Career Journey with Marketing Leaders – Episode 8 with Ben Carter

Welcome to the eighth and final edition of this current ‘Career Journey with Marketing Leaders’ series, where we sit down with CMOs and Senior Marketing Leaders from the CMO & Marketing Director Forum.


Each publication has asked five questions about their career journey to date, greatest campaign, biggest failure, challenges facing CMOs and the advantages they hope to take in 2023.


I’m delighted to finish on a high by welcoming Ben Carter, Global CMO at carwow.



Alex Marriner: Tell us a little about your marketing career and journey to where you are today at carwow.



Ben Carter: I’m not a classically trained marketer; I started as a journalist charting the rise and rise of the Internet in the heady heights of the dot com boom. I soon realised, however, that by writing about these businesses that literally had been conceived (in some cases) on the back of a napkin with 8 and 9-figure ‘valuations’ that I was learning more about the Internet than most of the people I was featuring. So I left journalism and set up my own digital consultancy advising brands on how to develop content strategy and do online marketing. 


I also co-wrote Digital Marketing for Dummies in 2003, which is now a history book. After a few years of consultancy, I moved in-house into several senior online marketing roles, initially for Setanta Sports and then Betfair, before becoming marketing director at NotOnTheHighStreet (NOTHS). I’ve, by accident, developed a specialism for marketplace businesses as I then went to Just Eat, where I worked for five years (it was my first real work home), as well as a brief interlude running Just Eat in Australia, then stints at Purple Bricks and now carwow as the Global CMO. 


I genuinely feel Marketing is the best job in the world, and whilst I fell into it accidentally, I wouldn’t change anything about my career so far…well, maybe a couple of things.




AM: Tell us about a campaign that you’re proud of. 



BC: I’m most proud of the rebrand I led at Just Eat. We changed the brand’s aesthetic, but it was much more than that. We repositioned the brand, established the springboard for its next exponential period of growth, and created some amazing marketing, including our sponsorship of the XFactor. Pinch me moments I’ll never forget!




AM: What are the key challenges facing CMOs in 2023?



BC: Hiring. A lack of mid-level talent and 3D marketers who think outside the box and don’t just execute once and think it’s done. 


Proving channel effectiveness. Not a new one, but much more pronounced in a world where media budgets are shrinking, and scale-ups now have to prove a mid-term path to profitability.




AM: What are the most significant opportunities you hope to take advantage of this year?



BC: Doing more with less, with an increased focus on profitability. Really enjoying being able to not only demonstrate the short-term return of marketing spend but also driving increased efficiency off less spend.


With carwow approaching a performance plateau, we want to leverage our content (secret brand weapon) to drive greater cut-through. Automotive is one of the last industries to digitise, so there’s significant opportunity and headroom to change customer perceptions and behaviours. 




AM: What has been your biggest marketing failure? And what were the key learns you gained from that experience?



BC: Launching NOTHS in Germany. We developed a new proposition there, recruited hundreds of local ‘partners’, signed up local agencies and developed a bespoke campaign for Germany. The campaign totally failed, with more traffic from Germany going to (UK) than the German website.


A key learning was don’t try and develop an entirely local proposition. Localise within a framework and remember what made the brand strong and original in its own market, as German customers voted with their feet and preferred the UK brand and UK products.






Alex Marriner is the Director & Leadership Search Consultant at Acquire Digital Talent. 



Acquire Digital Talent is a people-first Leadership Search Firm that exclusively partners with Technology companies and Consumer brands to build Digital & Growth Marketing Leadership teams. Our expertise and reputation ensure successful delivery across niche, critical and executive appointments from Seed to Series A and beyond.