Pedro Lerma: The Visionary Leader of LERMA/

As the founder and CEO of LERMA/, an innovative multicultural advertising agency based in Dallas, Pedro Lerma has built a remarkable career by championing diversity, embracing technological advancements, and continuously pushing the boundaries of creative advertising.

Pedro Lerma WIN podcast

Early Beginnings and Entrepreneurial Spirit

Pedro Lerma’s journey into entrepreneurship began with humble roots. Born in Dumas, Texas, to hardworking Mexican parents, Lerma was exposed to the value of hard work and perseverance early on.  His earliest exposure to entrepreneurship came from working for his uncle’s construction company, where he worked to earn money to buy his first car and pay his university tuition.

His initial foray into running and owning a business came during his college years when he and his friends opened a bar in Wichita Falls, Texas. This early experience taught him the fundamentals of running a business and the importance of taking risks.

In 1998, Lerma moved to Dallas to join The Richards Group, one of the most prestigious advertising agencies in the country.

Pedro’s application was unique – he created a mockup of the cover of a popular advertising industry magazine, featuring himself and the announcement that he had been hired by The Richards Group.  The subtitle indicated their competition should be concerned.  It turns out, the cover was accurate.  Pedro was hired to begin focusing on a new frontier – digital advertising.  He was empowered to explore, create and innovate – and that became Mr. Lerma’s calling card.  Pedro Lerma finds interesting solutions to solve important problems.

Starting as an account supervisor in their digital division, he quickly demonstrated his ability to innovate and lead. Under the mentorship of Dick Mitchell, Lerma grew the division into the most prominent affiliate within The Richards Group’s family of companies. His success led to the launch of Richards/Lerma in 2009, a Hispanic-focused division that he eventually spun off into his independent agency, LERMA/, in 2021​ (D Magazine)​​ (Latino Leaders)​.

Championing Diversity and Inclusivity

One of the core pillars of Lerma’s leadership is his unwavering commitment to diversity and inclusivity. He believes in leading brand storytelling with underrepresented groups, a strategy that not only resonates deeply with these audiences but also has a broader appeal. Lerma’s vision is to ensure that the advertising industry authentically represents multicultural communities, breaking down stereotypes and promoting inclusive narratives​ (AdChatDFW)​​ (LERMA/)​.

During our interview, Mr. Lerma shares on an important topic, brought to attention for an award-winning campaign for a household name:  Home Depot.

Latina women are growing our economy at a higher rate than any other demographic, yet for every dollar a white man makes, a Latina woman makes only sixty cents.  He encouraged Home Depot to advertise directly to the Latina community, and not only did it increase Home Depot’s market share, it won them an award for in 2024.  Lerma believes that by leading your brand with storytelling that is relevant to your most underrepresented clients, you can not only capture new market shares, but bring awareness to important issues, and earn the business of all demographics, who will rally around a brand that is doing the right thing.  He mentions Nike as his “white whale” later in the interview, noting that he admires the way Nike has supported athletes who are using their popularity and platforms for change.

You can view the LERMA/ Home Depot spot that earned Home Depot an acknowledgement from the National Advertising Association as the most culturally inclusive brand in 2024 here:

The Home Depot

This commitment is to inclusivity and taking on the topics other agencies might not is seen throughout LERMA/’s work, such as the “He Gets Us” campaign, which aims to rebrand Jesus and Christianity with a focus on inclusivity. Despite the controversy surrounding the campaign’s conservative financial backers, Mr. Lerma ensured that the creative process upheld the agency’s inclusive values​ (AdChatDFW)​.

Here is one of the LERMA/ spots for He Gets Us:

View the entire LERMA/ “He Gets Us” series here

Embracing Innovation and Technology

Lerma’s background in digital advertising has given him a unique perspective on the importance of embracing technological change. At Lerma/, innovation is a continuous pursuit. The agency has developed an emerging technologies lab that focuses on areas like Web3.0 and e-Sports, recognizing the shift in how younger audiences engage with content. This proactive approach to technology ensures that Lerma/ stays at the forefront of the industry​ (Latino Leaders)​​ (LERMA/)​.

Inclusivity and AI

LERMA/ has taken significant steps to address bias in AI.

By developing models that use diverse imagery, the agency is working to create more representative and inclusive advertising content. This initiative not only sets a standard within the industry but also aligns with Lerma’s broader mission of championing diversity​ (AdChatDFW)​.

During the interview, Mr. Lerma explains why they felt a more inclusive image generator was necessary.  When they searched for photos of Hispanic men, they were often presented with stereotypical imagery.  LERMA/ created the AI image generator using photos of their own diverse staff, then made the AI image generator available for anyone to use.

Recognition and Impact

Pedro Lerma’s contributions to the advertising industry have not gone unnoticed. On back to back years, LERMA/ was named Small Agency of the Year by Advertising Age, a testament to their impact and excellence. Mr. Lerma himself was recognized as Agency Executive of the Year, further cementing his status as a visionary leader​ (D Magazine)​​ (AdChatDFW)​.  They have outgrown “Small Agency” status, and have since been recognized on the Advertising Age “A List”.

Mr. Lerma’s approach to advertising—rooted in diversity, innovation, and a deep understanding of cultural nuances—has positioned his agency as a leader in the industry. His journey from a small-town upbringing to leading an award-winning agency serves as an inspiration to aspiring entrepreneurs and highlights the importance of inclusive and forward-thinking leadership.

Pedro Lerma win podcast cover art

For a deeper dive into Pedro Lerma’s insights and to hear his story in his own words, listen to our latest podcast episode on WIN: What’s Important Now

Tune in to learn more about his entrepreneurial journey, his strategies for success, and his vision for the future of advertising.

You can listen to the entire interview here, or on your preferred podcast platform!

 

 

If you enjoyed this interview, here are a few other WIN guests you may enjoy learning from:

Maria Marin, Unlimited Recycling, EY Entrepreneur of the Year Nominee Series 2023

Laura Biggerstaff, Iron Elk, making workwear comfortable and safe for women in trades.

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