David Walden: what's next for the ad-land maestro?

Not retiring: Outgoing TBWA\Whybin chief executive David Walden

Outspoken ad boss David Walden earlier this month confirmed long-standing rumours he will leave the agency he founded, TBWA\Whybin.

So what does a larger-than-life creative do with himself after decades in fast-paced ad land?

“Well I am not retiring, that is for sure,” he told NBR ONLINE. “Life will not be dull, I can assure you of that, because it never has been.”

Mr Walden now fancies himself a board member of other companies, building on his experience on the Fred Hollows Foundation board.

“Brands are now major items on balance sheets and boards are increasingly adding people like me to their line-up. I want to use my experience and talent to help companies which maybe want a new and independent point of view.”

Harder times
Mr Walden is an ad land veteran who has served as president of CAANZ, an incorporated body representing the interests of members on issues affecting the advertising industry and agencies.

Reflecting on his time in ad land, Mr Walden tells NBR ONLINE times are becoming harder as clients demand proven return on investment with every campaign.

“It has got tougher, margins have been slashed and the media landscape has changed dramatically.”

Mr Walden says life in ad land has become more serious, more politically correct and more timid, especially as client’s procurement departments become involved.

“I’m sorry, but buying an agency is a fundamentally different process to buying paperclips.

“We have been marginalised a bit by 'consultants' who have wheedled their way into client structures and consigned agencies to 'ad-makers", whereas our real value is in creative thinking.”

'Our own worst enemy'
It does not help, Mr Walden says, that the ad industry are seen as the “court jesters” of commerce.

“I think we are our worst enemy when it comes to managing our own image as an industry.

“It’s an incredibly competitive, tough business but the way we allow ourselves to be portrayed is appalling. Egos, gossip, personal attacks on industry blogs, awards for awards sake – they all trivialise the value we deliver to business.”

Mr Walden says the Kiwi industry has lost a lot of talent to Australia, but it is great that many are returning.

“That's why I am thrilled we are getting Toby Talbot back as he is a real talent and our industry will be better with him back here.”


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“I’m sorry, but buying an agency is a fundamentally different process to buying paperclips."
Absolutely! But no apology is necessary though. Those clients should apologize to their stakeholders and their agencies for their ill-informed and weak decisions. Too many clients have forgotten the value their agencies offer, relegating them to basic supplier status. Big mistake. Those clients deserve to be reamed by their competitors who "get it".

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