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AMV BBDO’s Paul Burke responds to criticism over controversial London article that angered regional creatives

Paul BurkePaul Burke

London adman Paul Burke came in for a barrage of criticism after writing a piece in which he argued: "If you work in advertising and call yourself a 'creative', why on earth would you move away from London, away from the very hub of creativity?" Today he responds to some of his fiercest critics and insists his piece was not an attack on the regions...

Gorblimey, as we Londoners allegedly say, what a carry on! First thank you for giving this piece far more attention that it deserved. I cannot believe that such an innocuous opinion – namely, that if you work as a creative in London, then it’s probably best to live there too, could provoke quite so many sour and nasty comments.

Which is why the editor of The Drum has kindly offered me the chance to respond to the furore.

Okay…. this piece was written for Creative Circle and at the time I was not aware that it was going to be re-published by The Drum. That’s fine. I didn’t mind at all but I wasn’t seeking publicity or trying to court controversy. It was an ode to our capital city – repeat our capital city. I was simply stating that, working in advertising, I need its constant creative stimulus to help me earn my living. I was also expressing mild bewilderment at creatives who work in London but move out to distant suburbs that, in my opinion, can be dull and uninspiring.

Where did anyone get the idea that I was deriding creatives employed in the provinces or slagging off work they produce? At no point did I even mention them. And yet I seem to have sparked fury among people who think I did.

So let me reply to a few of the posts that I found particularly bizarre. Paul1976, you lived in London for ten years so you know that it’s not a bubble of wealth and privilege. On the contrary – London has some of the poorest and most deprived areas in the country, often a stone’s throw from some of the wealthiest. To live in London is to live among a diverse cross-section of people which will give you a very broad understanding of consumers. We have more “Carlsberg drinkers” we have more branches Morrison’s and you’re quite right to quote Lord Puttnam - mainstream is not a dirty word. We have plenty of that here too.

Very kind of you, giles17854, to feel sorry for my clients but there’s really no need. They won’t get a narrow-minded view. For the reasons above, creatives in London are able to give their clients the very opposite.

Jeann20426, please don’t call me “xenophobic”. This suggests a dislike or a mis-trust of foreigners. One of the many joys of living in London is its tolerance and lack of xenophobia. I was brought up in Brent, the most culturally diverse borough in the UK. My father was an immigrant so, as you can imagine, I find xenophobia an alien and repugnant attitude. And as for Anglocentric? What on earth are you talking about? Did I try to claim that England was in any way better than other countries? Did I even mention other countries? If you want to use big, grown-up words, make sure you know what they mean.

And James Trazona - at least you present your arguments in a rational and eloquent way but I cannot agree that London is a city driven by wealth. Rich people in “Chelsea Tractors” are easy targets. They’re a tiny proportion of the populace and tend to be bankers. Creative people, on the other hand, have flocked here for generations. They’re seldom driven by wealth, always driven by ideas. They’ll put up with squalid housing, high levels of crime, a heavily strained infra-structure and general penury in return for being at the centre of things and the feeling that London can offer them creative opportunities that other places can’t. When you say it’s an unfriendly city (Olympics aside), I would say it’s a friendly city (as the Olympics have proved).

Finally, matta67317, fitzc39496 and russm34721. I couldn’t quite believe it at first but I’ve re-read your posts and it’s true. You really do believe that the way to challenge another person’s opinion is to make fun of that person’s surname.

Dear God, it looks like you’re in dire need of some creative inspiration.

Well, you know where to come for that.

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