‘They’re kind of built to kill ideas, right?’: How Telstra CMO Brent Smart influenced creativity at corporations

When Brent Smart made the move from agency world to a big corporation like Telstra, he knew it’d be a significant culture shock, but it also gave him a massive opportunity to influence and inspire.

Appearing on a new episode of Mumbrella’s one-on-one podcast series, the Telstra chief marketing officer discussed making the jump to the telco and one of Australia’s biggest brands in 2022 and his first impressions coming in, having worked at agencies all around the world, including Saatchi and Saatchi in New York.

“There’s such a meeting culture inside corporations. There’s also a big adjustment in [that] every category has got its, sort of, jargon. I worked in insurance, which speaks a whole different language that you’ve got to get used to. Now I work in telco – it’s a whole other language that you’ve sort of got to get your head around,” Smart told host Neil Griffiths.

“So there’s also that adjustment you go through too, which is learning the category dynamics, learning the category language, understanding how the category works.”

However, the biggest change Smart says he experienced coming into Telstra was the creative culture.

“[Corporations] are normally about process and it’s about sort of managing things and structures and structure and all that. It’s the opposite of creativity normally,” he explained.

“I mean, I’ll often say nothing has ever been invented in history that’s as good at killing an idea as a corporation. They’re kind of built to kill ideas, right? In many ways. But if you can change that and you can bring creativity and innovation inside a corporation, particularly one with scale, they can touch a lot of people. Then you can really make a big difference.

“And I think that’s what excites me – bringing creativity into these big corporations, to these big brands. I feel like it’s a bit of a mission I’m on to do that. I find it really inspiring.”

Smart will appear at next week’s Mumbrella360 conference at the Doltone House in Sydney. For more details and tickets, click here.

Listen to the full episode here.


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