Bond (l-r): Caroline Garrad, Guy Vickerstaff and Phil Evans.I arrive in Leith early for my 10 a.m. meeting with Scotland's newest ad agency, Toast. With time on my hands, I think it might be nice to get them something as a “moving in” present. A toast rack, perhaps.
A trawl around Leith shopping centre, and would you believe it – not a toast rack in sight – well, not for the £3.60 that I had in my pocket, at least. I arrive at the office empty handed. The office in Timberbush is small but echoic. Pictures are lying in piles awaiting a gap in the diary to hang them. The white board is scribbled on and the mantelpiece displays a solitary card, an unwrapped bottle of champagne and a toast rack. Two, actually.
Guy Vickerstaff, Phil Evans and Caroline Garrad have only been self-employed for a matter of days, having quit The Union.
“We may have lured you here under false pretences,” admits Garrad, with a sly glance at her new business partner. “You thought you were coming to speak to Toast.”
I nod hesitantly, wondering where this is leading. “Well,” she continues, “there was a problem at the Patents Office when we went to register the name. It turns out that there was a Toast Marketing that had been launched down south literally just weeks ago.”
Out go the small collection of toast racks that had already started to clutter the new agency’s small office, reinforcing my relief that I never splashed out on the “quirky” moving-in gift. So, with Toast being dropped, the trio have now renamed the agency Bond.
With the confusion cleared up, hopefully, the pair (unfortunately, Phil Evans has had to miss the meeting due to family reasons) explain the birth of the agency: “I'd been working a lot with Guy and Phil on the S1 account and I was working late one night..." reminisces Garrad. She pauses and, knowingly, Vickerstaff takes over: "Phil and I had been chatting – the sort of talk you get after three or four pints – about what we were doing and where we were heading. And we decided that working for ourselves was ultimately what we wanted to do.
“After a brain-storming session in the pub, we had been working on an account, we went back to the office and it was empty apart from Caroline, who was working late.
“Prior to that, we had thought who, if anyone, would we like to work with. And that was Caroline.
“So in the office, alone, was the ideal time to ask if she was interested in setting up an agency. To say she was keen was an understatement.”
With the question popped and a successful “I do”, the marriage was cemented. What followed was a year of clandestine breakfast meetings at Evans’ home – hence the original name, Toast.
“Launching an agency at this time is certainly very nerve-racking," says Vickerstaff.
"But I think that any time you launch a new business would be nerve-racking,” interrupts Garrad. “You are full of mixed emotions. You are in charge of your own destiny, yet you feel the alienation. It is terrifying but we have had so many people e-mailing us and wishing us the best, it helps.”
Garrad smiles: “Certainly the market place is not holding up as well as it has in previous years. When is it a good time to launch a new business? Ironically, I think that it's quite a good time to start. Clients are looking for more nimble and fresh ways to spend their budget. It's a period of evaluation and there are a number of opportunities emerging because of the climate.”
“Our USP is producing creative effective work on an ongoing basis, not just now and then for the occasional client. The way that we work is a very inclusive way of working. I will take the team, Guy and Phil, out to see the clients regularly. This gives us a better understanding of what the client’s requirements are and what the creative solutions might be.”
Vickerstaff takes over: “There can be so many levels of interpretation – the client’s interpretation of what they want, the account director’s interpretation of what the client wants and then the creative team's interpretation of the account director's brief.
“If we are all meeting the client, then we can come to a group interpretation quickly.”
The talk, as it swings towards clients, inevitably touches on any business that they may now be courting.
"We have no clients on the books, but we know who we want to talk to,” says Vickerstaff. But the question, “Does your wish list include any of The Union’s clients?” begs an answer.
“Are we bound by restrictive covenants? Not at all,” answers Vickerstaff. "But, at the same time, we have not made a decision as to which, if any, Union clients we want.
"It's an unusual situation not to have any restriction, but realistically, if the question is 'Are you poaching any of The Union's clients?' [which it was, really] then all I would say is that there are some clients we would like to work with, but we are not in a process of negotiation with them.”
Garrad continues: "In every start-up there is an initial couple of weeks where there is nothing hanging on the walls, you are getting your systems set up, sorting out the website and doing all the admin stuff. But at the same time you are out there trying to present and show people what you are capable of.
"Ironically, though, this is one of the first weekends I have had off in weeks. Working 9 to 5, or even 9 to 11 at the agency and then having to plan this every weekend is tough.”
The Union’s MD has reacted to the trio’s move positively, despite the fact that it leaves a gap, an award-winning gap, to be filled and perhaps even a battle to keep any business that Bond may decide to approach.
"The Union has now realised that they have come of age to have spawned a breakaway,” says Garrad. “And I can't speak for them, but I thought that they would be quite proud, because Guy and Phil are a great team and they are a product of The Union."
Andrew Lindsay and Simon Scott, the Union’s creative directors, have a good history of putting together award-winning creative teams, both in their time at The Union and previously at Faulds, where they paired Steve Mawhinney, Pete Bastiman and Dougal Wilson with Gareth Howells. Evans and Vickerstaff are no different, having won a clutch of awards whilst at The Union.
"We actually haven't spoken to them since we left," continues Garrad, with either a grimace or a smile of child-like defiance on her face. ”There is no animosity – there is no need for any. There is certainly none on this side, and, besides, Ian did the very same thing at Faulds. These things happen.”