Brazilian-born Carmela Soares has worked in South America, Europe and Australasia, in agencies from Ogilvy to DM9DDB, JWT and Havas. Late last year she moved from her role as Isobar Australia’s national creative director to become executive creative director at Clemenger BBDO Melbourne.
With her previous three years spent at digitally-focused shop Isobar, Carmela approaches creative challenges from a digital and technological perspective, but with a background working in three continents and speaking five languages, she’s got a breadth of experience not often matched in the industry.
LBB’s Alex Reeves caught up with Carmela to find out how her perspective affects her work as a creative leader at one of the world’s top agencies.
LBB> Growing up in Brazil, what do you remember about your early thoughts on advertising? Were you interested from an early age?
CS> Definitely. My father is a creative director, and my mother worked as an art director for ten years. I remember first reading One Show books when I was about seven. I thought the ads were funny, and I liked the charm of the ideas. I didn't want to go into advertising though, I wanted to be a ballerina.
LBB> When did you first consider going into it as a career?
CS> At 18, I was at uni studying French Literature and had been fired from my job in a video rental shop. My dad helped me find a paid internship as a copywriter in a small agency in Southern Brazil. I stubbornly said I would take the internship but would never follow the career. Fast-forward three years I was still there and loving it. I didn't quit dancing though, just in case.
LBB> You've worked in three continents and seven agencies. What are the biggest differences you've noticed across these experiences within the ad industry?
CS> Everything is different from country to country, from agency to agency. I think the main contrast in Australia, compared to the other places I've been, is the size of the population. It affects everything, from budgets to the way social media campaigns behave. That and punctuality. Brazilians are always late, so that was quite a cultural shift for me.
LBB> How do you think that breadth of experience affects the way you create work for clients?
CS> Moving to a different place is exciting, but also challenging. You've got to embrace the fact that you're going to be a little different, have an accent, make a faux pas or two. The only thing you can do is to be respectful and observe so that you can learn and adapt. You end up developing your empathy, which is a fundamental skill for the job, and one that I've learned by being a foreigner half of my life.
LBB> What lesson or piece of advice do you wish you'd had earlier in your career?
CS> Speak up.
LBB> You've been vocal about striving towards a 50/50 gender split in creative leadership. What have your experiences taught you about the most effective ways to achieve that?
CS> Unfortunately there's no magic formula to achieve that. It's hard work, time-consuming and there's a lot of resistance from people and organisations. Even places that commit to embracing the diversity struggle. You just need to keep being aware and speaking up.
LBB> What recent pieces of work are you particularly proud of and why?
CS> There's some new work that I'm excited about here at Clems, but it's still in development so I can't talk about it. From my time at Isobar I miss working with Slurpee, not because of a particular campaign, but because it was a four-year collaboration with this client that created a lot of good work.
LBB> How would you describe your creative leadership style?
CS> I spend a lot of time getting to know everyone and thinking how to work with them most productively. People have different skills and motivations, and understanding them is the only way to help them be their best.
LBB> What was it like joining Clemenger BBDO Melbourne late last year, so soon after they were named Cannes Lions' Agency of the Year?
CS> It's incredibly flattering that Clemenger saw something in me and my work that they feel would be a good fit. Having been at Agencies of the Year over the years, I've learned it's important to stay humble and not lose sight of the present.
LBB> You've worked at both traditional creative and more digitally-focused agencies in your career. How do you feel about that distinction?
CS> I do think primarily about interaction, and I'm fascinated by how technology can enhance communication. But I also think interactivity should be at the heart of everything we do, and it's not exclusive to digital. Even in a film, we should always consider how the idea will motivate and move people.
LBB> What do you like to do in your spare time? Any current obsessions?
CS> I've been very interested in narrative based games and interactive fiction. And puppies. We recently adopted a 13-ish-year-old Maltese called Uncle Vicenzo Gambini. He's napping on my lap as we speak.