Leadership
Jan Jacobs
Jan Jacobs
Co-Founder & Chief Creative Officer
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Jan Jacobs

Jan Jacobs believes that as creators we must protect the power of a brand at all costs. Through deep collaboration with client partners there is a powerful opportunity to create long-term brand platforms that transform organizations.

In 2007 he formed Johannes Leonardo in partnership with fellow creative Leo Premutico. The independent agency was founded out of the belief that brands had to fundamentally change their relationships with consumers, and to inspire courageous acts that lead to true advertising effectiveness.

Over the course of his 25+ year career in advertising, Jacobs’ ideas have helped transform some of the world’s most iconic and influential companies. The agency’s “Drive Bigger” platform for Volkswagen is helping to lead a turnaround for the world’s largest automaker. MassMutual’s “Live Mutual" platform is helping to modernize the 165 year old insurance company into a category leader. While their repositioning of adidas Originals into challengers of the status quo with their “Strikethrough” campaign, has contributed to an unprecedented turnaround for the company and was awarded multiple effectiveness and creative awards, including the 2017 Entertainment for Music Grand Prix.

Johannes Leonardo has also repeatedly been called upon by the world’s leading technology companies - Amazon and Google. Helping to move their advertising industry toward a more modern form of storytelling for the latter, resulting in the mobile Grand Prix at the Cannes Advertising Festival for their Google Re:Brief campaign.

Most recently, the agency was named Adweek’s Breaththrough Agency of the Year in 2019 and #3 AdAge’s Top Ten ‘A-List’ in 2020.

Jacobs fervently believes it’s the job of the agency to instill courage in their clients. And doing so requires deep collaboration, valued partnership, and listening.

Jacobs’ work has been recognized at every major international award show including, the One Show, D&AD, Effies, the Clios and Cannes Lions. He previously held a jury chair of the South African award show, The Loeries, and twice has been featured in Creativity's 50 Most Influential People. Finally, Jacobs’ and Premutico’s Tide ‘Talking Stain’ commercial was nominated as one of the top twenty Super Bowl ads of all time.

In the early days of his career, Jacobs was closely involved with the advertising industry in South Africa starting at Y&R Cape Town followed by stints at Ogilvy and later at TBWA Hunt Lascaris. During this time his work contributed to the latter two agencies becoming Ad Age’s International Agency of the year. He won four Loerie Grands Prix in his last three years in SA, and the country’s first Gold Cyber Lion at Cannes. Jacobs was lured overseas to Bozell New York in 2011, where he oversaw the 9/11 New York Times print campaign. At Bozell he twice won the Newspaper Association’s award for the best press advertising in America, as well as third place in Agency of the Year at Cannes.

Jacobs lives in Manhattan with his wife Amber and three kids ages 15, 13 and 10. When he is not helping his agency create great work, he’s most likely off surfing.

Leo Premutico
Leo Premutico
Co-Founder and Chief Creative Officer
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Leo Premutico

Leo Premutico believes that today’s communication era presents every company with the opportunity to have a rich, meaningful and effective existence. But that there’s only one way to do so - by tapping into the power of courageous creativity.

In 2007 he formed Johannes Leonardo in partnership with Jan Jacobs. A creative agency designed for an era where ‘the consumer is the medium’ with a mission to inspire the courageous acts that lead to true advertising effectiveness.

For over a decade now his ideas have helped transform some of the world’s most iconic and influential companies. The agency’s “Drive Bigger” platform for Volkswagen is helping to lead a turnaround for the world’s largest automaker. MassMutual’s “Live Mutual" platform is helping to modernize the 165 year old insurance company into a category leader. While their repositioning of adidas Originals into challengers of the status quo with their “Strikethrough” campaign, has contributed to an unprecedented turnaround for the company and was awarded multiple effectiveness and creative awards, including the 2017 Entertainment for Music Grand Prix.

Johannes Leonardo has also repeatedly been called upon by the world’s leading technology companies - Amazon and Google. Helping to move their advertising industry toward a more modern form of storytelling for the latter, resulting in the mobile Grand Prix at the Cannes Advertising Festival for their Google Re:Brief campaign.

Most recently, the agency was named Adweek’s Breaththrough Agency of the Year in 2019 and #3 AdAge’s Top Ten ‘A-List’ in 2020.

Leo fervently believes it’s the job of his agency to instill courage in their clients. And doing so requires deep listening and partnership.

Leo’s work has been recognized at every major international award show, including the One Show, D&AD, Cannes Lions and the Clios. He has twice been featured in Creativity's 50 Most Influential People, and his Tide “Talking Stain” commercial was nominated as one of the top 20 Super Bowl ads of all time. Earlier in his career, Leo won the Ansett Encouragement Award for Young Creative of the Year and was named the Best Young Creative in the United Kingdom by Campaign magazine. Leo is a sought-after thought leader and has been featured in publications including Forbes, Fast Company, Ad Age, Adweek and Campaign US.

Leo is most proud when he sees his teams achieve things they didn’t think possible and is most honored when he is able to share his experience with the industry’s emerging talent. Away from Johannes Leonardo, you can find Leo on a Sydney beach trying to convince his wife and two boys he’s in no need of a Mini Mal.

Bryan Yasko
Bryan Yasko
President
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Bryan Yasko

As president of Johannes Leonardo, Bryan Yasko is responsible for fostering overall growth, development and integration across the 200-person independent creative agency as it continues to deliver communications platforms that drive impact for some of the world’s most well-known companies.

Under his leadership, Johannes Leonardo was named #4 on Ad Age’s ‘Top Ten’ A-List in 2018 and again in 2020 as #3 for its consistent credibility in the industry for generating powerful brand ideas that transform organizations from the inside out. Last year, the agency was also named Adweek Magazine’s Breakthrough Agency of The Year as well as the most effective independent agency in North America by the Effie’s Index.

Bryan’s 20-year career encompasses a stellar record of delivering new business growth and inspiring award-winning, effective work for global brands.
 
Before joining Johannes Leonardo in 2016, Bryan was the Global Business Director and a member of the executive management team at Droga5, where he led the agency’s largest accounts and new business wins including Google, Motorola, and Chase.

Bryan’s powerful vision within the agency has extended to the industry at large as a sought-after thought leader. Last year, he spoke on-stage at Ad Age’s Small Agency Conference and Mirren Live discussing topics surrounding building and scaling independent agencies, and how to make long-term bets on strategic talent. In 2017, Bryan was listed on the Adweek 50 as one of the media execs leading the charge toward transformation.

Bryan graduated from The Ohio State University with a B.A. in Psychology and Sociology. He lives in Manhattan with his wife and two sons.

Ferdinando Verderi
Ferdinando Verderi
Founding Member & Partner
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Ferdinando Verderi

Ferdinando Verderi is a founding member, partner and creative director at Johannes Leonardo. Since the agency’s start, Ferdinando has focused on expanding the agency’s reach towards the fashion, lifestyle and luxury industries stewarding global creative partnerships with clients such as Chanel, Alexander Wang and adidas Originals, Ferdinando was born in Italy and is based in NY.

Emily Wilcox
Emily Wilcox
Head of Account Management
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Emily Wilcox

As the head of account management at Johannes Leonardo, Emily leads the agency’s robust client portfolio for some of the world’s most iconic businesses including, Volkswagen, adidas Originals, Kraft-Heinz and MassMutual. Additionally, as a member of the executive leadership team, Emily’s role encompasses bringing together strategic talent and resources that drive impact across agency development, client relationships and creative output.

Wilcox believes that creative brilliance can only be achieved when backed with strategic rigor and discipline. By championing upstream client management and encouraging integration across previously siloed teams, Wilcox has transformed JL into a powerful client solutions business, which has resulted in the agency’s accelerated growth over the past several years.

Emily empowers her teams to lead courageously and position themselves at the center of their client’s business objectives. As a result, her team have been creative stewards of some of the agency’s most impactful and awarded campaigns including adidas Originals “Original Is Never Finished” and MassMutual’s “Live Mutual” brand platform. Last year after the agency won Volkswagen, Emily created a new multiple agency integration model for the largest piece of business in JL’s history. Thus, it was the agency’s courageous work on Volkswagen that landed Johannes Leonardo the recognition of Adweek’s Breakthrough Agency of The Year in 2019.

Most recently the agency was named #3 on Ad Age’s ‘Top Ten’ A-List.

Throughout her 15+ years in advertising, Emily has created a legacy of transformation for the brands that she manages by challenging the way that heritaged companies connect with consumers. Prior to joining Johannes Leonardo, Emily was the SVP, Group Account Director at Saatchi & Saatchi where she led the General Mills account across a portfolio of brands including Cheerios, Pillsbury, Green Giant, Yoplait and Progresso. As a member of the NY leadership team, Emily was responsible for spearheading and maintaining agency integration across the Publicis Groupe network by inputting to the C-Suite on a monthly basis. Prior to Saatchi, Emily worked at William Morris Endeavor Entertainment on the Global Revlon and Almay businesses.

A strong supporter of the next generation of advertising talent, Emily is a sought after thought leader and mentor in the advertising industry at large. In addition to Emily’s commentary featured in key industry publications including Ad Age, Campaign US and Adweek, Emily has been a guest speaker at AAF AdCamp, and has been involved in multiple youth development programs throughout her career. Emily has also served as a judge for several industry award shows including the Jay Chiat awards and Ad Age’s A-LIst and Creativity awards.

Emily holds a B.A. in Public Communications from SUNY College at Buffalo, and an M.B.A. from The College of St. Rose. An avid runner and tennis player, Emily lives in Queens with her husband and daughter.

Mark Aronson
Mark Aronson
Head of Strategy
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Mark Aronson

As Johannes Leonardo’s Head of Strategy, Mark Aronson leads a talented group of Brand, and Communications strategists across the agency’s roster of clients including adidas Originals, Volkswagen, MassMutual, EA Sports, among others.

Mark’s belief in the power of undeniable brand truths to grow businesses has helped spearhead successful brand platforms including Originals is Never Finished for, Live Mutual for MassMutual, and Drive Bigger for Volkswagen. Under Mark’s leadership, the agency achieved its most historic year yet in 2019, landing the recognition of #3 on Ad Age’s 2020 A-List, Adweek’s 2019 Breakthrough Agency of The Year and Effie’s 2nd Most Effective Independent Agency in 2019.

Mark joined JL in 2016 from BBH New York, where he oversaw strategy across disciplines for Netflix Originals, Seamless, Johnnie Walker, British Airways, Dove Men+Care, and Newell Rubbermaid’s 19 global brands. Mark spearheaded the integration of Strategy, media, and UX across clients, ultimately earning an Integrated Grand Prix at Cannes for Netflix’s House of Cards franchise. Prior to joining BBH, Mark worked at Crispin Porter + Bogusky in Boulder leading strategy on Best Buy, Dominos, and MetLife. Before that, Mark worked at CP+B in Toronto (and its predecessor Zig) on brands like IKEA, Molson-Coors, Greenpeace, and Unilever's AXE brand.

Mark holds a degree in Industrial Relations from McGill University in Montreal. Mark currently lives in Brooklyn with his wife and young son.

Bill Afonso
Bill Afonso
Chief Financial Officer
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Bill Afonso

As Chief Financial Officer, Bill believes that creative agencies cannot be run via a spreadsheet and that creativity is only valuable if you are courageous. In his role, Bill sits at the intersection of business and creativity leading Johannes Leonardo’s finance discipline and ushering the agency through the new creative economy. Since joining the agency in May 2018, Bill has had the opportunity to guide the business through incredible, long-term growth that resulted in Johannes Leonardo’s most successful and historic year yet in 2019.

Bill joined JL from 72andSunny AMS, where he spent three years as Finance Director and member of the management team helping to grow the office in revenue, forecasting, and overall financial acumen. Prior to his time in Amsterdam, Bill worked at 72andSunny LA. Bill was employee number 60, and over the course of seven years helped to grow the agency. He helped set up offices in NY and AMS, as well as worked with leadership to develop financial models and best financial practices for the agency.

A thought leader within the industry, Bill has been requested to speak at various industry events and most recently, wrote an op-ed piece on the new rules of the creative economy and the evolving role of the CFO in Campaign US. Bill graduated from the State University of New York at Albany with a B.A. in Communications and holds a MBA from Pepperdine University with a concentration in finance. Bill lives in Manhattan with his wife and cat, and has a lifelong obsession with the New York Islanders.

Debra Sercy
Debra Sercy
Chief Talent Officer
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Debra Sercy

In 2019, Debra Sercy joined Johannes Leonardo as the agency’s first Chief Talent Officer with a vision to make the employee experience the best it could be at the agency. In her role, Debra leads the now 200-person agency's talent strategy efforts by collaborating across departments to implement modern workplace strategies that embody the culture and creative output.

Debra’s passion for her work at Johannes Leonardo is fueled by the agency’s mission and vision to exist to create a world of courageous brands and generate transformative ideas that change perspectives, advocate for people and unlock the power of organizations from the inside out.

Debra’s twenty-plus years in advertising at founder-led, independent, creative agencies coupled with her time advising the leadership of the industry at Grace Blue crystallized her view that creative agencies will define the future of our business. Debra started in advertising at a regional agency in Atlanta. She then helped The Richards Group create an in-house presence for The Home Depot. In 2006, she joined Mother where she spent almost seven years managing global brands and the account (Mother) group.

Grace Blue flipped Debra from candidate to regional founder in 2012. While at Grace Blue, Debra was responsible for leading, alongside her partners, the team in North America by defining the strategic direction of the business and managing key relationships with agencies, brands, and candidates on a global basis.

Away from Johannes Leonardo, Debra proudly sits on the AAF’s Mosaic Council, an industry-leading think-tank on diversity and inclusion. In her spare time, she pursues her quest to see as much of the world as possible.

Maria Perez
Maria Perez
Head of Production & Operations
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Maria Perez

Maria Perez leads the production and business affairs department in delivering exceptional and effective creative output for the agency. Additionally, Perez oversees day-to-day operations at Johannes Leonardo, including implementing multi-departmental processes, systems and approaches that maximize scale for the agency.

Hailing from Madrid, Perez has had a 25-year-long career spanning various digital and integrated production roles. Prior to joining Johannes Leonardo in 2016, Perez was a freelance producer for four years, during which time she worked on projects for adidas. Over the course of her career, Perez has held positions at agencies 72andSunny in Amsterdam and 180 Amsterdam.
During her career, Perez has managed thousands of productions, including spots for adidas, Samsung, Smirnoff, Coke, Versace, Alexander Wang and Benetton, which have resulted in accolades from international award shows like Cannes, the Clios and The One Show.

Ben Myers
Ben Myers
Head of Business Development
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Ben Myers

Ben Myers leads business development at Johannes Leonardo, building out the agency’s offerings for brands who value long lasting brand solutions for their modern marketing challenges.

Ben’s 16-year career to date has been spent working at some of the world’s best agencies and with clients across a variety of categories. In working with brands like GE, Bank of America, GameStop, HBO, The Patron Spirits Company, Blizzard Entertainment, Motorola, Red Lobster, and Pizza Hut among others.

Johannes Leonardo hired Ben in 2018 to head up business development, working with the management team to grow the agency with vision and purpose.

Megan Piro
Megan Piro
Head of Communications Strategy
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Megan Piro

Meg joined Johannes Leonardo in 2017 to start the agency’s communications planning discipline, which quickly became essential in JL’s creative development process. Communications Strategy has played an instrumental role in bringing on new accounts like Electronic Arts, GAP, Volkswagen and WeWork, and in creating impactful launch and connections strategies for campaigns like Volkswagen’s “Drive Bigger” brand relaunch, Amazon Fire TV's "Can your TV do that?", EA Madden’s “Make Your Play” and adidas Originals’ Nite Jogger.

Prior to joining JL, Meg was the Communications Strategy Director at Bartle Bogle Hegarty NY where she led the communications planning discipline and worked on several of the agency’s most impactful campaigns including Netflix’s House of Cards "FU 2016" which received seven Lions at the 2016 Cannes Festival including the Integrated Grand Prix, among other accolades.

Meg began her career in media planning at Wieden+Kennedy NY where she worked on ABC Entertainment, primarily focusing on media strategy and integrated planning for the network’s primetime show launches.