A good conductor knows every instrument in his or her orchestra. Here, it’s Audra Lesosky’s baton that helps the agency compose great advertising as Executive VP.
Audra completed her Red River College Creative Communications diploma and entered the industry when Mac computers and desktop publishing were replacing typewriters and hand layouts. She couldn’t know it at the time, but, this intersection of time and experience would propel her career.
She worked in The North West Company’s advertising department, where she was the youngest employee at the time and considered best suited to learn new technology. So the company sent her to courses ,and to work in a graphic design supplier’s layout department so that she would bring her newfound knowledge back to share at the office.
“That was the best professional development I could have had,” says Audra. “But it was a strange position to be in at 21 years old, mentoring much more experienced co-workers.”
After 11 years in a variety of positions with the NWC, she became senior writer at McKim Communications where she learned the agency biz and earned a few accolades, including a Manitoba advertising award for best campaign. In 2001, she left McKim to join a young and growing design and communications agency, Taylor George Design. Five years later in 2006, McKim and TGD merged.
“And that’s a helluva good a reason not to burn bridges,” laughs Audra. “You never know when the two shores will come crashing together.”
Having worked with staff from both companies, Audra brought a unique perspective to the new McKim Cringan George; she knew how people’s talents would complement one another, resulting in a stronger agency right out of the gates.
Additionally, her broad experience as a communications generalist enabled her jump in at any stage of project or campaign development to share insight and provide direction to the creative team. With these talents, Audra’s position quickly evolved from creative director to director of strategic services, to VP accounts and strategic services. Today, she’s Executive VP at the agency, which was rebranded to McKim Communications Group in late 2013.
Writing strategy and cleaning house
Strategy has always been a major component of our creative development process, but Audra’s role is to emphasize this stage of the work and use it to build a platform for the creative team. Audra is an information junkie by nature, so becoming an expert on our clients’ business suits her perfectly, as demonstrated in her story, Branding Explained in the Time it Takes for a Plane to Land in Regina.
“I love taking introductory classes,” she explains. “I like immersing myself in something new, soaking it in, and moving on.”
During the initial stages of developing a campaign or brand, Audra and the account team sit down with the client to explore what they think they need and what they believe their brand represents. Audra says it’s like her brain soaks up what may seem to others like irrelevant bits of information during discussions and in her own research.
“All that information gets jumbled together in the back of my brain,” she says. “Strategic development is like cleaning your house – you need to move stuff around to really get into the corners. In the process, it gets messier, but in the end, it comes out shiny. It’s the storm before the calm.”
The most interesting ideas float to the top, she says, and often they’re things the client hasn’t considered because they’re too close to it. These are the real insights and clues to growing a client’s business.
Audra says writing strategy isn’t a formula. She doesn’t try to force every client’s challenge into a schematic.
“We’re a creative-focused agency, but sometimes the solution to a client’s problem isn’t a great ad. Sometimes the answer is a better approach to customer relations, or a public relations push, or a stronger digital presence. I think our agency’s willingness and capabilities as an integrated agency allows us to explore all possibilities, and this is what gives us an advantage in this market.”
With her thorough understanding of the business and a gift to see to the heart of the job, Audra’s direction strengthens the client’s brand and steers the agency team towards compelling creative.
“The fun part is when I see a direction I’ve helped establish articulated in the final creative,” she says. “When I see a tiny bit of myself in an amazing piece of creative our team conceived – even though I’m twice removed – I know I’ve done my job.”
Audra’s pursuits beyond the agency have also benefitted from the marketing skills she’s honed in the business. She’s a Winnipeg Fringe Theatre Festival all-star, using her design and promotion skills to generate buzz for her improv troupe and theatre company with posters, publicity and social media. This passion – stemmed from an introductory course in improv comedy – quickly evolved to 10++ years of festival performances. Every summer, her vacation time is spent at the festival.
“Even though the Fringe happens literally right where the agency’s offices are – and doing the Fringe is intense and exhausting – it’s a complete change from what I do every day,” she says. “So, really, it’s a vacation from my life and from myself.”
Always preferring a behind-the-scenes role, Audra isn’t on stage during her troupe’s shows, but as stage manager, she deftly decides when each scene ends, maintaining the pace of the show and seeking to end on a laugh.
In 2010, Audra and the two improvisers from ImproVision collaborated in writing her first piece of scripted theatre. Again behind the scenes, she serves as stage manager and makes costumes, props and sets for Macabre Tales of Horror and Macabreness. And it pays off every year with sold-out shows and five-star reviews.
One of Audra’s most appreciated qualities is her humility, and she will be the first to say that she’s “a jack of all trades and master of none.” But to her co-workers at McKim, she masters everything she sets her hands on and her incredible talent and intelligence helps makes everything come together.