret not having worked overtime for just one more hour.

What are your creative goals for MullenLowe Philippines in 2019?

We’re building a new product that creatively leverages hyperbundling, called the MullenLowe Influence Academy. Influencer marketing is on a growth trajectory, and influencers increasingly need a learning platform.

The Academy will pack the hyperbundled expertise of MullenLowe across branding, client management, marketing, digital and social strategy, content creation, and most recently, public relations into a made-for-influencers curriculum.

I’d also like to continue embedding data-driven creativity into our work culture to deliver more brave, authentic, culturally-resonant ideas for our clients.

MullenLowe acquired ARC Public Relations in May to create MullenLowe MARC. How has the acquisition impacted the agency’s creative process?

There’s a huge difference between having a PR-friendly idea and having an actual PR practice. PR isn’t merely a way to earn attention for an idea, but a strategic consideration from the start of the planning process. We’re already pretty agile as a team.

Our first meetings for big client briefs have business, planning, social, digital, creative, and PR in attendance, and we’re finding this leads to more creative and ambitious work.

You share your illustrations with 17K+ followers on Instagram. When did your obsession with illustrating (and Fountain Pens) begin? Why did you first begin sharing your sketches on Instagram, and what do you enjoy about this process?

Instagram began as an extension of my blog. I’ve been blogging since 2003, mostly about pens, and sometimes about work – I even still have my old posts from 2008 about judging at AdFest. Instagram seemed both prettier and quicker than blogging. Today, I consider it my internet home.

This generation of young creatives has most likely been tackling real-world client briefs since school. The hustle is real.

Being active on Instagram is part of an ongoing exploration into how things work and what makes them work better. I’m able to better articulate Instagram-centric campaigns to clients now that I understand the insights as a user. That’s also why I’m on Discord and Twitch. I often tell people to become their own guinea pigs.

As for fountain pens and paper – everyone needs an antidote to retina displays and keyboards.

You’ve given talks recently about the maker movement, and ingenuity. Can you share a little of what you know about both?

Maker Faire is my source of inspiration. I first attended one in New York in 2013, and now I try to go back every year.

In the advertising and marketing space, we’re used to separating ideas from production, the thought from the making, the head from the hand, the art from the copy, the front end from the back end. Now, we’re now seeing a change from the incoming batch of creators. They make what they think.

They produce their ideas, they shoot, write, illustrate, edit, score, tag, publish, boost, optimize, monetize. Every creator can be an algorithmically-assisted agency of one. And that’s what I consider the maker mindset – if you can think it, you can find a way to build it.

What’s your proudest achievement, professional or otherwise?

My proudest achievement is raising my son.

As a self-confessed lover of most things geeky, what was your favorite (or least favorite) tech discovery of 2018?

It would have to be Google Night Sight on the Pixel 3. Night Sight uses machine learning, so you get close to the right colours even in extremely low light.

Secondly, my Mercury Intelligent Heated jacket from Ministry of Supply. It’s the first jacket I’ve ever owned that comes with an app and a built-in battery pack.

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