Lefroy steps down as CEO of the AA after seven years

Advertising Association chief executive Tim Lefroy is leaving after a seven-year tenure that has been praised for improving the industry's wider standing.

Lefroy: leaves at the end of this year
Lefroy: leaves at the end of this year

AA achievements under Lefroy

1. Set up Front Foot, a campaign funded by the industry that proactively promotes advertising. The initiative has 70 members including agencies, marketers and media owners. "That’s probably been one of the big instruments of transformations," Lefroy said.

2. Founded the think-tank Credos, which makes the economic case for advertising through its Advertising Pays series of reports. Lefroy said: "Now, over 80% of MPs agree about advertising’s importance to the economy."

3. Altered adland’s perception of the AA and recruited industry practitioners to be involved in the body’s initiatives including Lead, the annual summit.

4. Changed the governance of the organisation and set up a strong executive team.

5. Ensured the AA is involved in debates about digital changes.

Lefroy will step down at the end of this year. He plans to look for non-executive positions to add to his existing trustee role at Riverside Studios.

"The AA has grown in both strength and influence, and Tim’s are big shoes for us to fill," AA chairman James Murphy said. "The search for a successor is already under way and we are announcing this today to ensure the widest possible search."

The industry has praised Lefroy for using his AA tenure to make a strong economic case for advertising, taking a more practical stance on ethical issues. 

Andy Duncan, Camelot’s chief executive and president of the AA, said Lefroy was able to "oversee a real step change with stakeholders both inside and outside the industry".

Sir Chris Powell, chair of the Advertising Standards Board of Finance, praised Lefroy for helping make the AA "more energetic and embrace digital".

Lefroy joined the AA in 2009, having previously spent 30 years at both brands and agencies, including Cadbury, Gillette and McCann Erickson. 

He said he was stepping down because he believes chief executives should only stay for a maximum of seven years – otherwise there is a risk that an organisation "goes stale and the brave calls aren’t made".

Lefroy said his successor will need "to absolutely believe in the role advertising".

What the AA needs to focus on in the future

1. Children and advertising – in particular, the debate around products that are high in fat, salt and sugar.

2. Data privacy – establish how the industry should behave responsibly towards consumers.

3. Remain the industry’s cheerleader while being its conscience on topics such as body image.

4. Stay in touch with the rapid digital evolution and how the industry is changing as a result.