Why Scottish clients
are like polar bears
Their natural habitat and hunting ground is being eroded and they are being starved out of their natural environment. They are forced to expend more energy and travel further to be fed, sometimes up to 500 miles.
Give a thought for Scottish clients. In recent decades, creative and strategic pickings were rich in their own territory. The big and small home-grown agencies, plus the juicy start-ups occasionally popping up out of holes,
kept them well fed and happy.
In recent times though Scottish clients, like polar bears, have obviously felt forced to migrate. The ice cap – in this case the Scottish agency pool – is shrinking. In these lean times, it seems the territory is increasingly fragile.
But this can’t be the only reason some clients have headed south.
B is for beeline
You can put some of it down to conflicts of interests. Not every financial or drinks client, for example, is willing to place their business with an agency that works with a competitor. Yet the more enlightened ones are happy to co-exist, and many of them are from south of the border.
Why else has this Scottish agency managed to attract financial clients from outside Scotland like first direct, HSBC and M&S Bank? When M&S Money as was, embarked on one of their biggest brand developments this year – launching M&S Bank – they chose Story as their key strategic partner and the team responsible for creating and developing their positioning of ‘New Fashioned Banking’. Why? Because we understand financial services and have a track record of creating compelling consumer propositions.
Enlightened clients value specialism and know it’s only gained by continual and valuable exposure to – and experience in – the same sector. And respect for the nature of each of your clients. A decent agency should be able uncover and exploit each client’s USP and hone a unique strategy, not cannibalize their clients’ – and therefore their own – business. Why would you bite the hand that feeds you?
B is for biodiversity
Another strategic and creative fly in the ointment facing Scottish agencies is lack of diversity. These days agencies have to embrace biodiversity and be communications agencies, specialising in big, adaptable, engaging messages that can be taken anywhere. Not simply specialists in single-track advertising ideas that were always designed to work best through one or two particularly favoured media and begrudgingly rolled out across the rest. Savvy clients can spot that a mile off.
But like the relationship between the Arctic and the polar bear, there are other complex factors at play across the landscape.
The ever-decreasing pool of Scottish agencies can of course in part be attributed to the global financial crisis. It feels like Scotland’s agency scene has gone the way of the British high street – with creative shops closing down all over the place. However, this recession has had a particular chill.
B is for buzz
In the past, recessions have spawned brave breakaways and shiny new start-ups. But where agencies – and tragically some big names – have melted away in recent times, few have formed to take their place. This in part can be explained by the toxicity of debt and the banks’ hesitancy to lend.
But the growth has got start somewhere. So we need biodiversity – a thriving pool to attract talent and interest and buzz.
Clever clients know that in these straitened times, more bang for your budget comes not from agencies with W1 postcodes, who are busy concentrating on the bigger clients, but from smart, creative people who start and run agencies without the W1 overheads. And live in nicer places (cos they’re smart.)
We need more agencies with new attitudes and ideas and more clients, coming back and coming up. In short, we all need more competition to keep us keen.
As my creative partner Dave Mullen says, you do your best work when you’re hungry.
It’s not just agencies. It’s the support network that goes with them. So the same is true for film and production companies in Scotland. Yes, we have to protect our own. But now more than ever, that should include our neighbours around the corner if we want to return to the thriving Scottish scene we used to have. There’s nothing to be gained by being left floating out there all alone.
As an industry, we need to stick together and encourage healthy competition in Scotland, so we can attract UK-wide clients and Scottish clients don’t feel the need to migrate. Otherwise, like the polar bear, we’re all in danger of heading for the slippery slope.
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