Staff Reporters
Feb 1, 2024

Creative Minds: Weatherproofing ideas & creating Cannes-winning work, Marijke Spain crafts solutions beyond the ordinary

Impact designer, risk-taker extraordinaire—meet Leo Burnett, Australia's creative director, who helped Suncorp land an Innovation Grand Prix for 'One House to Save Many.'

Creative Minds: Weatherproofing ideas & creating Cannes-winning work, Marijke Spain crafts solutions beyond the ordinary
In Creative Minds, we ask APAC creatives a long list of questions, from serious to silly, and ask them to pick 11 to answer. (Why 11? Just because.) Want to be featured?

Name: Marijke Spain

Origin: Canberra, Australia

Places lived/worked: Australia and Canada

Pronouns: She, her


Creative director, Leo Burnett Australia, present
Senior art director, associate creative director to creative director, 2018 to present
Art director, The Works (Sydney), 2014 to 2018
Art director/designer, Coordinate, Canberra, 2013 to 2014
Designer, Moon Communications Group, Sydney, 2011 to 2012

1. How did you end up being a creative?

I’ve always been creative, and I love it. My mom tells a story of me walking out of kindergarten mid-lesson and taking myself to the balcony to do some painting. It seems I was strong-minded from a young age. Fifteen years later, I studied for a bachelor’s degree in communication (graphic) design. I got my first job in the industry as a designer, but I wasn’t entirely fulfilled with moving pixels; I was interested in creative thinking. So, I took a risk and enrolled in Award School, Australia’s leading advertising school and pretty much the unspoken prerequisite for becoming a creative.

I left my employer at that time to do the course. After completing the 12 weeks and submitting my portfolio, I had to go in for major surgery. The night of my graduation, I had no idea how it would pan out. But there wasn’t a chance in the world that I was going to miss it. I took another risk and checked myself out of the hospital early to attend the presentation night. I was one of only three females to get into the top 10, and that changed my career path forever.

2. What's your favourite piece of work in your portfolio?

I have a few for different reasons, but one is for a client in a tricky category—insurance. ‘One House to Save Many’ for Suncorp Group is the world’s first home designed, scientifically tested, and built to withstand cyclones, floods and bushfires.

To this day, it’s the one piece of work my friends and family really understand and appreciate. What we do is sometimes hard for anyone outside the industry to wrap their head around. But this is an idea that improves the way Australians live—it makes a real difference, and I’m proud of that.

3. What's your favourite piece of work created by someone else?

In recent years, I feel advertising (certainly in Australia) has been getting too serious and censored. So, I have an increased appreciation for things that are fun but of course, still smart, often simple and importantly, tap into a great, relatable human insight.

I love the '10PM-Bed-Verts' campaign by Howatson+Company, Sydney. The words are gold, so kudos to the writer for the elaborate pictures painted in my mind. I also have a thing for media placements outside the conventional.

4. What's on your bucket list?

So many things. I’d love to see the northern lights.

5. Who was the most important person in your life that wasn’t your parent?

My sister. Despite being five years apart, I think we might have the same brain.

6. Do you work best under pressure, or when things are calm?

Under pressure. There’s an undeniable focus and momentum that comes from a deadline.

7. How would your co-workers describe you?

Direct. Sometimes too direct, ha!

8. What would you do on your perfect day?

Wake up camping on or near the water. Early swim, coffee, and breakfast, before plenty of fun in the sun with good company.

9. Do you have a nickname? Why?

Oh, I have so many. Mostly derived from mispronunciations of my name. There’s Marajike, Mareejakee, Marooke… the list goes on! People see the ‘J’ and then just freak out, stabbing in the dark. The most common nickname I have is MJ.

10. Early riser or night owl?

Early riser. Ideally, to do something active. Mindset and productivity are best in the morning, sets you up for a good day.

11. Extrovert or introvert?

Extrovert. Although, as with most, I think I still have some introverted qualities.

Campaign Asia

Related Articles

Just Published

12 hours ago

Edelman global revenue falls 3.7% to $1.04 billion ...

The independent agency’s performance was impacted by a 9.1% decrease in the US, while Asia-Pacific rose by 1.7%, with Korea, India and Singapore all posting gains.

13 hours ago

Google incorporates Gemini into Performance Max

The roll-out of Performance Max's enhanced generative AI capabilities will begin in the US in March in English, expanding globally thereafter.

13 hours ago

Women to Watch Greater China 2024: Amanda Ma, ...

Ma’s deep understanding of the Chinese market and its nuances, and the ability to unify and inspire diverse functional teams are instrumental in her holistic strategy to develop talent effectively.

14 hours ago

Looking back, looking forward: Tze Kiat Tan, BBDO Asia

In a fresh series, APAC adland CEOs share their hopes and fears for the year ahead and reflect on 2023. In this edition, we chat with Tze Kiat Tan, CEO of BBDO Asia.