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Women in Media - Lee Leggett - Initiative

Welcome to MediaScope's profile series where we regularly ask 'Women in Media' about their career, experiences in our industry and their views on the current state of the market. 

This time we feature Lee Leggett, CEO of IPG Mediabrands agency - Initiative.

Thanks to Lee for taking the time in her busy schedule to get involved. 

Peggy's List - a new initiative ensuring more women contribute to our industry events and trade media commentary. Launching Soon! Get in touch with MediaScope's founder for more information...

  • Name: Lee LeggettWomen in Media - Lee Leggett - Initiative
  • Company: Initiative
  • Role: CEO 

Tell us about your industry background?

After a degree in advertising management I joined Modem Media now Digitas.  As one of the first digital agencies, I managed some of the earliest digital advertising & website work in the UK.  

From there I joined Tribal DDB, part of BMP DDB. It was a wonderful agency and gave me a chance to develop my skills in an integrated environment. On to Grand Union, a start up and a brilliant journey in an entrepreneurial environment. 

Grand Union led to Dare which grew from 60 to 250 people in 5 years.  Being crowned Digital Agency of the Decade in 2010 was a career highlight.  When we merged with MCBD, an advertising agency, I become CEO.

After our family  move to Australia in 2013 I spent some time thinking about what I wanted to do.  Each move had been strategic and I wanted to lead a media organisation. The work I most admire sits at the intersection of creative, media & technology.  I had experienced the world of digital & advertising so the chance to work at Initiative was a great opportunity to build this knowledge and be part of creating a new world agency. 

Women in Media - Lee Leggett - InitiativeWhat is your role and what do you do?

I am CEO of Initiative in Australia. We have agencies in Sydney, Melbourne and Perth so my job is to set a strategic direction and provide leadership for the overall business and manage the 3 offices.  Most importantly, and most enjoyably, I spend the majority of my time looking after our brilliant people and clients.

What are your family circumstances and how do you manage your work/life balance?

We have 2 young children and I’m not sure I’d use the word ‘balance’ to describe our family life. For me it’s much more ‘blend’ and because my husband works in the industry we have a real appreciation of each other’s jobs & diaries!  

Without any family in Australia I am hugely dependent on my amazing nanny.  I also have an incredible EA who helps make my work life run as smoothly as possible. The team around me at work is key and I would like to think we have a healthy respect for each other as colleagues but also as people with lives outside the office. 

I work hard but I have no issue doing so as long as I’m there for the stuff that matters. Some weeks it all goes to plan. And at other times, it all falls apart. I’m pretty sure most mums will have experienced the same. 

Please outline your views on the general media market – what is the state of the media and any trends to watch out for?

As an industry we tend to speak a lot about the dramatic shifts with regards to how people are consuming media. What we forget is that the underlying behaviour of those people hasn’t changed at all. People have always shared & formed communities, just now they’re doing it on different platforms. I think a future trend will be increasing our focus beyond just distribution, and giving more thought to whether or not what we’re distributing is something that people care about.

It’s the word on everyone’s lips, but I feel as if the shift towards programmatic is going to give rise to a new type of media professional. In order to survive in the market we all need to bring on board big thinkers who are able to consider all the inputs & think about how we can use them to tell our stories. The methods of distribution are shifting dramatically, but the core of what we are doing – telling stories - has stayed the same.

What advice would you offer to your younger self as you started your career in our industry?

Work hard. Say yes to every opportunity. Find a mentor. Go to every networking event you can. Take time to look after yourself. If you don’t like what you are doing, do something else. Don’t wait to have children.  

What challenges have you faced in your career and how have you overcome them?

I honestly feel very lucky to have been supported by every boss that I’ve had.  At DDB I was given several opportunities to do more which resulted in me being promoted a number of times in that job. I did nearly every job in the agency which is a fantastic way to learn. I worked in Client Service and ran businesses, headed up the Account Management Department, was part of the team responsible for our expansion into Europe and ended up running New Business. 

At Dare I applied for, and was awarded the Patricia Mann Award which is designed to give opportunities to future female leaders.  One of the conditions of winning is that your employer should match the financial donation. My wonderful boss did & with the bursary I travelled to Wharton Business School in the US for 8 weeks & did an Advanced Management Programme which was life changing. 

A few years afterwards, whilst on maternity leave, I was promoted to CEO. Having my first child had a huge impact on how I viewed myself professionally and being given that type of opportunity at that point of change in my life is something I am hugely grateful for. I returned after 9 months into my new job with a bigger remit but equally a focus on what really matters. 

I now work in a very supportive business and there is a healthy level of support for me as an employee and a parent. I also have the pleasure of seeing many of my team start to have families and I am determined to ensure they are given the same opportunities and support that I was. 

What can our industry do right now to better recognise & support women & families?

I think our industry can do far more for working parents – both women & men.  Action is needed at a National level by politicians to address the cost of childcare and support for working parents. I am lucky that I can afford a nanny but for a huge number of families, the cost of childcare outweighs the wage. 

From an employer perspective I think we have to be willing to look at flexible ways of working. Without that we risk losing some wonderful women (in this instance it is a female issue) from our industry which is huge loss, from both an equality perspective but also an economic one. 

And from a personal perspective I think we can do more to support each other. In the UK there is a more developed networking culture which I have found to be hugely beneficial. I am still a member of WACL – Women in Advertising & Communication London – and that group has been, and continues to be, the most fantastic source of support & inspiration. 

What media do you consume? (both personal and business)

Personal: With 2 small kids, luxury is half an hour with a copy of Porter, Vogue or Vanity Fair. Netflix & I are big friends. I normally drive to work and I try to make the most of that time listening to work related podcasts in the morning & Spotify on the way home. And Facebook gets a fair bit of attention too.  

Business: I scan the Financial Review & The Australian every day, for industry news I still read Campaign & Ad Age religiously plus AdNews, Mumbrella & B&T to see what’s happening locally. 

Thank you!


Women in Media - She SaysSheSays - is a global networking organisation to support women in advertising, media, marketing and creative. It's entirely free and everyone involved is a volunteer. Come and join us at our next event. Find out more here - & join the SheSays Facebook page. 



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