'Don Draper's still around but he's got some serious competition' - Talking Creativity with Shirin Majid, VCCP Kin

In our latest interview with a leading UK PR creative, Nick Woods, partner at Sunny Side Up, meets Shirin Majid, deputy executive creative director at VCCP Kin.

'Don Draper's still around but he's got some serious competition' - Talking Creativity with Shirin Majid, VCCP Kin

I think you have to be visual, intuitive and have some personal purpose.

Shirin Majid, deputy executive creative director, VCCP Kin

There is a clear thought from across the creative spectrum that the output of a great creative mind is pretty heavily dependent upon the inputs. The higher the quality, quantity and variety of sources you can draw from, the more links you can build, the more original ideas you’ll have.

So it should come as no surprise that Shirin Majid is pretty exceptional at what she does.

She is a woman, a mother, an artist, has a Muslim name, an American accent, is half-Kashmiri and half-English, was raised in Toronto, Houston and Amsterdam, and has worked in Texas, Washington DC, New York, London and elsewhere.

Add in that she's worked with or for Facebook, Spotify, Google, Smirnoff, Dove, Lynx, Starbucks and LADbible across both in-house and agency roles, and you get the sense that she's a creative who brings a really distinct mind to play, whatever the brief.

You describe yourself, almost self-mockingly, as "diversity gold", but how has your personal sense of diversity helped you professionally?

My upbringing and my professional and personal journey is fairly unique and I'm sure some of that comes through in my work. I’ve lived in 10 cities, have been a citizen of four countries, have lived as part of all these different cultures, and I think it’s helped cultivate a sense of empathy, which is hopefully a huge benefit in my role.

From your journey, any places, positions or brands that you feel exceptionally close to?

One that stands out is LADbible. I worked with them when they set about trying to redefine what 'lad' means in culture; and, despite the external image, what I found was a polite, bright, considered, intelligent, curious group, making a concerted effort to move away from misogynistic rubbish. And with the brand and that group, the impact they have had on culture is unparalleled among millions of 18-24s.

I also worked on Smirnoff (global and Western Europe) for five years during quite a transitional period in which I helped the brand create its first global campaign and social-media presence in 50 markets. Both the brand and inter-agency team were exceptionally strong, smart and collaborative, and it showed in the work and results.

Do you think creative directors have any unique personal characteristics?

Well, I think there's a perception that we're all ego-driven, attention-seeking extroverts. But there are others who are perhaps a little more introverted and considered and I probably fall more into that camp. But regardless, the most unifying characteristics are curiosity and vision. I also think you have to be visual, intuitive and have some personal purpose driving your work.

Describe what you mean about personal purpose.

I want to make a positive human impact and I want my work to do that too – whether it's on a cultural level or simply making people feel something on a personal level. It doesn't matter whether it's through PR, social, integrated comms or my more personal art [she creates geometric abstracts, shapes to evoke a feeling, and has exhibited].

I've spoken to a few E/CDs about their roles and everyone seems to have a slightly different take. Are you a 'lone ranger', uber-collaborator or…?

Mostly the latter. Collaboration is everything, as well as getting the right cast of characters involved, from the thinkers to the creators. No (wo)man is an island.

And what about creative development?

First, you've got to love a good, tight brief; the tighter the brief, the tighter the insight and the tighter the strategy. I want cultural tensions and human insights in there, really, deep. So it's critically important to collaborate from the start on the brief and approach to set up a strong launching point for creative. You need to make sure your whole team is well-cast and suited to the brand, the audience and the desired outcome.

I feel a very strong sense of the rising tide of female creatives in UK PR – do you too?

Definitely. At no point in my career have I reported to or worked alongside a senior female creative on either side of the Atlantic. Now I see and sense lots coming. I'm enjoying watching their ascent, and I'm here for any one who wants advice, support or cheerleading.

There is a sexist old trope about the male rockstar creative, the Don Draper character. Do you think he's still around?

He's still around, but he's got some serious competition.


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