AD STARS 2019 final judge and VMLY&R NZ ECD on growing up without electricity, lessons from journalism and becoming a CD aged 26
Kim Pick has blazed a trail for women in advertising that starts in New Zealand and runs right through Singapore, London, Australia and New York winning over a hundred awards for her work on the way – and a New York Festivals Silver for her very first ad.
After being appointed as a creative director at just 26 years of age, Kim worked at RAPP, McCann, and Saatchi & Saatchi, returning to New Zealand in 2014 to join Colenso BBDO with creative partner Wayne Pick. In March 2018, it was time for a new challenge, so Kim took up the executive creative director position at VMLY&R, New Zealand.
She caught up with reporter Lee Patten to discuss everything from talent development, industry diversity, and her upcoming gig at AD STARS 2019, which runs from August 22nd to 24th. As a final judge, Kim will judge the Direct, Media, Promotion and PR categories while mentoring the festival’s Young Stars – university students who will travel to South Korea to experience what it is like to work in the advertising industry while learning from industry leaders like Kim herself.
LBB> Where did you grow up and how did your childhood years influence the creative you are today?
Kim> I spent a significant part of my childhood on Kawau Island, off the coast of New Zealand. We lived a self-sufficient lifestyle without roads, phones, television or electricity, and I attended school by correspondence. I had to communicate everything by writing. I loved writing then, and still do today. The island probably gave me an ‘alternative’ viewpoint on a lot of things, and those values stay with me and show up in the work I like to do: there are common themes of sustainability, the environment, and social change.
LBB> Who are your creative heroes and why?
Kim> David Droga was my mentor at AWARD School in Sydney, and hired me at Saatchi & Saatchi London. His mantra of: “Don’t show me the ad, show me the press release” really helped differentiate between what was just an ad and what was a big social idea, and was ahead of its time.
Kate Stanners, global CCO of Saatchi’s, and Debbi Vandeven, global CCO of VMLY&R, are both global creative leaders who are great role models in terms of the values they bring and their leadership style. Otherwise, my creative heroes are all the creatives I’ve been lucky enough to sit alongside, who constantly go over the odds to make a difference with their passion projects.
LBB> How do you move people with advertising? Are all emotions fair game?
Kim> I’m comfortable drawing on personal experiences and emotions to get to the heart of a subject. I do want people to feel something – but it shouldn’t be about manipulating emotions – just telling a truth, or an idea, in a meaningful way that resonates. And sometimes being meaningful is simply understanding that people need a bit of fantasy, escapism or a laugh.
LBB> You started out as a journalist and moved into copywriting. Do you use any of your journalism skills when you create campaigns?
Kim> Journalists learn that ‘there’s a front page story in everyone.’ To me, that means that there’s no person who is uninteresting, and there’s no subject that isn’t fascinating – you just need to ask the right questions and find the front-page angle. So I’m genuinely interested in any project that comes my way, and can’t help but explore it like an investigative journalist.
LBB> Many people will remember the ‘Love the Skin You’re in’ campaign from your Saatchi London days. What are the most memorable campaigns you’ve worked on?
Kim> ‘Love the Skin You’re in’ launched at a time when airbrushed perfection was the norm in beauty advertising and girls as young as 13 were being cast as talent for their ‘aspirational’ skin quality. Isabella Rossellini had just been retired as the face of a beauty brand because she was ‘too old.’ We took a stance on that and launched Total Effects for Olay with an actress in her 40s, Glynis Barber. It became a UK and global number one bestseller, and made Olay a billion dollar brand.
Another memorable moment was getting millions of dollars in shredded cash from the Reserve Bank to demonstrate how much New Zealanders were wasting in mortgage interest.
And it felt good launching Sunbites’ new sustainable platform with a campaign created using solar energy.
LBB> What does your typical day look like?
Kim> I get to be creative every day, thankfully – that’s the beauty of being in a small market like New Zealand and having partners who want to co-create with you. I commute between our two VMLY&R offices in Auckland and Wellington, and work closely with our client partners in business and government, and also with the communities we are engaging.
LBB> You were a creative director at McCann in Singapore when you were just 26. Did you feel a lot of pressure and if so, how did it affect you?
Kim> The CD title then was equivalent to ECD now – and there weren’t many women in that role. But I didn’t feel pressure around that. It was only when I became a mother that I realised how tough it was to balance both roles without a lot of support. I have since been an advocate for flexible working and initiatives to support senior women in the workplace.
LBB> Your husband, Wayne Pick, has also been your creative partner at many agencies throughout your career, most recently at Colenso. How do you make that partnership work when you’re married – is there a home watershed enforced?
Kim> The home watershed moment is the hardest to enforce when you’re working together – work inevitably does tend to spill into home time. Working independently from him means the dinner conversation avoids work – which our daughter especially is enjoying.
LBB> As someone who serves on the Diversity and Inclusion Council for the NZ Communications Council, how do you hope to see diversity increase within the industry in future years?
Kim> It feels like there is a growing commitment to see more diversity in the industry, but there is still a long way to go. As part of the Diversity and Inclusion Council, a current focus is to see more Māori and Pacific representation in the New Zealand industry – they are the most under-represented groups by far. We are working to help create more pathways into the industry.
LBB> What advice would you give young people thinking about getting into the industry?
Kim> In addition to students from a communications background, we also need more creative thinkers from the STEM subjects who can bring their data, analytics and tech thinking to play.
My advice would be: don’t try to fit into existing moulds, bring the skills, passion and personality you have to the industry. We need your fresh thinking, your diversity.
LBB> You’re coming to Busan, South Korea as a final judge this year. Have you visited Korea before, and what are you looking forward to most?
Kim> Korea’s great – I’ve visited before on business but only spent time in and around Seoul. I’m looking forward to experiencing Busan, meeting the other judges, and talking about great work. I’m also keen to work with the young creatives who are throwing themselves into the Young Stars Competition.
Kim Pick will attend AD STARS 2019
as a Final Judge. The festival runs from August 22nd to 24th 2019 in Busan, South Korea.