Joe Carter: Career safety in advertising is an option

Joe Carter: Career safety in advertising is an option

CB Exclusive – By Joe Carter, communications director, Colenso BBDO


Safe. It’s how you want to feel in your home. Your car. Your walk to work. Your hairdressers. We’re conditioned to need safety.

But in your career, progress tends to come from the spaces that feel more uncertain. It’s awkwardly uncomfortable because stability becomes as normal as the rope to a circus tightrope walker. Our human instinct tells us to conform; to never even apply to be in the circus; but should we?

“Nothing good ever comes from being in your comfort zone.” It’s something I’ve heard multiple times (or versions of) from the advertising industry leaders we’ve had a chin wag with on the Love This Podcast. Most recently with Brent Smart, Chief Marketing Officer at IAG – a marketing phenome who has spent several years on the agency side before making the courageous jump to Australia. I mean, client side.

And whilst Brent spoke articulately to some incredibly important things that are happening, and will happen, within our industry, it’s his continued strength in staring fear in the face that astounded me. This courage to kill the weak stuff quickly, to make the good stuff, and to back the great stuff with a hypothetical mortgage – it’s often talked about, but rarely executed. This thinking isn’t exclusive to clients, either. And, beyond the work, this complex-but-simple demeanour shows up in a company’s culture, too. The ripple effect of fearlessness is translucent – you can’t see it until someone shines the light on it, but it’s always there.

Courage, to me, implies action. If I reflect upon my topsy turvy advertising career, there are several three month pauses of hesitation before committing to doing something differently. Some call it planning. I call it procrastinating. There’s a difference between me spending 3 hours every night watching Tony Robbins videos, and actually doing something with that knowledge. I’d like to say it was Tony (or even Colenso BBDO) that led me to New Zealand and a career in an office just over two years ago. In reality, it was pure luck combined with buying a plane ticket.

When you do get out of that comfort zone, I don’t think I’m alone in thinking that I’m going to get caught out. Or fired. Every day. A thought that’s paralyzed by fear but comes from no place more reliable than my own meandering brain. The same thought that I should have let go of yesterday.

So, next time you’re presented with an opportunity that’s deemed a ‘risk,’ ask yourself: what would happen if I play it safe?