Next Creative Leaders: Kate Baynham
on Oct 29, 2017
Copywriter, GS&P, San Francisco
Three words you'd use to describe yourself?
Unwavering, excited, exhausted.
What work are you most proud of and why?
I've always been particularly proud of the first piece of copy I sold. It was a headline for a coupon for barbecue sandwiches at Sonic and it read, "Stop eating when you hit hand."
What does leadership mean to you?
Having a strong point of view but knowing when to go with someone else's.
What's your "breaking into advertising" story?
I had graduated from college with a degree in history and there's nothing that you can go directly into with that. I worked a few jobs, read a lot of books and really cemented my place in a post liberal arts slump.
Then my mom brilliantly asked me if there was one thing I could do for the rest of my life and get paid for it, no matter how silly it sounded, what would it be? I said writing. She said, ok, what about advertising? So yes, my path to advertising was through my mother. Just like the greats.
You met GS&P's Margaret Johnson as a student. Does it feel serendipitous to be working with her now?
I don't want to leave it all up to chance and say it was random that we ended up working together. I want to believe that I worked hard and put myself in this position with sheer force of will and work. But the crystal on my desk tells me it was destiny.
You've worked at GS&P for your entire six-plus year career. What makes you stay?
I've often questioned myself when it comes to this because everyone around me has bounced all over the place. Am I lazy? Am I scared? Maybe. But I know this: I followed my gut (and my mom's gut) into ad school. I followed my gut to San Francisco. I followed my gut to Goodby. My gut has yet to tell me to leave. I know my best interests are at heart here. And I still have so much to learn from Jeff, Rich and Margaret.
Your partner is also a Next Creative Leader this year, so you're clearly a winning combo. Can you tell me what's so magic about your partnership?
Hanna and I have developed that magical cryptophasia of sidelong glances and body language that lets the other know what we're thinking without anyone else knowing.
Our partnership works because we get each other. Hanna knows when I'm spiraling in a deep cavern of self projected unworthiness and I know when Hanna's going through her own stuff. And we adapt. We pick up for the other or shake the other out of their funk. We're so open and honest with our feelings it's kind of nice to then be able to get them out of the way and move on to coming up with the idea.
You clearly excel at humorous writing. Any tips for writers looking to "bring the funny" to their work? If it makes you laugh yourself, you're in a good place. But I think one of the most important lessons I've learned is that if no human being walking this planet would say it, you're never going to get a laugh. All comedy, even when it's exaggerated, has to come from a real place. And it has to have a logical flow. You can't just skip from point A to point J and hope the shock will be funny. A to B to C is also funny. I really hope that makes sense. I learned that first piece from David Saurez, the second piece from Rich Silverstein and the third piece from a comedy podcast because I'm a hack.
Our industry is pretty competitive. How do you cope with that constant pressure? I'm not sure how unique it is but my approach is to a) remember that it's just advertising. We could all be doing something else, but by divine providence we all get to do this. And b) as an only child I've only ever had myself to compete with. Not in a narcissistic way, but in a literally my brain says, "I don't know girl. Maybe you're not funny anymore" way. Anxiety is my competition. I don't need to add an extra layer of worrying what other people are doing. We're all working hard. We're all trying as hard as we can. And c) I don't have a third point but you can't make a presentation with two points.
You believe generosity is key to the creative process. How so? Being generous with your ideas is something that is really undervalued and overlooked. Good ideas die in meetings all the time because someone didn't think it was their place or position to speak up and add something. Just because it's not your idea or project doesn't mean you can't make it better. I don't care if my name's not going to be on the final product even if I said a thing that helped it live or made it better. If it's good work coming out of our agency, I look better by proxy.
Who's your biggest #Shero right now? Hanna Wittmark, forever and always.