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Review // Design Cultures Guest Lecture: David Kershaw, CEO, M&C Saatchi

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Cropped group

Written by
Helen Carney
Published date
04 March 2015

David Kershaw, CEO, M&C Saatchi, visited LCC recently to talk to students on the BA (Hons) Design Cultures course studying the Contextual and Theoretical Studies – Creative Industries unit.

LCC Associate Lecturer Maureen Salmon MA FRSA reports on a fascinating lecture on advertising agencies and leadership.

David Kershaw was educated at Bedales School and Durham University, where he obtained a BA (Hons) in Politics and Economics. He entered advertising as a graduate trainee at Wasey Campbell-Ewald in 1977.

He then gained an MBA from the London Business School, and later joined Saatchi & Saatchi UK. He became its Chairman and CEO in 1994.

In January 1995 he resigned together with Maurice and Charles Saatchi, Bill Muirhead and Jeremy Sinclair to set up M&C Saatchi. The company has 22 offices around the world.

David began by talking about his career journey. He described how, with a lucky piece of advice, he entered the corporate world of advertising. The setting of M&C Saatchi was an “entrepreneurial adventure”.

David highlighted the importance of simplicity in leading and managing. Talking about M&C Saatchi, he said: “What we do is create communication that sell things or ideas for our clients. Advertising is about trying to change people’s behaviour, sometimes their thinking.”

He explained that an agency has to answer six key questions:

1. Who are we selling to?
2. What do we want them to do?
3. What should we say?
4. How should we say it?
5. Where shall we say it?
6. How will we know if it works?

To illustrate, he showed the ‘Mighty White Bread’ (Australia) advertisement.

He also asked:

What do you need to get a job?

• Account Management & Planning: a degree, passion and personality
• Creative: a ‘book’ often put together at college/specialist courses
• Production – a trade, craft skill: college/apprenticeship

A lively discussion ensued, with some insightful questions and comments from the students on leadership, creativity, the future of advertising in the digital age and the kind of people the advertising industry is looking to recruit. In David Kershaw’s words, these are “people with a good degree plus a smart personality, passion and relentlessness.”

Student responses //

“David Kershaw’s talk on leadership was something that I had to take note of, no matter what. He gave many of his own personal insights into the importance of being an executive at M&C Saatchi. I felt thankful that he was able to make time to come in to talk with us about his experiences and remind us that apart from being skilled at what you do, having a personality and a positive attitude are something that prestigious firms look for. I hope that in the near future we will be able to invite him over again to do another talk as I feel that many students have missed this rare opportunity to listen to one of the greats in the industry.”
Ernst Young, BA (Hons) Advertising, Year 2

“I really enjoyed listening to David Kershaw and was inspired by his ideas on leadership and how to have clarity of purpose, avoid complexity and platitudes, be different, make a difference by doing good work, have courage, manage risk and encourage 100% participation. Leadership is more important than management. It’s all about people – make sure they are better than you, diverse in talent, skills and personality, passionate, and relentless.”
Nuria Urcelay, BA (Hons) Design Cultures, Year 1

“David Kershaw’s ideas on the concept of permanent revolution resonated with me. “Keep shaking things up, question yourself” when he was talking about leadership, and as an inspirational one I will also choose “Don’t absorb, radiate.”
Esther Fuentes, BA (Hons) Design Cultures, Year 1

On behalf of LCC, UAL, we thank David for sharing his ideas and experience on leadership and his entrepreneurial adventure in advertising with our students.

He is one of the UK creative industries’ most inspirational and passionate leaders who has demonstrated his commitment to developing and inspiring future leaders for the industry, through his work as a board member of the Clore Leadership Programme and as chairman of the Cultural Leadership Programme from 2006 to 2011.

Students who attended the talk have been invited to apply for the 2015 M&C Saatchi Work Placement Scheme.

Words by Maureen Salmon MA FRSA
Associate Lecturer BA (Hons) Design Cultures/Contextual and Theoretical Studies

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