Interviewing the Interviewers: Nicola Kemp, Campaign

One of the privileges and joys of journalism is meeting and interviewing truly inspirational people.  The new digital age has meant this privilege has now opened up beyond professional journalists, with some of the most thought-provoking interviews now conducted by numerous industry thought leaders in addition to our most respected journalists.

In NDA’s Interviewing the Interviewers series, we caught up with some of the best interviewers in our industry, from journalists to independent content creators, turning the tables to find out what makes them tick.

Nicola Kemp is Trends Editor at Campaign. Hugely respected for her work championing diversity in the creative industries, she was selected by The Dots as one of the ‘200 women shaping the creative industry’ and was The Women in Marketing Journalist of the year 2017. 


What is your biggest hope and your biggesar for the ad industry in 2019?

My biggest hope is we will be writing more about real, tangible, bold change like Publicis rolling out flexible working across the whole business and brilliant stereotype-smashing advertising like Holland & Barrett’s recent Me.No.Pause campaign.

My biggest fear is that the industry will continue to see talking about change as a proxy for real change, whether it comes to diversity or broken business models. Simply pointing out a problem exists is not enough.

What was your biggest personal industry highlight of 2018?

I ran a series called #TellHerStory last year which included re-telling women’s stories from across five decades from Campaign. We also ran an event with support from Publicis and Stylist which had such a brilliant energy and sense of changing the narrative in the real world. It really meant so much to me to see my idea come to life as an event that connected and impacted people.

As part of that series I also interviewed Heide Gardner, senior vice-president and chief diversity and inclusion officer at Interpublic, which was a truly mind-expanding experience. She is equal parts warmth and wisdom and it was just wonderful to get her unique take on the industry.

Who was the most inspirational person you interviewed in 2018 and why?

I’ve spent ages thinking of how to answer this question as I was so privileged to interview so many inspiring people in the industry last year. But if the last 12 months have taught me anything it’s that real leadership is often what happens when no one is looking. It isn’t always the people in the limelight who are doing the hard work to make change happen, having the difficult conversations or coming up with the ideas that shift culture.

So, for me it would have to be Victoria Brooks, vice president of Bloom UK, I’ve worked with her on a range of events and features that simply wouldn’t have been so brilliant if it wasn’t for her insight, intelligence and empathy. She really encourages you to tackle an issue in new ways and she is so open-minded and thoughtful. I have learnt so much from her approach and she is just truly special.

What one technology are you most excited about this year and why?

I know influencer is a dirty word right now but I’m really interested in influencer culture and how that is impacting brands. I know traditional media brands tend to be really anti-influencers and call them ‘detestable freeloaders’ or dismiss them as vacuous but I’m genuinely excited by the opportunities and creativity they showcase. 

This next generation of creators are reimaging marketing in their own diverse image and I’m really excited by how that is going to impact the industry.

What was your favourite ad or digital experience of 2018?

I was a huge fan of the Stabilo Boss ‘Highlight the Remarkable’ campaign from DDB Dusseldorf and Nike ‘Nothing Beats a Londoner’ from W+K for its energy. But for me it had to be the masterpiece of storytelling that was #EltonJohnLewis from adam & eve DDB. Like almost every John Lewis ad before it, it had me crying into my teacup and reminded me why I love advertising (and Christmas obviously, I could be a brand ambassador for Christmas.)

What is the buzzword or phrase you’d like to ban forever?

My knee-jerk response would be ‘cagency’ a true abomination of a word. But I think we all need to think more critically and thoughtfully about the languages and structures we create and perpetuate. So much of the buzzwords and phrases used routinely in our industry serve to dehumanise or over-complicate unnecessarily. Or worse still create a framework which perpetuates inequality and stereotypes.

I used to work as a financial journalist and there are a lot of similarities in the jargon; I still wince when CFOs insist on talking about ‘wastage’ when what they mean is ‘people losing their jobs’. Similarly, in the ad industry there is a reliance on hyper-masculine hyperbole and jargon which simply shifts the focus off the fact that advertising is about connecting with real people in the real world.

Who’s the one industry figure you’d most like to interview you yet haven’t?

Sir John Hegarty. I would like to know if he has changed his mind as to there being ‘no glass ceiling in the industry’ and women losing relevance because they go on maternity leave.

How could someone persuade you to interview them and what would put you off completely?

I’m always really open to new ideas, so just email me with a point of view and a passion point. I don’t care what your job title is or if you are a ‘name’ it is the strength of the idea that matters.  What puts me off is really self-promotional stuff, unnecessarily aggressive pitching and chasing me to publish pieces that I haven’t commissioned in the first place. Kindness goes a long way.

What are you most excited about at work at the moment?

Campaign is very proud to be the media partners for the #DiverseMinds conference, the first ever neurodiversity conference for the marketing and advertising industry. The event takes place at Havas KX on Wednesday 13th March and tickets are available here: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/diverseminds-20-tickets-53258633005?aff=ebdssbdestsearch

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