As part of its regional review of the UK, The Drum spoke to a cross-section of the creative marketing industries in Scotland to gauge the state of the Scottish scene. And it was clear that while the creative industries in Scotland are facing difficulty – as in every region of the UK – positivity persists, with agencies having faith in the great work being produced and a belief in the capability of the country's creative talent pool.
“Scotland has a fantastic creative pool and always has done – think of all the great inventions that have come out of creative Scottish minds,” says Craig Mackinlay, founder, Breeze Creative.
Developing and nurturing that talent pool is clearly an issue of key importance for the marketing industry in Scotland. The CIPR has relationships with universities teaching CIPR accredited courses and representatives who work with the Scottish committee to ensure inclusiveness, while the IPA works closely with Edinburgh's Napier University on its MSc in Creative Advertising.
Arguably the biggest question we could pose to agencies operating in Scotland is the issue of independence. What, if anything, will change for the marketing industries, should Scotland break away from the rest of the UK as a result of the referendum in 2014? And what does the prospect of an independent nation mean for Scottish agencies?
Stephen O'Donnell, commercial producer at STV, was positive about the future of the creative industries in Scotland, regardless of the political outcome, saying:
“I don’t think there is anything to be afraid of, whatever the Scottish people decide in 2014. I’m entirely comfortable that we have enough passion, talent and creativity in Scotland to continue in every environment.”
A pragmatic approach came from Story's creative director, Dave Mullen, who argued that if independence happens, and brings with it budget reductions, agencies should have nothing to fear, because austerity breeds great ideas.
“I’m not a supporter of partition, but I think we’ll probably do ok,” says Mullen. “Why? The work SHOULD improve. Why? I’ve always found that with less budget and less financial risk, the client’s willingness to buy more creative and challenging thinking is greater.”
Mullen continues, saying: “Creative people flourish when times are tough. Artists, musicians, writers; they all tend to do their best stuff when they’re borassic! When you’ve got a few bob in your pocket, you don’t have to work so hard. It’s the same in marketing. Some of the most challenging ideas are done on a shoestring. And good ideas are easier to get through, lower budget work doesn’t seem to attract the same levels of suffocating scrutiny that can smother an idea. Clients are more forgiving and willing to take chances and do something more creative.”
Meanwhile, Ian McAteer, group chairman, The Union, argues that businesses should not fear the prospect of independence but need to assess the risks and also the opportunity that might come with it.
“The big thing at the moment is uncertainty – about the EU especially and the effect on the macro-Scottish economy,” explains McAteer. “It's also less about us, and more about our clients – after all, we are a service business. If our clients thrive then we will.”
Graeme Atha, director, Marketing Society Scotland, argues that there is “a requirement for big, game changing ideas”, saying Scotland needs to “rediscover” its “passion for innovation” in order to shine on the world stage, and McAteer says Scottish agencies need to be able to “offer clients a global service”.
Another challenge for agencies operating in Scotland is the hurdles they face in terms of public sector procurement processes. Murray Calder, chairman of IPA Scotland, argues that these are “providing poor value for the public purse and driving innovation and creativity out of the market,” saying that they also have a “net negative effect on the economic contribution of the marketing services sector in Scotland.”
The IPA in Scotland recently submitted its response to the Public Sector Procurement Reform Bill consultation, in which it endorses the proposed Reform Bill, based on a survey of its membership in Scotland.
What is clear, despite the challenges facing its marketing industries, is that Scotland has no shortage of talented agencies producing excellent work for clients. Tony McKenzie, managing director of Open Platform, argues that the number one attraction for clients looking to work with agencies in Scotland is its value for money, saying:
“Without wishing to fan the flames of stereotyping, I think Scotland offers clients amazing value, given the superb quality of thinking and delivery that is achieved north of the border.”
One of the trends to emerge from our review was the need for the Scottish industry as a whole – encompassing advertising, digital and PR – to work together to raise the country's profile. Dave Mullen argues that Scotland needs to work with other areas of the UK:
“This little Britain has always been a place of diversity and division, less than a 100,000 square miles and yet four nations, (five if you include Yorkshire). We need to all work together to raise our creative and strategic profile and be less parochial... I think we still have some work to be done here at home convincing UK clients that Scotland is a hot bed of talent.”
Stephen O'Donnell seconds this, saying the biggest challenge the Scottish creative industry faces is convincing the rest of the UK of its credentials. He explains:
“If you live here and work here you know how much talent we have and how much innovation is going on. Thirty seconds into the pitches and presentations I’ve done in London this year our clients know it too.”
Visit The Drum's Insight section for more views and insights on the Scottish marketing industries.