What a Guy

By The Drum, Administrator

October 24, 2003 | 5 min read

Guy Robertson.

“Morning, agents, can you make your way to the briefing room please.” It’s nine o’clock on a Friday morning at Stirling’s Highland Hotel, and there are no secret service personnel in sight.

Instead, more than thirty slightly tired, but nonetheless excited, Guy Robertson Partnership staff members are being gently manoeuvred into one of the hotel’s many function rooms.

It’s the annual GRP staff away day and the agency’s directors are in an almost feverishly good mood. Today they get to tell their staff (and one Drum journalist, slinking in the background) how well the company has performed in the last year. And, in a firm breaking of recent Scottish tradition, it’s good news.

Let’s be honest: the last year has been really, really hard going for a lot of people in the Scottish marketing community. Clients leaving, offices closing down, staff being let go. It’s been, at times, a very bleak picture.

Thankfully, the bad news isn’t quite universal. And, believe it or not, there are actually some marketing and communications agencies in the Central Belt that are flourishing. The Guy Robertson Partnership, stalwart of Glasgow’s agency scene, has actually been successful not only in fighting off the downturn of the last 12 months, but it’s actually gone and made a profit as well.

This was the reason for the aforementioned cheeriness earlier in the month, when the agency’s directors took turns taking their staff through recent developments and, of equal importance, the company’s goals for the year ahead.

In the last 12 months, the Guy Robertson Partnership achieved turnover of £4.9m, which saw a 21 per cent rise in profit from last year. Add to this a string of award wins and six new retained clients, including the Bowel Cancer Awareness Trust, Invitrogen and North British Homes, and a picture emerges that is, well, pretty rosy. So rosy, in fact, that the agency is one of very few in Scotland that partakes in a staff profit-share.

This success has led to a £20,000 investment in upgrading the agency’s credentials presentation, new business DVD and website.

Clearly, GRP is not planning to sit around on its hands during the year ahead. In fact, agency managing director Guy Robertson was keen to lay out the company’s ten key objectives for the year ahead. These were:

ï To maintain and grow bottom line.

ï To maintain staff numbers and develop the agency’s own people.

ï To win at least three industry awards.

ï To fast track some “likely lads and lasses” in the agency.

ï To strive for retainer contracts from clients.

ï To increase the agency’s new media business by £50,000.

ï To action individual responsibilities.

ï To have a minimum of 18 credentials presentations and six full-blown pitches.

ï To win two full service presentations.

ï To constantly monitor the progress of the above objectives.

Robertson stated that: “We want to be seen as the prime candidate every time a company is looking for an agency to take care of its marketing communications in Scotland.”

Perhaps it’s this single-mindedness that has helped GRP maintain, and grow, its profitability in a time where more high-profile agencies have been unable to.

And perhaps it’s equally the agency’s ability to not take itself too seriously.

Once the hard business of the day was done, the agency launched itself, á la Mission Impossible-style briefing carried out by mostly straight-faced director Michael Gibb, into a full-blown treasure hunt.

Named “Code Zero”, agency staff were split into teams and briefed that: “Five keys that can unlock potential have been stolen and hidden by agencies really suffering from excessive shortfall.”

Or A.R.S.E.S for short.

The teams were then dispatched out into Stirling, where they had to find their “keys”, using only public transport and as little money as possible.

After a day’s hard searching, the “hi-jacking” of a 60-seater bus, a commandeered milk float and a thoroughly charmed female train driver, one of the teams was named winner. Stirling, it seems, will never be the same again.

The Guy Robertson Partnership, however, certainly aims to be. With its goals for the next 12 months firmly in place, the agency is aiming for a continued good run, regardless of how well its competitors fare. This ambition is to be helped by the decision of Robertson himself to focus on new business in the coming year.

The marketplace in Glasgow and Edinburgh has seen its fair share of hardship during the past two years, especially when it comes to the advertising sector. And while it may still be a while yet before Scotland as a whole regains some of the strength it has lost during this time, it is encouraging to see at least one of its agencies bucking the trend and turning in a solid performance.

Hopefully, Scotland as a whole will be in the same boat sooner rather than later.


At the ready: Guy Robertson (left) and members of his agency (right) solve the Code Zero treasure hunt.


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