The Suit Awards 2002

By The Drum, Administrator

September 18, 2002 | 19 min read

The Leith Agency's chairman John Denholm, Ken Dixon and Mark Stephenson pose with the Hat Stand trophy.

We often get carried away by delusions of grandeur. Advertising is a business. It exists solely to make money; for you, your business and the business of your clients. Creativity is a good way to make money, but without the planning and the pitching, the account handling and the media buying where would creativity be?

The Suits may be nothing without their creatives and, yes, creativity adds to the bottom line but in an agency the creatives would be nothing without their Suits.

In the cut-throat world of advertising the head often has to rule the heart. Sentiment sometimes has to be lost. Money drives the business forward, and The Leith Agency’s recent decision to resign the Tennent's account in favour of its once removed English cousin can only go to reinforce this.

However, while Tennent's, the creative jewel in The Leith's crown, may have been lost, the pain of its extraction has been capped by a cluster of solid gold fillings (Reef, Caffreys and Worthington – £8m pounds worth) to reinforce the agency's bite and no doubt leave a dazzling smile on creative and suited bonces alike. For this, and many other reasons like this, The Leith, for the fifth year on the trot, has been voted the Scottish Advertising Agency of The Year.

Like last year, the agency was praised for its standard-setting work, its strong management team and its impressive financial performance to fend off competition from its nearest rivals, The Bridge and The Union.

On receiving the Hat Stand Trophy The Leith Agency’s chairman John Denholm said: “It’s been a few years now, but we are really pleased to win again. I would like to pay tribute to Tennent’s. With clients like that it is not difficult to win the agency of the year. Things have been very tough for everyone in Scottish advertising, but we have great quality here in Scotland which I think we need to sell harder. If we shout louder about what we can do then I am sure we will be alright.�?

As always, the Suit Awards were decided through a mixture of questionnaires and judging by our editorial panel. Questionnaires were sent out to all of Scotland's ad agencies – asking not only for details of their own financial performance over the last twelve months, but also their opinions and views on other agencies and individuals. Scottish sales teams were also polled to get their views on the media buying sector, one of the most vital cogs in the advertising machine.

Again sticking to tradition, Jack McLaren of Baker Tilly was drafted in to help compile all the financial data.

“A consistent performance for national brands,�? said one Leith Agency rival. “For making London work,�? said another. “A consistently high creative product, evolution of management and the strength of the team,�? said still another. The praise was again considerable.

The Leith had the legs to set up in London and be successful. It has the legs to secure accounts from Goodfellas Pizza, Clear Blue Pregnancy kits, CR Smith (raising a few eyebrows), Vogue, Reef, Caffreys and Worthington in the space of a year. But, further still, it had the legs to climb to the top of the Scottish advertising tree and perch there for five years, reaping the rewards of the succulent fruits that can be found at the top. Yet it has remained in good shape.

However, with the recent departure of the Tennent's account the agency has had to lay a handful of its Scottish staff off. When the London office was opened, rivals chewed over the under-resourced “satellite office�? idea. They were proved wrong.

Now the concern seems to be that the agency is focusing its resources on London at the expense of the Edinburgh office. Let’s hope that the chin-waggers are wrong again. Or perhaps we might see someone else climb to the top in Scotland next year.

Wind of change

On the media front, again the competition was fierce with MediaCom, The Media Shop and last year's winners, Feather Brooksbank, all being nominated.

As always though, the Scottish media market, it seems, changes like the wind and the last year is no exception. Perhaps one of the biggest blows was the closure of CIA Scotland and the slide of the Intelligent Finance account down South. But as far as highlights go, the launch of Spirit Media Scotland, after the MBO of CIA by Philip Jones and Graham Milne, was a good start.

However, the retention of the £25m Halifax Bank of Scotland account by this year's Media Buying Point of the Year had to top it all. Coupled with the retention of the Scottish Executive account and the launch of Real Radio, there is no doubt Feather and Brooksbank are two of the highest profile operators in Scottish media and respect for them abounds, due to their no-nonsense approach to doing business.

Other plaudits came for their “insight and value�?, “size and performance�? and “a superb friendly team that are good to work with�?.

However, this year's runners-up, MediaCom, may have something to say about the final praise heaped upon rival agency Feather Brooksbank – “domination�?.

MediaCom, headed by Euan Jarvis, has already poached accounts like Baxter’s and Scotmid from their illustrious rivals. And with the securing of the Royal Bank of Scotland and Dumfries and Galloway Tourist Board accounts, as well as Quality Meat Scotland, Rangers and Semichem, MediaCom is breathing heavily down the back of FB.

Also nominated was the Media Shop for its “experience�?. However, it is hard to see past the recent win of the Dunfermline Building Society account and the even more recent news that the highly contested Scottish Enterprise account, after six years with the Media Shop, has decided to stay after a drawn-out pitch.

Bright eyes

“A definite rising star this year,�? one ad-man eloquently put it. Since the launch of MediaCom in Scotland five years ago it has been tugging the shirt-tails of its major rival, Feather Brooksbank.

Now, if it was to get any closer or tug any harder there’s real danger of Mediacom taking over.

Although Feather Brooksbank remains the choice of many, MediaCom has been whittling away recently, stealing the Baxter’s account along with the Scotmid media from its rival. The Dumfries and Galloway Tourist Board account win was seen by MD Euan Jarvie as a bit of a coup and sparked rumours that the VisitScotland account, which is held by Feather Brooksbank, could be up for review later this year when the advertising tenders are invited.

However, Spirit is also worthy of a mention. One admirer said: “All the original qualities are still there in the new company.�? Another said, “They always try very hard.�? “Their balls,�? said another. Need we say more?

Wherever I lay my hat that’s my home

Edinburgh Agency of the Year

Having already scooped Agency of The Year and come out top of the Peer Poll, there is very little surprise that again, the Leith Agency has been nominated as winner in the race for the Best Edinburgh Agency accolade.

Contending The Leith this year was Faulds and The Union.

Glasgow Agency of the Year

The competition in Glasgow was stronger – marginally. Last year's winner of the Best Glasgow Agency, The Bridge, was again voted to the top spot for its work on the high-profile HEBS account. Also remaining the same this year in the runners-up spots were The Guy Robertson Partnership and Coltas. At least you were consistent...

The Bridge was nominated as the “torch carrier�? for the West after picking up new business wins for The Scottish Claymores, the Edinburgh Festival, some ScottishPower business and NHS24. However, it is the agency's continued success on the HEBS account that has labelled the client/agency relationship as one of the strongest in the business. The agency has become bigger this year, expanding its offices, getting its own front door and its own design division, Freight. The agency also scooped the Chairman's Award at the IPA Effectiveness Awards.

Aberdeen Agency of the Year

This year three agencies were nominated for the title of Aberdeen Agency of the Year – Covey McCormick, The Big Picture and Mearns & Gill. In 2002 it is the turn of Covey McCormick to take top spot from its northern rival, The Big Picture, which had retained the title on the last two occasions.

The agency, which has just been retained on the First Bus advertising roster, has proved that, despite being as far away from the majority of agencies as it is, it still demands a profile with its peers. It was described by one respondent as “good people with great client commitment�?.

Bridge over troubled water

The financial poll continues into its sixth year of excluding billings from the ranking criteria with the emphasis remaining on agency profitability. By this means, it is hoped that the final rankings will not be biased towards media-dominated agencies, which tend to have higher billings and lower gross profit margins.

In some instances, where information has not been supplied, the relevant agency has effectively been penalised and put to the bottom of the list of those criteria. So, with the science lesson over, it was The Bridge that climbed back to the top of the financial ladder this year, having been pushed off by The Union last time around.

But the real movers this year were the Guy Robertson Partnership, who put in a strong performance, moving way up from thirteenth place last year. This has been achieved by the strong performance in growth and gross profit per member of staff. However a mistake on the night made it appear to the assembled crowd that GRP was raking in £470,000 profit per staff member, something he was keen to ensure his paying clients that he was not. The correct figure was £47,000.

The Union, which was first last year, has slipped this year, but still retains a creditable position in third place. 1576 remains unchanged from last year in joint fourth place.

Measured against low inflation, most agencies have shown significant growth this year with the highest climber being Guy Robertson, an impressive 100 per cent growth. The next best growth figures come from 1576.

The Big Picture tops the table for the gross profit per member of staff, ahead of The Bridge. Gross profit per client is once again topped by The Union, followed closely by The Bridge, with The Leith the next highest.

The rest of the information on these criteria reflects the wide variations that still exist. As with previous Suit Awards and Advertising Agency of the Year reviews, Jack McLaren, formerly of KPMG and now with Baker Tilly, processed the financial results and compiled the financial poll table.

He said: “Once again, this year's results have provided a number of examples of excellent financial performance in each of the criteria. Agencies should now be bench-marking their performances to ensure that they adopt a policy of continuous improvement to grow their business and the bottom line.�?

I wanna be adored

Advertising can have a playground mentality. If you like someone you punch them and you pull their pigtails – OK, “like�? might be too strong a word, “respect�? may fit better. You like to be liked, though you might not admit it.

There are not many times you get the chance to admire what others do in the advertising playground. The Peer Poll, however, is the Valentine’s Day of The Suit Awards, when agency bosses can send anonymous whispers of admiration to their rivals.

The Peer Poll has been the staple of the Suit Awards and its previous incarnation, the Scottish Advertising Agency of the Year, since its conception. And the system for deciding the Peer Poll remains unchanged, with agencies nominating their top three agencies in order of preference. Three points were awarded for a first place nomination, two for a second place and one point for a third place.

This year it is The Leith that has weighed down the postie’s sack with a mountain of nominations. With over twice as many points as their closest rival, The Leith's ability “to just keep on producing good ads�? keeps them the playground sweethearts while The Bridge, admired for their “strong, effective and creative campaigns�?, also continue to strut their stuff unchanged in second place.

Respect for Faulds' “solid, dependable and reliable�? ethos continues to be strong and the agency add a few more congratulatory slaps to their well bruised arms as they regain their third spot, having slipped to fourth the year before. Barkers and Citigate SMARTS tie in fourth place and in sixth The Union, despite its “good new business record�?, grazes its knee in a fall four places from joint second. 1576 also drops a couple of places to seventh while there are new faces in the Peer Poll this year with Guy Robertson (“ambitious�?) and Clayton Graham (“sparky�?) in eighth and ninth respectively.

Running in the Family

In the playground the ones to watch are normally the naughty ones, the ones that might cause some trouble. Family, the agency founded as a breakaway from the now defunct Yellow M, has been earmarked as this year's troublemaker.

Founded in June by Ian Wright, Jill Taylor, Kevin Bird and David Isaac, after a failed MBO at Yellow M – for unforeseen circumstances rather than lack of effort – the birth of Family was heralded as an end of an era. Or rather “the end of an error�?, as joint creative director David Isaac put it.

On the formation of the new Family a number of former Yellow M clients were quick to show support, including Dunfermline Building Society, Vida, Indigo Vision, Scottish Widows and Burn Stewart Distillers. Others, however, like Scottish Enterprise and the Scottish Executive, did not. So, with a rapidly increasing client portfolio, experience of working for the big guns in the form of the Executive and Scottish Enterprise, and a big hunger for more, you had better keep an eye over your shoulder. Family are the ones to watch.

Hey big spender

Often maligned by other more brand-focussed advertising agencies, retail advertising is nonetheless a highly profitable, highly skilled and integral part of the Scottish advertising business.

This year Alan Dalgliesh’s The Glasgow Agency, Guy Robertson’s Guy Robertson Partnership and Lawrence Craig and Joe Blake’s Coltas were nominated for the title of Retail Agency of the year.

Not many people who have been in the Scottish advertising business for the last decade will be surprised to hear that Coltas won this category – by the proverbial country mile. Coltas was credited by one peer as “the only retail agency�?.

Having made a name for itself in the retail sector, putting businesses such as Tom Hunter’s Sports Division and Richard Emmanuel’s DX Communications on ther map, Coltas reinforced its dominance by securing the massive Tiny Computers account last year.

However, that was short-lived when Tiny was swallowed up by the Time Group. Nonetheless, the agency continues to impress in the sector and with a move to new, swanky premises in the centre of Glasgow appearances reinforce the agency’s elite position in Scotland.

Now boasting a call centre operation, which currently handles work for Dell computers, and a highly respected New Media division, ItsNotRocketScience, the Coltas Group looks set to continue picking up this title for many years to come yet.

The leader of the pack

Last year there were two nominations for Scottish Agency Head of the Year, those were The Leith’s John Rowley and The Union’s Ian McAteer.

However, this year, despite both of their names again being short-listed, along with that of Faulds’ head honcho Dennis Chester, it is Rob Morrice of CitigateSMARTS who shines through as the leader of the pack.

The pioneer of the concept of integration in Scotland has been voted for by his peers for his “determination and dedication�?, his straightforward views on the advertising business and his an unfailing dedication to the integrated offer, which is now reaping huge dividends.

Morrice, as well as running a highly successful and profitable agency, has consistently championed the Scottish advertising industry through his work with the IPA and, despite more years in the industry than he would probably care to admit to, has never lost any of his enthusiasm - well apart from when he’s at the horses.

Last year’s winner, John Rowley, was again nominated for his “uncompromising pursuit of creativity�?, while Chester was praised for “taking Faulds by the scruff of the neck and making some drastic changes.�? Ian McAteer, was also nominated after “another strong year of profitability and growing the agency.�?

Buy Buy love

As with the Scottish Media Buying Point of the Year category, the Scottish Media Buyer of the Year was also a tightly fought battle.

Many names were mentioned, but the three names that stood head and shoulders above the rest and finally got onto the schedule were Stuart Bell of Feather Brooksbank, Emma Marley, also of Feather Brooksbank, and Graham Milne of Spirit Media Scotland.

The winner this year was awarded for his longevity, something which raised chuckles on the night (but we ain’t saying who said it) and his ongoing personal success within a highly successful agency.

From that description there could perhaps only be one winner and that was Stuart Bell of Feather Brooksbank.

One voter described Bell as an “unrecognised star�? and another praised his good all-round advice.

Feather Brooksbank’s Emma Marley was praised by the sales teams polled for her “good creative thinking�? and Graham Milne continues to receive admiration in his new agency for his “wide understanding, creative mind and an instinct for what’s right, as well as for his achievements this year.�? “A clever, honest, all-round good egg,�? said another.

Making plans for Nigel

Another hard fought contest was for the title of Agency Planner of the Year. The Drum’s research highlighted three individuals thought by the industry to be worthy of the title. These were David Amers of The Leith Agency, Diane Lurie of Merle and Citigate SMARTS’ Andy McArthur.

Although all three are highly thought of by their peers, only one could steal the accolade. Last year it was David Amers. This year he scooped the award again.

Although there was a great deal of admiration for Diane Lurie (“an outstanding strategist with a stunning grasp of brand building and positioning – the ‘doyen’ of planners�?) and Andy McArthur (“academically brilliant and commercially realistic�?), it was Amers who lifted the accolade for the second year on the trot. He was rewarded for his “great brain�?, for being a “great guy�? and not only for what he does, but also for how he does it. Oh, and for “great legs�? – bet he never planned for that one.

Too hot to handle

Similarly, the Scottish Agency Account Handler of the Year was also a toughly contested battle at this year’s Suit Awards.

However, in the end it was to be a showdown between Scott Howard of the Union and Steve Antoniewicz of Citigate SMARTS. Antoniewicz’s “strategic brain and people skills�? versus Howard’s “experience, salesmanship and ability to turn a pitch�?.

In the end it was Steve Antoniewicz who took the crown from last year’s winner, Jill Taylor, now with Family.

The show must go on

In a new category for The Drum’s 2002 Suit Awards, the industry was polled to discover who they thought was Scotland’s best production manager. After receiving the nominations, a shortlist of three was compiled - Jim Stevenson of Coltas, Alan Tait of Faulds and Steve Rawlinson from Citigate SMARTS. Picking up the shiny new award for the first time was Jim Stevenson. When others around him are losing their heads Stevenson steadies the boat. For that he “deserves a medal,�? said one. Well, now he has a trophy.

Stevenson’s proven track record, in the end, just pipped Tait’s “professionalism�? and Rawlinson’s “control�? to be appointed first Production Manager of the Year.

I just called to say I love you

The biggest cheer on the night was for the Receptionist of the Year category. Over a ten-month period The Drum interviewed more than thirty receptionists who had been nominated by their peers. We then set up a website and invited readers to vote for the receptionist they felt was most worthy of the title.

Three stood out - Sharon Keir of Coltas, Irene McDonald from Faulds and Yvonne Forbes from The Bridge. Irene has, in the past, narrowly missed out on the accolade, but this year she got it. One of the friendliest voices on the agency scene, she provides a warm welcome to both callers and visitors – ensuring she's become a hit with colleagues and clients alike.


Industry insights

View all
Add your own content +