Opinion: Perspective - D&AD will survive latest management upheaval

Could there be a worse time for D&AD to lose its chief executive? The abrupt departure of Michael Hockney this week appeared to plunge the organisation into disarray just weeks ahead of its crucial Congress.

D&AD went underground once news of Hockney's departure seeped out. Who was in command? Well, calls were referred to D&AD's HR department, which resolutely refused to come to the phone on Wednesday morning. Clearly, this was not a smooth and gentlemanly handover. If this is a sign of things to come until a new chief exec is found, it doesn't bode well for the crucial awards in May.

Fortunately for D&AD, what the organisation represents means a lot to a lot of people in the ad and design industries and they invest plenty of energy on the D&AD executive and awards juries; the industry has a vested interest in ensuring D&AD doesn't miss a beat. Being in the D&AD book, winning a Pencil: these are still the markers of creative success. And as an educational charity, D&AD does a fantastic job with students, working with universities and colleges to help nurture talent and manage students' expectations of what lies beyond the end of their course. Again, there is a momentum here which would be hard to stem.

OK, I've never been quite convinced by the effort (beyond the obvious need to drive revenues from overseas awards entries) of taking a broad global view of D&AD's areas of interest. But in the age of webcasting and digital delivery, D&AD can now begin to serve its overseas constituents much more effectively and start to deliver on its promise of working with the international creative community.

And the whole Billingsgate extravaganza, brave and ambitious, is unwieldy and certainly seems to have caused financial instability. It is an impressive showcase for the best that the design and advertising industries offer. But is it a luxury for what is essentially a small charity to undertake? D&AD has clearly still not managed to shake off the politics and tensions that have before undermined its role in the industry.

So what of Hockney himself? Hockney was not a sparkling frontman and he certainly was a rather low-key figure in an industry that thrives on colour and personality. As a representative of an organisation founded on creative excellence, Hockney was perhaps not vocal enough when it came to highlighting the vital role that creativity plays in driving business success. At a time when the ad industry is under siege, the business needs every voice it has to speak loudly in its defence; D&AD could have done more. But Hockney did much to reshape the organisation and bring it more up-to-date. And Hockney was the man who knocked that interminably long awards ceremony on its head and spruced up the whole event.

The pressure will now be on Wieden & Kennedy's Tony Davidson, as the D&AD president, to ensure this year's awards are conducted with the confidence their status demands. But then that's always been D&AD's strength: people like Davidson care, get involved and work hard for D&AD, and the departure of Hockney is likely to steel that sort of commitment.

Talking of students and education, the latest initiative by the excellent Ideas Foundation (set up by WCRS's Robin Wight to help give young students first-hand experience of the creative industries) is another example of adland at its best: donating time and experience to help inspire and nurture young people who might otherwise never get the chance to see what really happens in the workplace.

This year's lucky students had access to some of London's top agencies and top ad execs (page 16) and there's no doubt that the experience will have had a profound effect. Advertising is so easily and often portrayed as a social ill. This is exactly the sort of thing the industry should be making more noise about.

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