For Carly Zipp of Amazon Ads, being a leader means empowering her team, finding a balance—and Diet Coke

June 26, 2023 | By Justin Kirkland, Copywriter

Carly Zipp

Long before Carly Zipp became the Global Director of Brand Marketing at Amazon Ads, she was a familiar voice to radio listeners of the greater Washington, D.C., metro area. That all started during a gap year between high school and her first year at Vanderbilt University, when she accepted an internship at the radio station Z104 doing what you might imagine are basic intern duties—cataloging songs, prepping for on-air interviews, and the like. But the job shifted considerably on the morning of September 11, 2001.

“I interned the morning shift—5 to 9 a.m.—but when the Pentagon was hit, everything changed,” Zipp remembers. “My job as an intern changed to going around to schools in the area and interviewing people on what America and the Pledge of Allegiance meant to them.” Her coverage of the day made national news and, as she puts it, she “inadvertently made a name for [herself].” Her ability to pivot in the moment led to a full-time, on-air position at a rival station. Over the next two decades, Zipp has cultivated a career that’s ranged from television publicist to magazine social media pioneer and steward of TikTok’s global B2B marketing strategy. Now she brings all that experience and more to Amazon Ads.

Zipp’s career has largely been a string of pivotal moments that have required a mix of ingenuity, self-confidence, and perhaps a pinch of challenging the norm. Throughout the years, Zipp has developed a philosophy that drives her personal and professional life: “Know your worth. At work, at home, in love, and in life. Don’t settle for anything less.”

Below, Zipp shares how she’s navigated her career, her advice for leaders looking for balance, and how a Diet Coke break can change the whole day.

Before you joined Amazon Ads, you were at TikTok, where you were an early marketing hire in the United States. Tell me about your transition to Amazon Ads.

TikTok itself is all about community, and we built this internal community where it really felt familial. At Amazon, you know, I came in really hoping the exact same thing would happen, but the difference is that I was coming into an already established team with their own sense of community. I had to find where I fit into that and honor what was already built. You don’t want to come in guns blazing and be like, This is me!

I also think allowing people to show up as their authentic selves and recognizing that is the only way to build that trust. I remember wanting so hard on Day 1 for people to trust me from the start, but needing to realize that won’t come overnight and that it takes time.

When it comes to professional advice, what would you say is the best you’ve ever gotten?

Know your worth. At work, at home, in love, and in life. Don’t settle for anything less.

I love that, but it can get complicated with the amount of churn we have in our work lives and the news we take in and the personal responsibilities we have. What’s your advice for managing that?

I’m always telling people to take the time they need for themselves, whether that’s 30 minutes or a mental health day. At the same time, I can’t ignore a stakeholder who might need something from me, so I always say, “You owe it to yourself to know it.” You owe it to yourself to know your worth, and your worth is what you’re capable of and what’s valuable to you, but also how you’re valuable to others.

I’m going to go hard, morning to evening, for this team, and will travel and be there for anyone whenever they need me. But I also know I need those moments for myself, whether that’s making TikToks with my kids—as my son would say, "Like and share!"—or enjoying an uninterrupted Diet Coke from McDonald’s. Is there anything better? I will say, on the flip side, I am incapable of letting messages go unanswered. Whether from my team or a customer, I like to respond to everyone as quickly as possible. At times, I need to remind myself to take my own advice.

But that’s my boundary. I think you have to know yourself and do what works for you. Put your foot down. Ask yourself: What is your boundary, and how are you going to put it up? What makes you great at what you do, and what do you need to do that?

Marketing can be difficult to measure sometimes, especially from the creative and brand-building side. How do you know when to stand by a directive and when to rethink it?

It’s actually something we’re working through right now because I have a pretty specific point of view on brand visuals and visual identity. I know what I like, and I know what I don’t like. You’ve got to know where you can push back and where you can let your team create something and run with it on their own. I’ve realized where I can share that balance and when to stand behind something I believe is best.

It is a bit of a test and learn of knowing when to let your team flex on their own and do what they do best—be the subject-matter experts.

We’ve seen pushes across a number of industries to increase representation and work on diversity, equity, and inclusion. How do you establish your own voice and perspective as a woman in the workplace?

My work experience prior to Amazon was a real game changer for me because I had both of my kids while working there. I loved the people I worked with, but in previous positions, I’ve hid going to a doctor’s appointment for my kid. I hid that I was pregnant for many, many months, and I was afraid of what that would do to my career trajectory. I think no matter the company, that’s something working moms worry about.

We were taught to conceal that side of our life, not to show what may appear as a weakness or disadvantage. All of a sudden, in the past few years, attitudes around motherhood and competing priorities got flipped on its head, and we all had to work from home. I think it allowed people to know that I was human and know they could connect with me in that way. Everyone has their thing and everyone wants to feel seen, heard, and understood. I always try to show up authentically and bring all of myself to where I am, whether that means I am chugging Diet Cokes or having my kids dancing in the background. It’s normal and human to feel.

I know it’s cliché to say, but you have to be your authentic self.