Young Gun: Carat Australia strategist Nicola Watkins

28 May 2020

Our Young Gun profile takes a look at some of the young talent across the advertising, adtech, marketing and media sector in Australia. It aims to shed light on the varying roles, people and companies across the buzzing industry.

Today we speak to Carat Australia strategist Nicola Watkins.

Time in current role/time at the company:
Shy of three years as a strategist and 11 months back at Carat.

How long have you been in the industry?
Five years – closing in on six.

How did you get here? Was this always the plan?
Getting into the industry wasn’t planned. I saw a job ad on the university careers page for a coordinator at Carat. I didn’t really understand what the role was, I hadn’t finished my degree yet (therefore didn’t meet the job spec), but I was overly keen to beat the rush of graduates at the end of the year. I’m forever grateful my GBD at the time took a chance. He’s hired me twice since then, so I hope it paid off.

Getting to where I am now was semi-planned. I was keen to go back agency-side to stretch my thinking across more channels. Danni (my boss now) reached out for a coffee and a chat. I’d heard great things about her as a human and a strategist – so I was stoked the timing aligned.

Who is your right-hand person?
Rob Christian is technically my right-hand person in our distant office life. We’ve agreed we’re like “Lisa” and “Bart” with our healthy sibling-like rivalry. He’s also very much the yin to my yang and keeps me balanced.

My guide would be my director, Paul Baker. I admire his “pinball table” approach that keeps me going in the right direction – fuelled by the ability to call me out, add perspective and challenge my thinking.

What’s the best thing about the industry you work in?
The people + The collaboration = Maximised potential.

None of the best campaigns have ever been crafted solely from one person. How many individuals get to work with multiple brands, across multiple disciplines, and tap into multiple specialist skills as part of their industry? I think some of the common pain points are also some of our biggest advantages – I don’t know what our industry would be without them.

And the biggest challenge?
Dare I mention COVID? I’m worried about the repercussions of remote workforces. In an industry where our successes are a result of collaboration and collective power of thought – I don’t know if video conferences will hinder or harbour the strength of these connections.

People rarely end up in our industry intentionally so recruiting and retaining future talent is going to be one of the biggest challenges. Our greatest sell is our people and our collaboration – so we’ll have to go to extra lengths to keep this appeal alive. Can you imagine being a fresh coordinator spending all day in BCC without the energy of others around you?

We need to make sure when the industry comes out the other side of this in whatever adapted state, we maintain a collectivist and connected working experience.

Maybe these are just the ramblings of a low-key extrovert who’s jealous of every introvert who’s thriving right now. Don’t get me wrong though – I do appreciate the extra time to walk my dogs in the morning!

Whose job have you set your sights on in the future?
I’m not out to topple anyone off their thrones, but I’m keen to move upstream and get closer to our clients’ business problems in the context of how they affect their marketing outputs and where potential is being capped. Somewhere in Dentsu Solutions would be great.

Where do you turn for inspiration?
WARC (or WAAAARC as my team members think I pronounce it!)

It’s not thrilling – but more knowledge is my biggest fuel for inspiration and putting it into practice stretches my thinking. It’s cheesy but it’s a satisfying feeling to apply new learnings successfully.

My favourite advert is:
Terry Tate Office Linebacker - Reebok. It’s the memorability that gets me. It’s the earliest ad I can remember (it came out 17 years ago) and I don’t even know how I saw it. I was nine when it was shown in the Superbowl – and we only had FTA television so a) the fact I saw it says something and b) remembering it seventeen years later is notable.

Tell us one thing people at work don’t know about you?
For someone who’s meant to be in touch with culture – I’ve got some pretty big blind spots. I never read Harry Potter and the only Starwars movie I’ve watched was from force because we had to analyse the music score in Year 12 Music Extension.

In five years' time I'll be:
Career wise – in Dentsu Solutions.

Life wise – with a few more sporting achievements under my belt in the form of distance paddling or lifesaving events.

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