PROFILE: David Ball, board director at marketing agency The Pulse Group

David Ball trained as a cellist but decided a musician's life wasn't for him. Now a board director at marketing agency The Pulse Group, he tells Emma Reynolds why he relishes a challenge and talks about the family health scare that drives him to stay fit.

If the state of a man's desk reflects the state of his mind, then David Ball, the board director of marketing agency The Pulse Group, has a lot going on. Amid the piles of paperwork are several pairs of trainers, a sports kit bag, a cycle helmet, a clean shirt and a huge bowl of fruit.

"I have actually tidied up," he laughs. "My life is organised chaos, but that's the way I like it."

Ball, 42, has been at Pulse for 11 years following stints at publisher VNU and design consultancy Spy Design. The London agency offers stand design and build and has an events and exhibitions department.

But a career in events was not what Ball envisaged when in his late teens. "I trained as a cellist at university but didn't fancy trying to eke out a career teaching cello or playing in an orchestra," he recalls. "I also wanted to do something that would exercise my more creative side."

Ball is a husband and father of two, and an endurance sports enthusiast. Spare time is not something with which he's familiar, especially with a job that involves regular travel to visit clients such as airline Emirates at exhibitions around the globe.

"I enjoy the travel but it is hard work," he admits. "I always try to take some sports kit with me so I can run or cycle while I'm there. It's a good way to see the places you're visiting. I know a lot of people in exhibitions who do a long day in the halls and see nothing of where they are except restaurants and hotels."

Ball's interest in fitness was sparked four years ago when his dad suffered complications after leg surgery and almost died. "I felt a lot of his leg problems were exacerbated by his weight," says Ball. "I'm 6'4" and at the time I weighed 18 stone. I realised I was heading in the same direction and it shocked me. I knew I had to lose weight and get fit."

After training for a year Ball cycled across Mexico with a friend and raised £16,000 for the Macmillan Cancer Relief charity. More recently, he has competed in the British team for the World Championships Long Course involving a 4km swim, 120km cycle and 30km run. "I think that has been my greatest personal achievement to date," he says.

Ball likes to be challenged in the workplace too. In 1998 he hired a Concorde for a Motorola UK campaign launch. "It was a brave thing for the marketing manager to do, and it showed a great deal of faith in me," he says. "I have been lucky to work with clients who have vision and bottle - without that you can't do new and challenging projects.

"When I pitched for the Emirates stand the airline questioned whether we could do what we proposed, which was create a transparent front end of an Airbus A380. But we did," he states.

Between work and training Ball tries hard to spend quality time with his family. "I would never say I had a good balance between home and work because I don't," he admits. "I would love to spend more time with my family but with everything that I want to pack into my life it's difficult."

He adds: "My ideal Christmas present would be a Tardis - big enough to hold all the junk I carry around with me, and I'd never have a problem with time again."

As for Pulse, Ball hopes the agency will continue to offer him the creative challenges he craves.

"I dislike change but it has always been beneficial to me and I think it should be encouraged in agencies," he says. "People respond to challenges and change presents new ones. That's why I'm always looking for the next project to get my teeth into.

"Agencies need to adapt to cultural changes, so Pulse will keep an eye on what clients need and want. That way we'll keep one step ahead of the game."


London's bid for the Olympics ... From a business point of view I can't help but feel it would be a very good thing, and London is certainly capable of hosting it. But I would be concerned that places and venues would be developed for the event and then forgotten about afterwards.

His favourite venue ... Messe Berlin takes a lot of beating because while it has a lot of admin to go through it is dealt with efficiently. We had a lot of kit for an Emirates stand - it was the first three-tier structure there - and they helped the whole process. It could have been a nightmare.

How to weather economic storms ... Think lean - the first thing any business has to do in times like these is downsize on staff. It's an unfortunate situation and a very difficult thing to do, but those agencies that do it will be able to survive the storm and rebuild afterwards.

The importance of freelances in the industry ... They bring freshness and variety as they work on projects for various agencies, and they can bring that experience with them. They help with problem-solving, dealing with clients, and keeping up to date with what's new.

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