Scottish Advertising Review
Ian McAteer, managing director, The Union.The Scottish advertising industry is at a crossroads. The Drum invites two of its leading figures to look at whch route the industry could take from here.
Although the cold winds of change may have left many in the advertising business with a bad fever, these icy gales that have uprooted and scattered so much business of late have failed to consign Scottish Advertising to its deathbed. Yet, change has been felt. First came the announcement that Citigate Smarts’ creative boss, Pete Martin, is jetting off to the heights, lights and glamour clients of New York City.
Next came the news that Mark Gorman, erstwhile head of the IPA in Scotland and managing director of 1576, has been planning his escape from the industry for a couple of years.
Meanwhile, The Union is battling against the might of London’s biggest agencies to retain its Intelligent Finance account. While Faulds has already lost the fight to keep Royal Bank of Scotland and Kwik-Fit ad accounts north of the border and the Leith was forced to say goodbye to one of its most celebrated clients – Tennent’s – albeit to make way for a more financially attractive rival.
And the storm is yet to pass. However, there are some windbreaks sheltering the industry from the full force of the gale. Tennent’s Caledonian Brewery was brave enough (and perhaps sensible enough) to keep its flagship account in Scotland. As - if rather predictably - was VisitScotland. ScottishPower moved its media account back to Scotland too and the whole Coors stable visited Leith. Out of the shadows too have emerged a fistful of new agencies – some looking to start where others have left off, others launching afresh. Family, Merle, Newhaven and Bond, to name just a few.
But perhaps these changes have been the kick up the arse that the industry in Scotland has needed to push it back in the right direction. Perhaps it is the stark reality of the dangers that are looming, more apparently than ever before, that will serve to shake the industry back to its feet from the kneeling position that many agencies have been forced into.
Maybe the thing that has been highlighted the most is the fact that, instead of turning up collars against the wind of change, agencies should be out trying to catch what they can, as accounts swirl in a cyclone that has ripped the industry apart.
As the storm begins to die, the setting is different. In a new, more unstable landscape, will the Scottish industry survive as we know it?
We asked Ian McAteer to gauge some industry opinions for us, while Mark Gorman talks about his reason for going AWOL.
Yet again, I’ve been asked to write a few words on the state of the ad industry in Scotland, especially in the light of Mark Gorman’s decision to leave the industry.
I feel I’ve pontificated enough over the last year on the slow economic environment and the shrinking opportunities for business growth in Scotland. So please relax and put your razor blades away.
I thought you’d be more interested in what a few of the leaders of Scottish advertising think. To this end I asked Phil Adams, Giles Brooksbank, Johnathan d’Aguilar, Guy Robertson, Graham Milne, Euan Jarvie and Ian Wright a few questions. I’ve summarised their responses, and it’s strictly no names, to protect the innocent.
1. Would you ever consider moving back to, or down to, London to work?
No surprises here. Apart from one wag who has a price of £400,000 plus a West End flat as the bounty to get him down to the Big Smoke, everyone rejected this notion. Some more bluntly than others. And, let’s face it, London is a hellhole; a dirty, congested, aggressive, over-populated, sprawl of concrete and cars. (There, I got that off my chest.)
2. On a scale of 1 to 10 how fed up are you with the industry?
The average was around the 4 mark. Not really pissed off, but some were getting that way. I did get a few around the 7 mark, which indicates a level of fatigue with the current environment. A pragmatic view was that all industries are cyclical, and it is our turn,so we’d better just get on with it. The intriguing thing was how fragile people felt. “It can go from 1 to 7 in the space of one phone call.” Representative of the ups and downs of our daily existence.
3. When was the last time you had a really good laugh at work? What was it about?
Sadly, I was told by some that “this year has been short on laughs” and “can’t honestly remember”. On the other hand, several people seemed to be having fun constantly. The enjoyment in our industry seems to come from the creative aspects - “I saw some great work” - and dealing with consumers - “some funny groups” - as well as from the variety of work and our colleagues – “funnily, we were just laughing yesterday at how shit things were”. Dunkirk spirit abounds. The best response I got was “Yesterday. It was about a client’s budget.”
4. You have a client opportunity: a major UK brand based south of London, intensive account, difficult and sceptical client, and you are trying to persuade the client to use your Edinburgh office. What do you say?
I liked the “you can travel faster from Edinburgh to the client than from the West End of London” response. Potential there. A selling point put forward by most Scottish agencies seems to be the ability to deal with agency principals. Value for money was another key theme, although in my view this is not an attractive argument for clients.
I guess my overall feeling is that we struggle to find a cohesive USP for using a Scottish agency per se. Ultimately, it comes down to quality. We are always going to be up against it persuading a client to venture north, yet still struggle to stop clients up here going south, mainly due to client perceptions of quality and resources.
5. Would you advise your son/daughter/relative to choose a career in advertising? If so, why? If not, why?
The consensus was “yes”, but with plenty of caveats. “Warn them about the hard work.” “Don’t expect to be respected or held in high regard.” “It’s fun and varied; and as long as they are aware of the pitfalls, it’s a great career.”
I guess this is good news; we still believe in our industry.
6. You’re pitching against M&C Saatchi, AMV BBDO, BBH and Mother. Be honest. Do you feel intimidated? If so, why? If not, why?
No-one was intimidated. Lots of fighting talk here. “We’re every bit as good.” “If I felt intimated I wouldn’t pitch.” One agency claimed a higher strike rate versus London opposition than against local competition.
So I’m pleased to report that the spirit of William Wallace is alive and well and we’re ready to take on anyone. You can’t keep the Scots away from a fight.
7. You can only answer with ONE WORD: why do you think many bigger Scottish clients feel the need to choose London agencies?
Most responses indicated that the key reason is a sense that London has more cachet: snobbishness; glamour; small-mindedness; insecurity.
One felt that it was more practical: resources.
And one quite simple: creativity.
One response I definitely cannot repeat.
Despite this, my view is that we really need to take a close look at ourselves and ask how these perceptions have been developed, and what we need to do to change things. At the end of the day, quality always wins; and if we can keep our standards high, and stick to our guns, we can persuade Scotland-based clients to use Scottish agencies.
8. What suggestions do you have for Mark Gorman as to what he could/should do now?
Most wanted to keep a respectful distance from this one, feeling it would be presumptuous to suggest anything. A key sentiment was that Mark should stick to his guns and do something he enjoys. Many who did express an opinion felt that Mark has plenty of opportunities: on the client side, in consultancy, even in politics. There was a tangible sentiment of respect for Mark: that Mark has chosen to do something out of principle and I guess many of us wish we always did the same. One of my panel suggested that Mark should open a club or bar for depressed marketing folk!
Mark’s departure from 1576 leaves our industry a poorer place. He is a hugely able and knowledgeable advertising man, a product of some of the best years of Scottish advertising and he has helped create a great agency with a track record of doing excellent work. I know 1576 will continue to prosper. The people there are all talented and committed to doing great work but, nevertheless, I am sad to see Mark leave. It is worth noting that Mark has done a power of good work for the Scottish IPA, and there’s no doubt that we will collectively feel his departure. I wish him well, whatever he decides to do.
And if he ever decided to come back, I for one would welcome him with open arms.
I have been asked by The Drum to pen a few words about the “state of the advertising industry in Scotland” from my point of view as I stand at the departure gate and why it is I’ve chosen to move on. So here goes.
On a negative note, there have been some pretty unfortunate client movements in a southerly direction recently and these (few) moves are inclined to grab the headlines.
But let’s not forget that there’s movement in the other direction too. Who’d have thought a decade ago that Scottish agencies would be handling Carling, Grolsch, Autotrader, Ladbrokes Casinos, Ryanair and Velux Europe, to name but a few.
The fact is the ‘state of the advertising industry in Scotland’ is fundamentally no different now than at any other time. Unpredictable!
No-one joined the Scottish advertising industry to get rich or for an easy life. It’s a roller coaster now, and it was when I stepped on board in 1985.
Martin Sorrel, who, by contrast, did join the advertising industry (but not in Scotland) to get rich, is not exactly jumping for joy at global advertising prospects just now. So, in that respect, we shouldn’t beat ourselves up too much about how things are in these parts.
So why, after 18 years, have I decided to move to pastures new? I guess The Drum wants me to point to a fundamental central issue that is common to us all – something that has driven me away.
Yes the environment’s tough just now, but I started our agency with David Reid and Adrian Jeffery in the middle of a recession – so that’s not really the issue.
And it’s not why I’m leaving the fold. Contrary to some misplaced speculation.
The overwhelming appeal of this industry is its variety. One day you’re an expert in financial services, the next in footwear, the next in tourism and so on.
But variety comes at a price.
That price is the inability to dig deeper into a brand’s real issues; and if I’m honest, it’s what troubles me (and the IPA) most. We’re still “at the top table”, but we’ve shuffled further and further towards the edge of it over the years. So that, although we can be big contributors to a brand’s equity, we’re no longer the be all and end all.
The variety that was, for me, at the core of advertising’s appeal seems to have a shelf life. Like eating a Chinese meal, it’s not as filling as it seemed at the time. I’m left wanting more.
Actually, variety metamorphoses strangely into homogeneity over time. If I say, “Oh, it’s just the same as selling baked beans” to a charity/fashion retailer/religion/ kidney beans manufacturer again, I’ll go mad.
Of course, I could invent new phrases or have more original thoughts, but I think it’s my brain’s way of saying “Enough! You need to re-evaluate.”
Pete Mill said to me last week, “What sort of person resigns from their own company?” before realising he was that sort of person, having taken a similar course of action to me.
Pete’s a new man. In a new working environment with new, but different, pressures. OK, so he’s still in advertising, but you get the point, I’m sure. I’ve envied him, just as I have the many, many people who changed direction in their careers at about my age.
When you’re looking at a further 15 years of the same thing – variety or not – you need to be sure you’re in love with it.
Sorry guys, but I’m not!
What I am in love with is the people I’ve worked with at 1576. What a precious team, not just today, but since we started. No-one has ever been fired from 1576. No-one that I can recall has left here worse off for the experience.
I’d like to thank the clients I’ve worked with over the years. 1576 is still blessed with a magnificent bunch of clients. An awful lot of people I will also miss.
The industry continues to evolve. 60 Watt, Talented, Bond, Family, Newhaven. All new, all fresh, all different. How many will be around in 10 years’ time? I don’t know, but they’re reflecting the way we’re adapting to work. Leaner, meaner, more flexible.
And this is what I won’t miss.
1.Pitches with score cards. These satanic rituals must die.
2.Statutory reviews (in the private sector). What’s all that about? If it’s broke, fix it. If it ain’t, give us a break. We’re too busy to pitch for no good reason.
3.Verbal briefs. Enough said.
4.The Drum Financial Poll. It has taken me 18 years and I still don’t know how to fix it.
6.PrÃªt a Manger.
7.Waiting more than 24 hours for the result of a pitch. Anything over a week is weird.
So, that’s it. Sorry this isn’t the snarling, bitch-laden, doom-filled epitaph you might have expected.
Life goes on. I need a change. Nobody died.
The Drum, with the support of News International (Scotland), is trying to turn the current tide in Scotland through its AdDrum supplement. Published twice a year and backed by agencies such as The Leith Agency, Citigate Smarts, Family, FrameC and Barkers, AdDrum aims to inform, educate or simply remind about the effective advertising work that is done by Scottish advertising agencies.
The most recent issue is available from The Drum’s subscription department and featured IPA Effectiveness award winning case studies for s1jobs.com, Scottish Leader and Age Concern Scotland.
Other features include an interview with Kwik-Fit founder, Sir Tom Farmer, who talks about the talents and abilities of Scottish advertising agencies to build brands and sell products and services. AdDrum also carries a piece about knowing when your advertising campaign needs to be renewed.
For a copy of AdDrum please call The Drum’s subscription line on 0141-335 9065.