The Musings Of An Opinionated Sod [Help Me Grow!]


Beware Of The Quiet Ones …

Once upon a time, I worked with a guy called Kim Papworth.

He was the co-ECD of Wieden London at the time, with the irrepressible Tony Davidson.

Now I am sure Tony wouldn’t mind me saying this, but he has a reputation as a bit of a madman.

Brilliantly creative.

Deliciously stubborn.

Fiercely challenging.

And slightly bonkers.

OK, so in their early days – when they were at BMP and BBH – this ‘unique’ reputation was allegedly shared … however as time went by, Kim started being seen by many people as ‘the nice one’.

While they are both ace, I get why.

Where Tony is loud, Kim is quiet.

Where Tony is chaos, Kim is clarity.

Where Tony is intense, Kim is calm.

Where Tony is random, Kim is considered.

Let me be clear, Tony was – and is – amazing and has always been so good to me, however many viewed Kim as the more approachable of the two … the one you could reason with … the one you could chat to … the one you could have a debate with and it’s this that was his most powerful move.

You see Kim … wonderful, kind, compassionate Kim … is steely as fuck.

Sure he doesn’t shout or rant or gesticulate or throw tantrums.

Sure he doesn’t swear or throw toys out the pram or act aloof.

But he was stubborn as fuck about letting the work win.

He wouldn’t let ideas be killed on an individuals whim.

He wouldn’t let ideas be changed to satisfy personal ego.

He wouldn’t let ideas be diluted to appease a committee.

He wouldn’t let ideas be burdened by politics or agenda.

He wouldn’t let ideas be sold short by timelines or small mindedness.

He wouldn’t let anything win other than the purity of the idea.

I once watched him keep a campaign on the table after a client had spent 30 minutes saying it was wrong and they hated it. Better yet, he did it in a way where the client was OK with him doing it.

He didn’t bully, lie or manipulate to get his way.

He did it by listening.

Intently.

Then he slowly but methodically went through each of their issues and talked about the options he saw to solve them … always ensuring they elevated the idea he believed in rather than diluting it.

It was – quite simply – one of the most amazing pieces of creative negotiation I’ve ever seen.

Actually, negotiation is the wrong word.

Because it was never about dumbing down the idea to keep a version of it, it was always about solving the problems the clients had but in ways that ensured the idea would be able to shine.

[The photo at the end of this post is from that meeting, where Kim awkwardly humoured me and my demands to commemorate the moment of magic]

While Kim was – and is – a brilliant, brilliant creative, one of his greatest skills was the art of listening, because he always saw it as ammunition that allowed him to keep ideas safe.

While there are others that practice this – including a bunch at Colenso for example – a huge amount of the industry simply hears stuff.

Listening and hearing are very different.

Listening is understanding.

Not just the words, but the context and the details.

But hearing …

Well, hearing is simply about sound and that’s why we often end up with divisions.

A battle between ‘what I want’ and ‘what you want’.

A war between creativity and client.

No one wins.

Sure, someone may in the short-term, but not long.

That doesn’t mean you can’t disagree or debate … nor does it mean you will always succeed in convincing someone to change their mind … but listening increases the odds.

It ensures the other party feels they have been understood.
It ensures your response is efficient and focused on the issue.
It ensures you are keeping the work on the table for as long as possible.

[And if he feels the demands being asked of the work undermine the power of the work, he’d just take it off the table and we would start again. And I believe in that to this day]

I have had the great pleasure of working with a whole host of brilliantly talented creative people.

People in adland, music, fashion, gaming and sport.

But the ones I find the most fascinating are the ones like Kim.

Who have the ability to feel like velvet, even when their focus is forged in iron.

Not because of manipulation, deceit or trickery.

But because they know, nothing is as forceful as the power of listening.


15 Comments so far
Leave a comment

never fucking written such fawning shit about me. prick. but kim is fucking magic. proper creative. like tony. but even more fucking dangerous when together.

Comment by andy@cynic

Hahahaha … typical.

You know how highly I rate you. After all, you told me why I should for at least 20 years.

Comment by Rob

The photo of Kim perfectly demonstrates how you corrupt people into doing what you want them to do. It’s an art. A dark art.

Comment by Bazza

Kim sounds amazing though.

Comment by Bazza

if kim represents good, its not hard to work out what campbell represents.

Comment by andy@cynic

Best compliment ever. Ha.

Comment by Rob

I had the pleasure of meeting Kim many moons ago., This post does him justice. Well said Robert.

Comment by Lee Hill

Kim solved problems. Not many do that now. Seems the role of an ECD today is to be able to deliver a dictated execution within a timeline and a budget.

Comment by Pete

its all about the fucking seo. forgetting that if every fucker is doing the same thing you are achieving precisely fuck all. its like were in a universe designed by the pricks behind the yellow pages.

Comment by andy@cynic

This – and Andy’s comment below – are very good.

It’s not entirely true because there’s definitely brilliant creatives who keep flying the flag for brilliant creative, but maybe there’s not as much as there once were … driven by the demands/pressures by certain clients, who ultimately care more about delivering KPI’s rather than quality.

Comment by Rob

There are definitely creatives who carry the quality control torch from Kim. But few are in very senior positions in the ad industry anymore. Some, but not many.

Comment by Pete

But then were there ever that many?

Comment by Pete

What I like about this post is that you remind people that creativity isn’t simply about a moment of individual inspiration, but the ability to keep its purity throughout the purchase process. Kim appears to have been generously blessed in both areas. Great read Robert.

Comment by George

Yep. Funny you say it like that because that’s what the bands I work with want from me. It’s not simply about achieving reach or making a profit … they can achieve that on their own … it’s about finding ways where the purity of their creativity can continue to breathe and thrive. They literally express it that way. Expression without dilution. It’s invigorating.

Comment by Rob

Can you write more about that? It sounds really interesting and I imagine unlocks more innovative ways to use creativity.

Comment by George




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