Thinkbox, the marketing body for commercial TV in the UK, has revealed that Tess Alps, its founding CEO and current non-executive Chair, has decided to retire at the end of the year.
Alps set up and became Thinkbox’s first CEO in 2006 and has been a guiding light ever since. In 2018, she received the Mackintosh Medal from the Advertising Association, a rare award given for outstanding service to the advertising industry.
“We’ve been finding new ways to persuade Tess to stay on for years now, largely based on emotional blackmail, but this day had to come eventually,” admitted Lindsey Clay, Thinkbox’s CEO. “She has long been desperate to retire properly and focus on writing, gardening, and all the numerous other things she’s brilliant at. Her broad beans’ gain is our immense loss.”
“This is obviously a sad moment for us, but also a wonderful excuse to shower praise upon a peerless person – something she’ll hate. No one has done more to champion TV, and advertising more widely. And no one has done so with more passion, integrity, conscience, wit, and success. I know I speak on behalf of everyone who has worked at Thinkbox, all our shareholders and pretty much the whole industry and anyone who has ever met her, when I wish her the best in her well-earned and hard-won retirement. Tess is a one-off, a wonder and we’ve been incredibly lucky to keep hold of her for so long. I feel blessed to have had her as my mentor.
“It goes without saying that Thinkbox will not be the same without her, but it is so much her creation that she’ll be here forever – and I’m sure she won’t keep her wisdom entirely to herself in retirement.”
“I don’t want to come over all Theresa May, but it truly has been the honour of my life to be part of Thinkbox for the last fourteen years,” declared Alps. “I only meant to stay for three, but TV has been in such an exciting and dynamic phase for all that time that it’s been hard to drag myself away. I’m proud that Thinkbox has been part of helping the marketing community fully appreciate its pre-eminent contribution to our cultural and commercial life, not just in the UK but globally. TV will continue to evolve and thrive and Thinkbox will be there to guide advertisers through.”
“Leaving the amazing team at Thinkbox will be a huge wrench; they are the reason Thinkbox has been so successful and they are world-class. I owe them everything and I love them to bits. I am also very grateful to Thinkbox’s shareholders who have given me their unwavering support over the years.”
“As a Council member of the Advertising Standards Authority, I shall still be a small part of the ad industry for the next three years and, as we adfolk grapple with some existential issues relating to trust, responsibility and relevance, I hope to continue to make a contribution to the industry I have grown to love. Thank you to the many people who have helped me and been such great friends across my 43-year career. It’s now the moment for me to spend more time with my cabbages.”
“Tess was my first ever boss when I joined the industry as an assistant a little while back,” recalled John Litster, Managing Director of Sky Media and Chair of the Thinkbox board. “She was my bestever boss and I never stopped learning from her. On behalf of the Thinkbox board, I’d like to thank her for her incredible contribution, her profound legacy, and to wish her all the best in the future.”
Before joining Thinkbox, Alps was the Chair of the PHD Group in the UK. In her 13 years with PHD she played many roles including six years running Drum, the content division of the group where she pioneered the concept of brand content. Before she joined PHD, Alps worked at several ITV companies and was one of the few women to reach the level of Sales Director.
Alps is a member of many industry organisations, including an Emeritus member of the MGGB, and a Fellow of the Marketing Society. She is also a familiar figure in the world of TV; she is a BAFTA member and a Fellow of the Royal Television Society. In 2007 she was awarded the Outstanding Achievement Award by Women in Film and TV and in 2013 was voted Media Leader of the Decade by the readers of Haymarket’s brand titles. She became a Council Member of the Advertising Standards Authority in 2017.
Alps has been involved in a variety of charitable projects in our industry. She is a Past President and Honorary member of WACL (Women in Advertising and Communications, London) where she has long been a champion of equality and diversity. In 1996, she was part of the team that launched WACL’s annual conference for upcoming women, now called Gather. During her Presidential year, in 2004, she launched the Future Leaders Awards which gives bursaries to promising women for leadership training. Alps was a trustee of NABS for three years and is now a Patron. In 2018, she helped to create the timeTo initiative, which aims to address the problem of sexual harassment within the sector.