A showcase of the future flames of our industry, the B&T 30 Under 30 Awards are coming closer.
In the lead-up to the event, we’re chatting with leaders in advertising, success stories that started humbly and made a name for themselves in our industry. They’re people you idolise, for good reason.
They’re also owners of strange stories, like Cummins&Partners’ founding partner, Kirsty Muddle, who says being a clown at a sideshow, when she was 15-years-old, informed her fearless philosophy.
Winner of the 2018 Women in Media Woman of the Year award, Muddle (pictured, centre) is both the founding partner and managing director of Cummins&Partners, one of the nation’s leading creative agencies.
Alongside being at the helm of the agency for the last 10 years, Muddle has been a Gruen panellist, an Ad Standards board member, a keynote speaker at Women in Marketing and Money in Sport, and has sat on various industry juries, including ADMA’s AC&E and the MFA.
She has spent her career surrounded by some of the world’s largest accounts, at Cummins&Partners, an agency that has created some of the world’s most awarded works.
But how did Muddle get her start in the industry? What drives her to succeed, and, moreover, what has helped her reach the heights?
Recently, I caught up with the industry master to ask her that, and plenty more, with answers received that are sure to inspire and undoubtedly surprise.
B&T: Kirsty, what advice would you give your younger self?
KM: Someone gave me this advice when I was young, and I’d repeat it again to myself: Don’t tread on people on the way up. It’ll come back and bite you.
What qualities have helped you succeed?
A lot of it is right time, right place. There are people out there that are probably more talented than me, but they aren’t around because they didn’t put themselves out there.
I worked behind a clown stall at a sideshow when I was 15. My job was to holler through the speaker, “roll up, roll up, you’ve got to be in it to win it”. I think it ended up being a philosophy of mine.
I’m a bit of an expat as well, where every two to three years of my life we moved countries. You could go one way or the other—you could be introverted or extroverted. If you’re introverted in those circumstances, you probably won’t make friends every two years. You kind of need to put yourself out there.
I think that gave me the belief of ‘if you don’t go out there and give it a go, how will you ever know?’. How will you ever know if you’re going to get the job?
As well, undoubtedly its Cummins&Partners, the business, my partners, the agency at large. It’s not the winning that gives me the goosebumps but it’s the qualities that keep us going.
That philosophy has clearly taken you a long way: You’re the MD of Cummins&Partners, you’ve received loads of awards, you’re a Gruen panellist, an Ad Standards board member.
Is there anything you can’t do?
Oh, for sure. I’m a shocking creative director that’s for sure.
Who do you admire most in the industry?
There’s a couple of different people, for different reasons.
Priya Addams Williams. One of our team. She’s on the doorstep of turning 30-years-old but has this wisdom and empathy that usually belongs to someone with many more years on her. People listen to her, because she listens to others. She’s a fine leader!
Sean Cummins, who’s the name on the door. Unrelenting passion for advertising, searing creative intellect, remarkably generous.
Nicole Taylor. When I think of good Agency administrators in this country, I think of her—even though she has now left this country! She’s also a super nice person.
Difficult question, but what’s your favourite ad ever made?
‘Best Job in the World’. It’s just such a simple, pure idea, that just kept giving without needing exponential media investment to make it work.
What’s changed most in the media since you entered it in 2001?
It’s less manual! We have fewer pens, pencils to scamp; we use algorithms, and applications to generate answers for us in a matter of seconds.
In one instance, something that took us 12 months in 2001, you could do in 12 seconds now.
Agency folk seem to prefer pilates to pints these days. The industry had a real rock star reputation when I first started working. I’ve noticed a real shift in what people want to do with their Thursday nights and Friday afternoons over the past decade. That’s probably in line with global health and wellness trending.
Creative and media worked in silos, as well. That’s changing. It’s almost impossible to separate the thinking in modern marketing.
What has remained consistent in your time, up to now?
The energy and passion of the people that work in this industry: the kind of people that aren’t attracted to uniformity.
Like a fast-moving train, they’re addicted to the adrenaline of a pitch and have an appetite for innovation.
If you weren’t working in our industry, where would you be?
I can’t imagine doing anything else.
What’s a hidden talent of yours?
I don’t know what to say. But let’s go with Polynesian dance. I spent some time growing up in the Pacific Islands in my teens.