CS Interviews: Tim Lindsay

CS went down to have a chat with Tim Lindsay, Shakespeare lover and CEO of D&AD.

How would you describe D&AD to somebody that has no knowledge of the design or advertising industry?

I would describe it as 3 things: it is an education charity that promotes creative education, it’s an award show which we like to think of as the Oscars of the advertising and design world, and it’s a growing global creative community.


How did you get to where you are today?

I’ve worked in advertising since I left university, during those 34 years I happened to be at the right places at the right times. I was at BBH for 10 years right at the beginning running the Levi’s business, and then 12 years at Lowe Howard-Spink. I’ve been lucky enough to have worked with some brilliant people on some great businesses and sold a lot of really good work.

So on to how I got here (D&AD). I had been on the D&AD Exec and it seemed like quite a smooth transition for me to become CEO. Once again I was in the right place at the right time.


What do you think are the most important qualities needed to manage D&AD?

I think an enthusiasm for the business, but a particular kind of enthusiasm. A belief that doing the right thing is the right thing to do, that the good stuff works better than the bad stuff and a desire to promote and propagate that through education, awards and other activities. You have to be completely un-cynical and enthusiastic about the business, I think that is probably the most important thing, and that needs to be apparent to the outside world and the people working at D&AD.


What do you think are the biggest challenges facing the creative industries today?

Clients and their lack of understanding about the creative process; also the fact that what the creative industries do isn’t valued highly enough, except by a handful of clients. I think the cause is an erosion of the trust that used to exist between the client and the agency. I’ve been around for long enough to remember when that trust existed between good agencies and good clients, and I don’t see much of it around anymore.


What’s been your biggest learning throughout your career?

Work with good people. If you can find people to learn from, and then, as you get more senior, people you respect and want to work with, and then, as you get even more senior, people who are fantastic at their jobs and are going to be better than you, then you’ve cracked it. David Ogilvy said, ‘If we hire people who are smaller than we are, we will become a company of dwarfs. If we hire people who larger than we are, we’ll become a company of giants’.


If you could collaborate with anybody dead or alive, on any project, who would it be?

I’m going to say something really boring like Shakespeare, but that’s only because I would have liked to have met him. I read English at university, I love literature and I am fascinated by Shakespeare, so I think I would go back and be the props man in the first production of Hamlet.


What is the most interesting thing that you have seen recently?

If you had asked me in 6 hours I would probably have said the Hockney exhibition, but I’m not seeing until this afternoon. I saw a Don Mccullin exhibition recently. Our family home is in Bath and he lives in Somerset, it was a mixture of his landscape stuff and some of his war photographs. I really like photography a lot and Dom Mccullin is amazing so I would say that, it certainly left an impression on me.


What keeps you awake at night?

Almost nothing. I’ve learnt that you should only worry about the things you can do something about.


If you could be somebody else, who would it be?

I’ve never wanted to be anybody else. There are people whose lives I envy but not particularly. I can honestly tell you that there isn’t anyone else I would want to be.


If you took a photo of a piece of cheese, what would you say to make it smile?

Saying cheese doesn’t actually make you smile you know, but saying ‘Cherokee’ does, so I would ask it to say that.


Who do suspect of being an alien?

Lots of people. I won’t name her, but there was a marketing manager at Pedigree Pet foods who was an alien, I don’t suspect it I know it. I was up there with the Creative Director, Fraizer Jellyman, we said something quite mild in opposition to what she had said, and she rasped out “LISTEN TO THE FEEDBACK” in a voice that definitely wasn’t hers.


Who’s your favourite villain?

The Joker played by Jack Nicholson, Iago from Othello would be my second choice.


Where do you do your best thinking?

Right up against a deadline probably. I find it comforting to write things down to try and make sense of them, and I do that best in the morning. I have a brief period of lucidity between about 8 and 9.30.


What’s the best piece of advice you have ever been given?

You have two ears and one mouth and you should use them in that ratio. I think that works not just for business, but also for everything.


What’s the future of advertising?

I suppose the glib answer is content, but I don’t really know what that means. I think the industry will continue to find ways of interrupting people’s lives in order to engage with them and impart some information or give them a message. I think we’ll find ever more inventive ways to intrude on people, but you have to do it in a way that they allow.

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