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Best Places to Work

By The Drum | Administrator

July 21, 2003 | 17 min read

Its Christmas and the staff of Feather Brooksbank have pulled on ther glad rags to be taken out by their bosses

Forrest Gump said that ‘life is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you’re gonna get’.

It is the same when it comes to work – until you actually work at a company you never really know what that company is like. Will you be worked to the bone or treated fairly and rewarded adequately? The Drum sets out to identify Scotland’s best places to work in media and marketing.

It is a truth universally acknowledged that a company in possession of a happy workforce is normally a company destined for long term success and a very nice place to work.

So inevitably when The Drum launched its Best Places to Work survey this year it was instantly swamped with responses. All agencies and clients on The Drum‘s database were contacted, and the MDs were asked to supply e-mail addresses for all of their staff. We then duly despatched e-mails to all staff and asked them to fill it in anonymously. The results were split into five different categories – perception of the organisation, job satisfaction, teamwork, rewards and leadership.

The questionnaires were collected over a period of weeks, cogitated over and digested by the editorial team at The Drum and results were eventually found.

Naturally, all replies were entirely confidential, but The Drum is pleased to report that, overall, the results for this year appear to be far more balanced and harmonious compared to some of last year’s forms.

The final overall top five winners in the small, medium and large categories were derived from not only the answers that were submitted, but also from the editorial team at The Drum, who over the past few months have been out and about, secretly scouring offices trying to find out who has the happiest workforce.

The questionnaires were also scrutinised for accuracy and, after some heated debate, some of the returned forms were disqualified on the grounds that the responses appeared to have been nobbled, for want of a better word.

After all the hard work, The Drum was able to sit back and listen as we asked some of the company directors in the categories to explain why they believe they are the best place to work in the Scottish media industry. And, with answers ranging from holidays on their birthdays to trips abroad, it is clear that there are some lucky folk working in this profession.

And so to the winners ...

Overall Winners

Large sized agency

Coming first in the largest company poll was media buyer Feather Brooksbank, which, with over seventy staff, was streets ahead of its competitors.

The company had the most returns also in this category, which were as enthusiastic as ever about directors Messers Feather and Brooksbank.

Commenting on the win, director Giles Brooksbank, said, “We like to keep our staff as ‘in the know’ as possible. Over the past twelve months we have set up a number of training and appraisal schemes that have kept the workforce happy, and also meant that we can get feedback on what is working and what, perhaps, isn’t.”

Runners-up in this poll were Ian McAteer's staff at The Union. The company has managed to climb its way back after a disappointing placing in last year’s poll. In third place was Aberdeen-based full service agency Fifth Ring, which will undoubtedly be pleased with its placing this year. Barkers Scotland was placed in fourth position here, whilst Citigate Smarts managed to creep into the final spot.

Medium Size Category

The medium sized category was a fair old scrap, with a variety of disciplines fighting it out to win.

McKinstrie Wilde was this year’s victor, savouring the spoils ahead of relative newcomers Story. Last year’s overall winner, Keywest, slid down to third place, whilst Mediacom and Parallel 56 tussled with one another for the remaining spots, coming in at fourth and fifth place respectively.

Commenting on the win, operations director at McKinstrie Wilde Graham McCready said that he wasn’t surprised that the company managed to score so highly. “We did really well in last year’s survey and I think the staff were boosted by the result. We have had a few personnel changes over the past year, and I think that this, coupled with the open policy that we have, has helped us a lot.”

Small Sized Company

Big does not automatically mean better, and with that in mind The Drum aimed to reward the smaller sized companies – those that employ ten or fewer staff.

Winner this time was The Media Shop. Director Ruth Berry explains some of the perks that the company gives to its staff: “Every month we have a masseur who comes in and treats all the members of staff. Dress-down Friday – “anything goes” – which makes a nice change from the requirement to always be in suits during the rest of the week. We have a monthly award for creative thinking, which is a gift voucher for the best creative media idea of the month.

“We aim to treat our staff as well as possible, because we normally get the best results back.”

In second place was Family, which has managed to establish itself as a major player in just over a year. Metis grabbed hold of the third position in the poll, with Revolver managing to fight its way past Dundee-based Prospect PR, which finished in fifth place by the narrowest of margins.

Client Companies

The Drum decided to create a new poll this year to assess how happy those working on the client side actually are.

The winner in this poll is newcomer Bright Grey. The protection insurance company was born out of the Royal London group and has been trading for the past four months. Marketing director Susan Sneddon, who helped found the company with five other directors, was keen to point out that since the launch the company has maintained 100 per cent staff retention within her department – something she is very proud of. “It means that we are doing something right here,” says Sneddon. “When we first launched the company there were just six of us, and the most important thing was employee loyalty to the company. We went to the States to get tips on different types of incentives and training and it has paid dividends since we launched.”

Runners-up in this category were Coca Cola in second place, the Scottish Borders Tourist Board in third place, Real Radio in fourth spot and making it into the final five, Tennent’s.

Best Company Vibe Category (Perception of Company)

The workplace is often affected by atmosphere. Activity and, more importantly, productivity, thrives if the workplace is a happy one and, surprisingly enough, this time around the company that fared the best was Bright Grey. Marketing director Susan Sneddon believes the key to its success is due to all employees being treated as individual members of the team and listened to them accordingly. “We have a jump-start meeting every day for about fifteen minutes, where the team sit down and talk through experiences they have had. The result means that each day we have someone leading the discussion, and it motivates the staff for the rest of the day.”

Both Metis and Hyphen Design tied with Bright Grey for first place, with Story and Keywest being placed jointly in fourth position.

This is Your Life (Job Satisfaction)

This category looked at how happy and satisfied an employee was in their job overall. Surprisingly enough, there was a tie in this particular poll with the top five companies all polling the same result. Operations director of McKinstrie Wilde, Graham McCready, puts this down to clear communication between management and staff: “We have an open line of communication – we have team briefings, staff are appraised and we have away days together, which helps to keep up staff morale. When we recruit people, we have to look for a mixture of their ability to do the job, also the ability to fit in with the rest of the staff, and that they have the right attitude. We try to find people who will fit in straight away and gel with the rest of the staff.”

Prospect PR, Keywest, Feather Brooksbank and the Media Shop all tied with McKinstrie Wilde in first position.

Best Friends (Teamwork)

Direct marketing agency Story was the overall winner in this category – not surprising, considering the history of the company. For Sue Mullen, managing director of the agency, the perks given to staff means that everyone can literally feel part of the company. “When we started we wanted to make everyone feel appreciated so we decided to offer them shares in the company. This meant that the directors had to give up some of their shares, but they were more than willing to do so if it meant that company morale was boosted. Because we make them part of the decision-making process, the team is happier as a whole.”

In second place was McKinstrie Wilde, whilst in joint third place came Family and Prospect PR. For managing director of Family Ian Wright, the most important aspect of internal communications and teamwork is that the team socialise together too. “We have nights out, we normally do a night at the Festival, and recently the boys went to see the England vs. Turkey game down south. The girls are still thinking about what they want to do. We also went for an away day on a barge recently, which was extremely good fun. It is important that everyone can get on with one another as it makes working together far easier.” Fifth place went to The Media Shop.

Best Pay and Perks (Rewards)

This is normally the one area that gets the most honest, and interesting, results. It is all very well working hard for a company all year, but if you are not rewarded for your efforts then morale can falter. The results led to a four-way tie – with Bright Grey, Metis, The Media Shop and Keywest all offering their staff the best when it came to money in their pocket, and pats on the back.

Last year’s winner, Keywest, is an example of a company that offers a great deal to its staff – as director John Copeland explains: “Every Friday the managing director surprises us with a gesture that could be anything from an Indian head massage to an extra half hour at lunch. People get the day off on their birthday and are given £25 to buy themselves something nice. We have not had a member of staff leave us for a rival company in the past two years.” The Union was ranked in fifth place in this category.

Best Boss (Leadership)

Every boss thinks that they are fair, equal and honest with their staff. Just as everyone in the world believes that they are in possession of good style, a sense of humour and a nice personality.

Winners in this category, however, have been deemed the best bosses within the industry, and top of the list is managing director Sue Mullen of Story. The company has been blessed with much success since departing Only U eighteen months ago and, for Mullen, it was the best decision ever made.

“The most important thing in our business, I believe, is to have fun, as what we are doing can be quite stressful at times. We’ve had such dramatic growth since we started that it is essential that our staff enjoy working the hours that they do,” commented Mullen.

She continued: “Ideas have to be encouraged, and everyone who works with us is urged to contribute as much as possible to the business as a whole, as they then benefit from it too. One of our main reasons in setting this company up was to help us reward the staff who had worked so hard at the previous company. The share scheme means that they get a physical stake in the company, and people also get performance-related bonuses. I think that our staff are happy working here, and we have done our best to encourage it.”

Second place was a tussle with Real Radio, Bright Grey, Hyphen Design and Media Shop all proclaiming that their boss was the best in the business.

And so there we have it for another year. You can almost hear the groans of the bosses at our winning agencies as they anticipate a mailbag full of CVs on Monday morning. Happy reading.

As part of our research we asked all companies taking part in the review to rate each of the following statements with a score of 1 – 5, with the scoring criteria being:

5 = I strongly agree

4 = I agree

3 = I neither agree nor disagree

2 = I disagree

1 = I strongly disagree

1.Perception of the Company

(a)I believe in what this organisation is trying to


(b)I feel I am working for a successful operation.

(c)This organisation cares about its people.

(d)This organisation is a fun place to work.

(e)There is a future for me at this organisation.

(f)I feel a sense of belonging to this organisation.

(g)I am proud to work for this organisation.

(h)This organisation is an equal opportunities employer.

(i)Overall, I am satisfied with the atmosphere and

culture in this organisation.

2. Job Satisfaction

(a)I am clear about my role and responsibilities.

(b)I have the freedom to do my job effectively.

(c)I have the tools and resources to do my job effectively.

(d)I am involved in decisions which effect my job.

(e)My job provides me with challenges.

(f)I can maintain a balance between my

personal and work life.

(g)I am adequately trained by the

organisation to do my job.

(h)I am encouraged to develop and train

by this organisation.

(i)There are opportunities to advance in this


(j)Overall, I am satisfied with the opportunities

open to me at this organisation.


(a)All communication is open and honest.

(b)I am kept informed about the organisation.

(c)People in my department work well together.

(d)Communication within my department is good.

(e)I have confidence in the ability of those in my dept.

(f)Different departments work well together.

(g)I get support from others within the organisation.

(h)Overall, I enjoy working with my colleagues.


(a)I understand the criteria for my assessment.

(b)My performance is fairly assessed.

(c)The pay and benefits I receive are fair.

(d)I get recognition for doing a good job.

(e)People are promoted on merit at this organisation.

(f)Overall, I feel my contribution is valued.


(a)I have confidence in the leadership of this organisation.

(b)Management acts on ideas from staff.

(c)Management provides a clear picture of where

the company is heading.

(d)My immediate superior treats people with respect.

(e)The feedback I get helps me do a better job.

(f)Overall, this is a well-managed organisation.

Overall Scores


Large Agencies (20+ staff)

1Feather Brooksbank4.65

2The Union4.64

3Fifth Ring4.45

4Barkers Scotland4.28

5Citigate Smarts3.99

Medium Agencies (10-20 staff)

1McKinstrie Wilde4.8




5Parallel 564.5

Small Agencies (up to 10 staff)

1The Media Shop4.8



4Revolver 4.55

5Prospect PR4.5


1Bright Grey4.83


3Scottish Borders Tourist Board4.57

4Real Radio4.5

5Tennent Caledonian Breweries4.35

Best company vibe (Perception)


1=Bright Grey4.9

1=Metis 4.9


4=Story 4.8

4=Keywest 4.8

This is Your Life (Job Satisfaction)


1=Prospect PR4.8

1=McKinstrie Wilde4.8


1=Feather Brooksbank4.8

1=The Media Shop4.8

Best Friends (Teamwork)



2McKinstrie Wilde4.9

3=Prospect PR4.8


5The Media shop4.7

Best Pay and Perks (Rewards)


1=Bright Grey4.7


1=The Media Shop4.7


5The Union4.6

Best Boss (Leadership)



2=Bright Grey4.9


2=The Media Shop4.9

2=Feather Brooksbank4.9

Most fun places to work

Bright Grey





Tennent Caledonian Breweries

Donaldson Boyce

Most caring companies

Prospect PR

Bright Grey

McKinstrie Wilde





Northern Hype

Best for equal opps

Prospect PR

Bright Grey

McKinstrie Wilde

Hyphen design

The Media Shop


Scottish Borders Tourist Board

Tennent Caledonian Breweries

Best For training & advancement

Prospect PR

Best work/life balance

McKinstrie Wilde


Best resourced companies

Prospect PR

The Media Shop


Most open management

Prospect PR

Mckinstrie Wilde




Northern Hype


Bright Grey


Best for promotion

The Media Shop

Northern Hype

Clear career path

Bright grey

Mckinstrie Wilde

Real Radio



The Media Shop

Advertising Works

Most respectful bosses

Bright Grey

McKinstrie Wilde


Hyphen design

Northern hype

Shine Agency

Tennent Caledonian Breweries


Industry insights

View all
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