What happened when one of the advertising world’s most famous people met one of the world’s most famous people? At the recent Cannes Lions festival The Drum was privy to their intimate and wide-ranging conversation.
“I find this very intimidating,” admits Sir Martin Sorrell, as arguably the most powerful person in advertising sits down to interview Kim Kardashian West, arguably the most famous celebrity brand in the world.
She is fresh from the stage at Cannes Lions where she has just spoken alongside Chris Duffey of Sudler & Hennessey and Glu Mobile’s Niccolo De Masi about digital storytelling and her hugely successful video game, Kim Kardashian: Hollywood.
The WPP boss and the TV personality quickly strike up a rapport during a relaxed conversation on social sharing and playing the long game.
Sir Martin Sorrell: Tell me a little bit about what you manage to do on social media, because it is quite extraordinary.
Kim Kardashian: I love social media. I give it a lot of credit for my career. I use it as a free focus group. If I have a perfume bottle for example and can’t decide what colour to make it I will post both colours and see which one my followers prefer – and I really do genuinely listen… I take the advice.
MS: You have 37m followers on Instagram, 30m on Facebook, 35m on Twitter... How did it generate? Because you really are a creature of social media.
KK: I started on Friendster, then Myspace, then I moved on to Twitter. Ryan Seacrest [producer of Keeping Up With The Kardashians] called me and said you have to get on this thing called Twitter. I posted my first TwitPic in Mexico. I’d fallen asleep outside with huge sunglasses on and I got so badly burned. I posted it and it was on CNN. I just remember looking at the TV in Mexico thinking ‘this is insane’.
MS: Where you nervous about it when you started? I was speaking to your mum [Kris Jenner, who is present during the interview] and she says she was concerned about social media and what it meant as a whole, for the family, the Kardashian brand…
KK: On Myspace people would write nasty comments but I would respond to every one and prove there was a different side to me, that they didn’t know me.
MS: You aren’t on Snapchat, and say what you would do is launch your own… So is this a Jay Z, ‘we’re going to control it ourselves’ type thing?
KK: Not my own Snapchat, but a live streaming service on my new website that’s launching this summer. I’m going to have my own platform where I share most of my photos. I’m going to do lots of beauty tutorials, because a lot of my fans want to know how I get a certain kind of eye makeup or contouring, so I want to share with them. It will be my world of sharing all my tricks and tips.
I love sharing the behind the scenes of things. My assistant has been taking video and still photography of everything I do, so we’re going to share all that, and a lot of it is the making of the video game.
MS: And this links very neatly into the game. You’ve started to go beyond social media and create a fantastically successful game. How did that originate?
KK: The team came to me with the idea to do a video game with me as the main character. It was an existing game they wanted to revamp with the Kim Kardashian version. I’d just had the baby and my husband and I had talked about only working on passion projects – my husband only does anything that he is one billion per cent passionate about. So I wanted more focus and I respect him and his opinion and I asked ‘what do you think of this, do you think I should do it?’ and he was like ‘you have to do this’.
MS: Did you ever believe it would be so big?
KK: No. I’m always confident, and the team was confident, but it was the first project in a long time where people were so positive – I think we have this record of the most comments that the app store has ever gotten, and 99 per cent were positive. That was such an uplifting feeling. A confidence builder.
MS: Early on you exploited the media, then it exploited you, and now you look at it more long term, so this is about you designing products, coming up with ideas, the game, a fragrance, and developing it yourself because you want control?
KK: Absolutely. I would do a lot of licensing deals in the past which were good at the time, but you do outgrow them and you want to have ownership, and we’re in a really interesting position now where almost every licensing deal is up, and so it is a really great opportunity to partner with someone and really own the companies.
MS: Do you get intimately involved in the ideas, the design… you don’t say to someone go away and do it?
KK: Yes, absolutely. You have to. I wouldn’t trust anybody else to.
Watch the full conversation between Kardashian West and Sorrell below, or visit The Drum's YouTube channel.
This feature was first published in the 8 July issue of The Drum.