Adland Live at D&AD Festival, Part Two: In Conversation With Tim Lindsay

Tim Lindsay is sporting a new beard for D&AD 2016, but otherwise he remains unchanged; the same boundless energy and boyish charm, seemingly unaffected by the creative chaos that throngs around him. When I first spot him in the Judges’ Lounge I point out – jokingly – that I barely recognize him. “I’m going undercover!” he replies warmly, shaking my hand although I’m pretty sure he’s entirely forgotten who I am. Even though D&AD Festival is a busy and massively ambitious circus this year, he gives off an aura of easy relaxation – and I’m reminded of the calm at the center of a wild storm. He speaks with Adland about the Festival and answers some challenging questions.

Adland: Can you explain your role as CEO within D&AD?

Tim: I’d describe myself as ‘Chief Cheerleader’ and salesperson. (He laughs) … No, seriously! I’m lucky to be the publically facing face of the organisation, along with the President Andy Sandoz. My job is quite a simple one – get out there and raise our profile in the world.

Adland: Last year we had ‘Judging Week’, and now we have ‘D&AD Festival’. Why the transition and why specifically did you choose to call it a festival?

Tim: We’re forward facing, and we want to be accessible to as many people as possible. D&AD has always been about new technology, new talent, and this year we want to be even more accessible. This isn’t a conference. It’s a celebration. Festival has always had that Rock Star connotation. We want people to leave inspired, seeing and experiencing stuff that will help them in their future creative careers.

Adland: What are the biggest changes you’ve seen in the industry in the last 12 months?

Tim: Don’t know! Probably not as much as we’d like, or admit. We’ve seen some big brands doing well recently; it’s good to see big brands making pencil-winning work. And it’s great to see amazing work coming from more and more places – Sri Lanka, India – all around the world.

Adland: Last year we spoke about diversity. It is working? Is the industry more diverse now?

Tim: No. In fact I’d say the opposite is true. We’re less diverse than we were 10 or 20 years ago. More white middle class people. Why? I’d say tuition fees are putting a lot of people off these days - keeping them out of advertising. In terms of ethnic diversity, we’re still a long way from reflecting the vibrant minorities that make up London. We’re about 11% minorities in the advertising industry in London, a figure that should be closer to 18%. So yes, we’ve still got a long way to go.

Adland: Are we an industry that gives lip service to diversity then?

Tim: Sometimes! I was at a diversity panel at Loeries – an advertising event in South Africa. We had 7 speakers – all white and male… talking about diversity! You’ve got to wonder, what’s the fucking point…?

Adland: What the biggest issue in the industry now?

Tim: Transgender. Transgender is the new gay kiss.

Adland: The next taboo?

Tim: The next thing to see in advertising. Once, there weren’t any depictions of black people in advertising. There weren’t any gay people in advertising. Now there are. And that’s a good thing. A really good thing. Although, I’d say throwing transgender people into advertising has become… how do I put it… a bit of a meme. It needs to be done well.

Adland: What ad has pissed you off the most in the last year?

Tim: I can’t remember! Probably because bad advertising is the kind you immediately forget. But I tell you what really pisses me off – being followed around on Facebook by some intrusive ad, just because I happened to visit a particular website. It’s annoying. And that’s exactly the reason that adblocking is becoming the norm.

Adland: Should the industry be worried?

Tim: The industry is starting to panic. When it comes to digital advertising, less is more. Adblocking is a serious issue, and a huge problem. We get irritated by all these intrusive ads online and there’s a disconnect – we forget that they fund content – the Guardian, for example – that people enjoy.

Adland: Is there a solution?

Tim: We need an industry-wide initiate, with certain standards, like Clearchannel, the ASA; standards for digital advertising. I’ve no idea how to make it happen though, sorry!

Adland: D&AD Festival is bigger than ever. Will it be even bigger next year?

Tim: I hope not! I don’t think we need to grow, but we’ll improve. We’ve learned lessons – how to use the venue best, how to stage events. People are paying to be here and we want to put on the best possible event for them. So my hope for next year is that we’ll be even better, not even bigger.

Adland: People are paying, but not a lot. Is that important?

Tim: Absolutely! We do make some money from an event like this, but we call it a ‘surplus’, not a ‘profit’. And we reinvest it in New Blood. That’s what we want to be about – accessible, and promoting the next generation. Can I get a get a dig in?

Adland: Please do.

Tim: Cannes costs around €4000 to enter these days. And then double again for travel, and a few glasses of rose. Fuck that. We actually want people to come.

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