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Obituary: Tim Broadbent

News, 10 July 2015

LONDON: Tim Broadbent, the world's leading authority on the elusive subject of advertising effectiveness, has died after a long battle with cancer.

The only person to have won two Grand Prix in the prestigious IPA Effectiveness Awards, Broadbent, via his work for leading advertising agencies, prolific writing, and tireless efforts to develop industry effectiveness awards around the world, exerted a profound influence on the development of current advertising practice.

For the past six years, Broadbent had been Global Effectiveness Director for Ogilvy & Mather, working first in China, then in Singapore. Miles Young, Ogilvy & Mather's Worldwide Chairman and CEO, announced the loss of "a great colleague and friend" in a note to staff.

Mike Waterson, Chairman of Warc and a close friend, said: "We have lost one of of the most influential advertising industry practitioners and thought leaders of his generation. Effortlessly wise, with a formidable intellect coupled with an acerbic sense of humour, and unfailing generosity to all, he will be sorely missed."

Tim was the son of Simon Broadbent, a pioneer of econometrics in advertising and an expert in the long-term value of brand-building. Although he would ultimately follow his father into advertising, as a young man, Tim flirted with alternative careers, including a stint as a musician with friends from Dulwich College. He even acted as a drummer for David Bowie (under the name Timothy James Ralph St. Laurent Thomas Moore Broadbent).

Broadbent's advertising career started in the market research department of Beecham's. He soon moved agency-side, and into advertising account planning, at Boase Massimi Pollitt in 1978.

His first IPA Effectiveness Awards Grand Prix came in 1982, during his BMP days, for a campaign for John Smith's Bitter. The Big John campaign helped to turn around a failing brand (John Smith's still exists today).

James Best, Chairman of CAP/BCAP, worked with Broadbent at BMP and co-wrote the 'Big John' paper. "His considerable intellect helped us both to win an IPA Grand Prix and the agency loads of awards," he said. "A planner of virtuosity, perception and great eloquence, he could always distil the complex down to the actionable and was a delight to work alongside."

For almost three decades Broadbent worked at some of London's brightest agencies, including WCRS and Saatchi & Saatchi. He was the planning director and managing partner of Y&R, and the chief strategic officer of the Cordiant Group EMEA.

Of his time in London, he recalled high points being "working with creative gods like John Webster at BMP and Mike Cozens at Y&R". Low points included the industry shift that saw the media department of advertising agencies spun off as separate businesses – a development he described, in typically blunt fashion, as "catastrophically stupid".

Among the lessons he took from that period was a belief in the ongoing acquisition of knowledge: "The more you know, the more useful you are," he said. "Useful people are the last to be fired and first in line for pay rises and interesting jobs."

Tony Cadman, a childhood friend who later worked with Broadbent in London, recalled an "enormously intelligent" boy who was a "voracious reader". He could be an "intimidating" presence at school – an impression reinforced by his long blonde hair – and "quite a challenge to the authority of the school".

Cadman added: "In later life, as Tim's achievements became widely recognised, he mellowed and matured. He developed patience, a wish to share knowledge, to share what he loved and to enrich all our lives. Despite his brilliance, he had a modesty which those who knew him well could see and it added to his enormous stature."

Broadbent's second Grand Prix came in 1994, during his time at WCRS. In that paper he showed how BMW's consistent approach to advertising across 15 years had built a recession-proof brand. 

In 2006, Tim joined Ogilvy & Mather and moved to Beijing as its president of planning for Asia Pacific. Three years later he was named global effectiveness director.

"Of the many lessons Tim taught us in Asia, the one that comes first to mind for me is the deceptively simple question of 'But was it effective? Did it deliver against the objectives?' When Tim came to Asia he inherited a region where we believed in it – but hadn't yet made it fundamental," recalled Paul Heath, Chairman of Ogilvy & Mather Asia-Pacific.

Under Broadbent's guidance, Ogilvy's Asia operations began to win consistently at the region's effectiveness awards, including local-market Effies, the Asian Marketing Effectiveness Awards and the Warc Prize for Asian Strategy (which Broadbent helped to establish). In 2008 Ogilvy won Asia's first award at the IPA Effectiveness Awards, picking up a bronze for a paper on Motorola's success in China.

"For us, for me, it was an education," recalled Edward Bell, CEO of FCB Greater China, who co-authored the Motorola paper as a planner at Ogilvy. "His sense of logic was razor-sharp. He showed us how to unpick large data sets to tell a story."

Broadbent was a regular contributor to Admap and Warc. His subject matter included the importance of channel integration for campaign effectiveness, the characteristics of Asian creativity, and the long-term impact of advertising

He was a Fellow of the IPA, and acted as the Convenor of Judges for the IPA Effectiveness Awards in 2000, as well as chairing the organisation's Value of Advertising Committee.

"Tim was one of those people you just knew was smarter than you," recalled Nick Kendall, former Group Strategy Director at BBH, who worked with Broadbent as IPA Convenor of Judges. "But he was smart enough to wear it lightly and sweet enough never to make you feel it."

"He was a totally lovable human being, with a great sense of fun – even mischief," added Ogilvy's Young. "His mind was acute and his wit sharp, but he was also a boon companion. I have never been in his company without having left feeling stimulated and refreshed."

He is survived by his wife Kathy.

data sourced from Warc, IPA