As the president and co-owner of LEAP Spark, a full-service production agency, Ember Marr leads businesswomen to success. But in addition to being accomplished professionally — supporting LEAP Spark clients for the past six years, while growing the company’s diversity by 400 percent — she is also active in the community, serving on the board of the animal rescue nonprofit, KY Hopeful Paws. Meet our inspiring new FACE of Louisville, Ember Marr!

Ember Marr, president of LEAP Spark, posing in a black floral blouse

Please welcome this week’s FACE of Louisville Ember Marr of LEAP Spark.

What is LEAP Spark, and what was your path there?

LEAP was one of the first digital-only agencies in Louisville when it was founded 23 years ago. Now we’re a full-service marketing agency; we refer to ourselves as a production agency because it clarifies how we work … We have an entire film team, a photography studio up in Cincinnati, an animation team, and a whole film crew.

I went to business school at the University of Louisville and have always worked on the marketing side of the equine industry. I worked with numerous racetracks on a consulting basis before moving to a full-time position with a startup for fantasy horse racing and horse racing media. Before joining LEAP Spark, I worked as their marketing director for quite some time. I came in as a director, took over for the former president, and then they asked me to sign on as a co-owner.

What’s the best part about your job?

The best part about my job is being able to revamp the way that people think about advertising and marketing. When a lot of people think about marketing, they have this idea of Don Draper from Mad Men — but I think that’s dead. I think the days of advertising agencies only being led by white males are over.

Customers and clients want to reach diverse audiences, and they want diverse voices within their marketing. Our team is proudly diverse; we have an 89% diversity index, which I would say challenges any other agency in Louisville and throughout the Midwest. I love being able to find talent from nontraditional areas and diverse voices and bring them to the forefront of everything we do. It’s something I’m really passionate about.

Ember and man helping a young female student

While the stereotypical view of marketing agencies may elicit thoughts of Mad Men, Ember explains that clients are looking for more diverse voices in their marketing.

On the other side of that, what’s the most challenging aspect of your work?

I think the most challenging thing about being in marketing is giving yourself the space to keep up with the changing tides — just keeping up with everything and learning new technologies. We used to live in a 20-minute news cycle, and now we live in a 20-second news cycle. We have to keep up with what’s next while trying to be predictive and prescriptive about our clients’ budgets and how we’re going to use them to ensure they’re at the forefront of their industry. It’s something that you have to work at every day, so you’re not left behind. You have to keep your finger on the pulse.

How do you accomplish that?

A lot of reading and attending a lot of seminars. It’s also a lot of playing with new things, like the Oculus. Everyone in the building has one now, so we’re starting to have meetings in the Metaverse, which is really interesting.

What else does LEAP Spark do to support its employees?

Well, it’s an interesting time to be a woman right now, and we have a lot of women at the agency. We’re currently working on a lot of initiatives through our diversity committee to be able to support our female staff through this time. We’re changing how we word our support of out-of-state medical travel in light of Roe v. Wade being struck down. Effective immediately, we’re offering reimbursement for necessary travel expenses to access healthcare providers if any of our teammates — or their family members on our healthcare plans — happen to live in a state where access to certain healthcare choices, including reproductive care like abortion, is restricted.

Ember Marr posing with a group of people at the AAF Awards

“We used to live in a 20-minute news cycle, and now we live in a 20-second news cycle,” says Ember of the challenge of remaining technologically current. Here she is attending the American Advertising Awards.

You and LEAP Spark are also big on supporting the community. Are there any new initiatives you’re working on?

Yes! Sometime this fall or winter, we’ll be launching “Leap Into Video,” a weekend program out of our Cincinnati office designed to allow students from underrepresented communities to learn practical skills in the field of videography and production.

On a personal note, I spend some of my free time working on the board of KY Hopeful Paws. Right now, it’s not a great time to be a dog. At the beginning of the pandemic, many people adopted dogs and cleaned out the shelters — but they’ve since brought them back. Being on the board and seeing behind the scenes of everything that’s going on is both scary and sad. I joined the organization to foster during the pandemic, and I ended up building their website for them.

Now that I’m more involved, I’ve seen so many dogs come through — everything from Boston Terriers to Doodles. We’ve probably gotten through the rescue of every breed you’ve ever thought of. It feels good to be able to help them.

Ember Marr posing in a warehouse in a black floral blouse

Ember spends much of her free time working with KY Hopeful Paws, an organization devoted to local dog rescue.

What is the best advice you’ve ever given or received?

“Feedback is a gift.” A lot of people are not great at giving and receiving feedback or having uncomfortable conversations. But I think the more you can make yourself comfortable with discomfort, the easier things will be for you because you’re able to grow and learn.

Aside from faith, family, and friends, what are three things you can’t live without?

My rescued Australian stumpy tail cattle dog, Carl; being able to travel with my husband and experience cultures other than our own; and my mom’s key lime pie.

Thank you, Ember! All photography provided.


Meet more inspiring women from Louisville and across the South by visiting our archives.