Close-Up: What must D&AD's chief exec do now?

What are the biggest challenges facing Tim O'Kennedy as he takes up the reins, Noel Bussey asks.

When Paul Brazier, the incoming D&AD president, says "we've taken our time in finding the right chief executive", he isn't lying.

It's more than two years since Michael Hockney announced his shock resignation from the role after four years of service.

At the time, the not-for-profit awards show was undergoing some serious upheaval as it continued to move from a UK showcase to a global advertising extravaganza - and its finances were on the critical list.

Now, with its feet planted firmly on the global stage, it has filled the vacant chief executive role with Tim O'Kennedy, the former managing director of Wieden & Kennedy in Amsterdam.

He acknowledges that he will face a number of big challenges in the role, and that two of the biggest will be keeping the awards relevant to creatives and ensuring that, as D&AD becomes increasingly global, it doesn't lose its touch with the UK.

There have been murmurs of dissatisfaction within the creative community for the past couple of years about this issue.

One industry source, who wishes to remain nameless, comments: "The main challenge is how to balance local excitement with the financial need for disciplinary and international reach. The more borders the organisation crosses, and the more disciplines that are included, the greater the risk of disengagement from the UK advertising community."

Russell Ramsey, the executive creative director at JWT, thinks that keeping a very British jury will go some way to alleviating some of these concerns.

"If it is always 50 per cent international and 50 per cent British then it will not become too international, which is what it needs."

Meanwhile, O'Kennedy is adamant that keeping "British eccentricity" is of the utmost importance in his role and says: "We can't lose the eccentricity of the UK. We have to create an enduring answer - not a scab to be picked at."

He is also extremely aware that another important role is making sure the rewards remain relevant to all creatives, not just in advertising and the UK, but in all regions, all industry's and all sectors.

Ben Priest, a founder at Adam & Eve, says: "D&AD has a magic to it and it must keep spreading that magic around via colleges, students, seminars, events, lectures etc. The whole world, young and old, needs to be inspired by D&AD. That starts with the Annual and awards, but must be much more than that."

There is also a feeling within the industry that much of this relevance will come from D&AD finding its own voice and not trying to be like Cannes.

Priest says: "There's nothing wrong with Cannes. It's just that we already have one."

His other major challenge will be handling the business side of the company. It has come a fair way since it teetered on the edge of bankruptcy, but in the past two years, much of the chief executive role has been left to the president.

Brazier says: "Tim knows exactly what to do and his presence will free me up next year to do some proper work."

With O'Kennedy not actually starting the job for another month, it will be a little while before the creative community starts to see the benefit of the appointment - but if O'Kennedy's fervour and zeal are translated into good management then the challenges facing D&AD could be sorted out extremely quickly.

D&AD CHIEF - Tim O'Kennedy, chief executive, D&AD

"There are some really big questions that need asking, such as are we a church of many faiths and are we British any more?

"A big challenge is making sure that other creative communities feel that we are still their creative home.

"We also have to realise that work is now global and needs to be seen on a global scale, but that doesn't mean the award is not British - people outside of Britain still look at the UK as the highest standards. We also can't lose the eccentricity of the UK. We have to create an enduring answer - not a scab to be picked at."

CREATIVE - Dave Bedwood, creative partner, Lean Mean Fighting Machine

"When I was younger, D&AD was always the standard-bearer - everyone wanted a Pencil. Now I think people would prefer to get a Cannes Lion.

"I think the D&AD judges get a bit scared about the perceived standard and get into an attitude of saying that everything is 'not good enough', so it's becoming very hard to win anything.

"Tim also has to ensure that it becomes more relevant to the creatives of today. When we were young, it was relevant to us. It now needs to continue diversifying because young creatives today are also diversifying in the way they think and work."

CREATIVE - Paul Brazier, incoming D&AD president, executive creative director, Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO

"We took a long time in appointing someone because we first needed to work out what job needed to be done - because it's a very big ask.

"There are a lot of challenges facing Tim, such as the tension between making D&AD relevant not only to creatives from around the globe, but creatives from other creative industries.

"He'll also need to get to grips with the business issues of running a global awards show while continuing the work with colleges and building the D&AD brand."

CREATIVE - Russell Ramsey, executive creative director, JWT

"D&AD spent a few years trying to be Cannes and trying to become an ad festival - you just can't do that in London, it's too busy. However, it seems to be getting back to its core values - being loud and proud about creative.

"It's also important that Tim makes sure D&AD doesn't lose its British eccentricity. There's nothing wrong with it being global but it can't forget its roots.

"It's also good that it has put someone with a good business brain in charge to take care of the brand."

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