'Comfort is where creativity goes to die' – 18 Feet & Rising's Anna Carpen on the importance of diverse creative teams

For The Drum's Diversity Census we invited individuals from across the marketing industries to tell us how being ‘different’ has shaped their careers.

Anna Carpen, creative director at 18 Feet & Rising, is the latest to share her experiences in our 'Talent is Talent' series.

When I first started showing my book to creatives in agencies, more often than not they asked what drugs I was taking when I came up with these ideas. It was like they couldn’t believe this shorter than average puppy-eyed female could come up with ideas that were so left field. ‘It wasn’t her. It has to be drugs’. LSD. Ecstasy.

One creative director even asked me if he could get some of the so-called ‘crack’ I was on. He loved the ideas. No job offer though.

My Mum is English, my Dad is Mauritian. This meant Christmas in the English countryside and summer holidays exploring islands in the search of the Dodo.

Growing up with such a mixed background makes it easy to embrace points of difference, and it’s still something our industry struggles with. I know, I know – it’s comfortable, warm, nice and fuzzy. We like hanging out with people who are the same. But it’s also breeds stale ideas. Monotony. Comfort is where creativity goes to die.

The beautiful thing about creativity is alchemy of thought. How can you get to differentiating ideas when the same sorts of people are having the same sorts of conversations?

You need different experiences, personalities, likes and dislikes. The only thing that needs to be the same are your core values.

Mixing is so important for humanity. It dissolves prejudices, reduces fear, increases our ability to imagine. It infiltrates our soul in the most spectacular way.

My old dog Roo was half Jack Russell and half Cocker Spaniel. People loved Roo because he looked different compared with other dogs. It’s funny how people are more accepting of diverse dogs than humans.

Luckily I was on the hunt for a job when 18 Feet & Rising launched. Matt [Keon] and Jonathan [Trimble] were on a mission to build an agency that was creatively led. And that’s the only thing they saw when they looked at me. Creativity that bubbled right under the surface of my skin. We connected on such a high level, because they were open- hearted and open-minded.

This is something I didn’t see in large corporate agencies. One agency even shut me in a shed while I was on placement.

At an industry event recently, I was surrounded by a sea of bald-headed bearded 40-somethings. All lovely chaps, but as their beards began to merge into one, so did their personalities. I stood out. And these days I see that as an advantage.

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