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Creatives 2009: Tony Davidson & Kim Papworth

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Tony Davidson (left) and Kim Papworth
Tony Davidson (left) and Kim Papworth
Tony Davidson (pictured on screen):My secret to staying relevant in the ad world is to be curious about what is going on outside it. Having a conversation with consumers is a different proposition now—some think we shouldn't call it advertising any more. How you go about this may have changed, but the premise of wanting people to publicly talk about your brand has not. What interests me is not what we rename it, but how we can collaborate with clients and the public in different ways to create great brands that do good.

I don't think people play and laugh as much as they used to. Finding this balance between work and play is an important part of the creative process. Having time to craft ideas and think clearly is a theme that many people bring up. The Fast/ Cheap/Good triangle is being severely tested by the pace of technology. On the positive side, these changes will force us to evolve and discover new ways to satisfy our creative juices.

There is no one job or project that I believe "made" me. However, arguably, the best thing Kim and I have done so far is to create a culture inside W+K London that allows people to collaborate and do the best work of their lives. The most important thing I have learned about leadership is to jump off a cliff and build your wings on the way down.

My biggest failure when it comes to my career is not shutting up and listening more. I'd have achieved a lot more. I'm still learning today. One of my heroes, Soichiro Honda, believed in always looking forward and not backward.What you are going to do is far more interesting than what you have done.

In this world, I'm most proud of my sister. She designed all of our boardroom tables and is so much more talented than me. A bookcase my sister made for my flat out of recycled windows was the last thing I saw that I wish I'd made myself. I am currently converting a lawnmower into a lamp. I think what this says about me is that I'm mad.

I think I'm really good at having a gut feeling about when ideas are right. And at not conforming. I'm bad at golf. If I was starting over again fresh out of school, I'd be. . .young. I'm inspired by creativity. It never ceases to surprise and inspire me. Laughing gas makes me laugh.

Kim Papworth: The secret to keeping my interest in the ad world is that I'm in love with 2%, and greatly troubled by the rest. The state of advertising today can be summed up by the current technical revolution occuring. Old business models need to change. Our industry has been slow to react and feels trapped in a time warp. This is ironic considering this is one of the most exciting times in history to be a creative. The biggest challenge of this current environment for agencies is to go from standing out to fitting in. During a downturn it's best to stick to your principles in order to weather the storm.

Levi's Flat Eric was the one job that made me think I was pretty good at this. Learning from the best, and trying to improve on it is the most important thing I've learned about leadership. My biggest failure in the early days was to arrogantly sit at my desk trying to think I could crack it on my own. I learned to walk around, see things, talk to people—and to not be an arrogant fool! I am still learning anything and everything—I'm educated by everyone, especially the young ones.

I'm good at listening. And I'm most proud of the people I work with. I'm bad at making long-term decisions. The last thing I saw that made me think, I wish I'd done that, was the shade tree leaf shape poured into the froth of my breakfast latte—because it was perfect, cheap and fast. I've been trying to play the guitar for the last 42 years. My willingness to practice says a lot about me as a creative—and as a person—the fact that I don't give up. If I was starting over again fresh out of school, I'd still be trying to find the best place with other people to collaborate on ideas. I'm inspired by anything I can see, hear, taste and feel. People I love make me laugh.
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