Tim Lindsay, CEO, D&AD

Born in the UK and brought up in Africa, Tim began his career in advertising in 1977

Tom Holmes

Founder & Chairman



Tom Holmes talks to Tim Lindsay, CEO of D&AD, the Global Association for Creative Advertising & Design Awards.

Born in the UK and brought up in Africa, Tim began his career in advertising in 1977. Since then he has held a number of senior agency positions as joint managing director of BBH, becoming CEO, then European President, then Worldwide President of Lowe Howard-Spink/Lowe Lintas/Lowe Worldwide before becoming Chairman of Publicis UK and subsequently President of TBWA\UK and Ireland.

Tim joined D&AD in September 2011.


Creativebrief: Tim, as CEO of D&AD what is your primary focus?

Tim Lindsay:  D&AD exists to stimulate, enable and award creative excellence in design and advertising. We do this via the awards, training, membership and the New Blood program, which supports young creative people in education, in the transition to the professional industry, and during their first few years in the business. My job is to make sure the creative community knows that all the money D&AD makes goes back into the business and that we’re here to support that community worldwide, year round.

Creativebrief: After running agencies what’s it like managing a charity?

Tim Lindsay: It’s the best job in the world; just not the best paid. Fundamentally, as one of the front persons for the organisation – along with the President Laura Jordan-Bambach and the chairman Dick Powell, plus other senior D&AD staff like COO Dara Lynch – my job is to meet interesting people and talk about interesting stuff. I’ve always loved good work – developing it, selling it, helping bring it into the world. Now I’m surrounded by it and the people who make it every day. And although we have customers we don’t have clients. I’ll stop there.

Creativebrief: Your career has spanned The Gate Worldwide, TBWA, Publicis, Lowe, Young & Rubicam and Bartle Bogle Hegarty, what have been the high points?

Tim Lindsay: Too many to list here, so here’s one. When I was President of Lowe Worldwide Niall Fitzgerald, then chairman of Unilever, asked the CEO’s of Interpublic and WPP, John Dooner and Sir Martin, to send two senior executives, one from each group, to advise President Mbeki of South Africa on a ‘Brand South Africa’ project. Peter Bell and I were picked. We were briefed and spent three hours with the President and two of his most senior ministers. It’s the only time I’ve ever had a head of state take notes while I was speaking. Before the meeting we were sitting with the President’s chief of staff and said, rather nervously, that while we were well briefed and had a point of view we didn’t have a Powerpoint presentation. He leaned across and said ‘we’ve conducted a bloodless revolution in a country of 44 million people without Powerpoint. It’ll be ok.’

Creativebrief: Along the way, have there been individual marketers who particularly inspired you?

Tim Lindsay: Yes, for sure. Bob Rockey, President of Levi’s Europe, who bought the famous 501 ‘Laundrette’ campaign from BBH back in 1984 in a 20 minute meeting, simply asking ‘will it work?’. When we said it would he said ‘let’s do it then’. And Terry Leahy and Tim Mason at Tesco, who bought ‘Dotty’ and deservedly prospered as a result. And all the marketing guys and girls at Whitbread who bought successive Stella Artois commercials. I could go on.

Creativebrief: What recent D&AD initiatives are you most proud of?

Tim Lindsay: Easy. The White Pencil, which has established a program and a movement to fire up the design and advertising industries on the issues of ethical business, corporate social responsibility and sustainability. It sounds a bit worthy but it’s the most important set of issues confronting business today and our industry has an opportunity to lead the charge.

Creativebrief: Do you think UK advertising is still a world leader?

Tim Lindsay: British advertising is still right up there, but there’s great work coming from many more places than, say, back in the 80’s and 90’s. North America and Europe are so strong. South America is an incredibly vibrant and exciting scene, as is India, South Africa, Australia, Malysia, Thailand ... D&AD put work in the Annual from 47 countries last year.

Creativebrief: What issue confronting the marketing industry today is of most concern to you?

Tim Lindsay: Procurement is in the process of cutting the value out of the business. Of course agencies and studios have to respond to the financial pressures on their clients; but the consequence is a much shallower talent pool and people working twice as hard for half the money. The really good stuff really does take time. Bill Bernbach famously said’ our first thoughts are about as good as everyone else’s.’ Agencies are being bullied and scared agencies never produce great work; they just produce lots of mediocre work very quickly.

Creativebrief: How do you see the media landscape unfolding in the next 5 years?

Tim Lindsay: The future may be mobile but broadcast is going to be with us for a long time yet.

Creativebrief: What are your views on pitching? Do you think there is a better/more modern way?

Tim Lindsay: I always enjoy pitching –it’s when agencies are at their best – galvanised, hopeful, unconstrained. I think if the playing field is level and the client is looking for the right thing – a bunch of talented people that she can develop a long term relationship with – then a good old fashioned pitch, with lots of client access and a decent amount of time isn’t the worst way to choose a creative partner.

Creativebrief: How are you going about increasing D&AD’s international profile?

Tim Lindsay: In short, by appointing representatives and partnering with other not-for-profit awards and training organisations around the world. An example would be Kyoorius in India. They have a respected and established design festival in Goa called Design Yatra and we’re helping them set up design and advertising awards.

Creativebrief: Globally, which cities excite you the most and why?

Tim Lindsay: Mumbai is marvellous – with a really vibrant design and advertising scene, doing great work. Ditto Sao Paulo. But you can’t beat London. D&AD’s offices are in Shoreditch and the energy is palpable. Cycling to work from Ladbroke Grove to Hanbury Street gives me a real buzz, even in the rain

Creativebrief: Who are your creative heroes and what makes them exceptional?

Tim Lindsay: In advertising Sir John Hegarty, Mike Cozens, Graham Watson, Adrian Holmes, Vince Squibb, Paul Weinberger and many, many others. What made them all special was their complete dedication to making the work as good as it could possibly be, no compromise. The founding fathers of D&AD – Bob Gill, Alan Fletcher, the late, great Colin Millward, Terence Donovan, David Bailey are up there in the Pantheon. And I’d want to name three account men who have made a massive contribution to British advertising, Lord Puttnam, Sir Frank Lowe and Sir Nigel Bogle.

Creativebrief: The D&AD Awards 2014 are open for entry so what do you expect from this year’s entries?

Tim Lindsay: More entries, from more countries, competing for the ultimate creative accolade – a place in the annual; a nomination; a yellow pencil; maybe, just maybe a black. More digital and integrated work, obviously. Seeing the 12,000 odd pieces of work on display in the Great Hall at Olympia during judging week, with 200 of the world’s finest design and advertising practitioners assembled to judge it is truly inspiring. I wish more people could share the experience.

Creativebrief: If you had the chance to go back in time what advice would you give to your younger self?

Tim Lindsay: Start your own agency.