Preview of 2004

By The Drum, Administrator

January 15, 2004 | 9 min read

Mark Stephenson of Stand, Julie McGarvey of 3x1 and Gill Eatwell of Spirit Media


Managing director, STAND

What does 2004 hold for Stand?

We’ve just come to the end of our first year. Clearly, 2003 wasn’t the easiest time to be starting a new design consultancy but, all things considered, we’re delighted with the ways things have gone. We’ve got a shiny new office and shiny new clients all being cared for by shiny Stand people.

But what does 2004 hold? Well, it’s too early to tell whether the market will begin to pick up, and we’re not inundated with pitch opportunities, but those clients we do go for more often than not we get.

We don’t have a secret formula, but we do have an ability to understand our clients’ needs and meet them with strong strategies and powerful creative solutions.

There’s loads of great design talent in Scotland, but it’s a shrinking market. Clients move rarely and, when they do, the larger ones look south of the border. Agencies in every discipline are struggling, so they’re all trying to find new revenue streams.

Jobs that historically would have found their way to design agencies are being held onto by advertising, DM, sales promotion and, of course, integrated agencies. Suddenly everyone’s an expert.

So what lies ahead for design specialists? Well, the market will continue to polarise.

Small, niche creative agencies, serving small, niche clients – keeping their overheads and their prices down; some doing good work but few setting the heather alight financially.

Larger design groups continuing to be sought after by bigger clients for solid, hard-working design, delivered on brief, on time, and on budget.

And then, the middle ground. How will we, and other agencies of our size, fare? There are definitely opportunities out there, but growth won’t come by competing on price with smaller agencies. Instead, we need to get clients to truly value the work we produce and to do that we should take some valuable lessons from our competitors – both other design groups and agencies in other disciplines that are taking share from us. So here are some suggestions:

ïA focus on ideas that are strong as the aesthetics that surround them.

ïA shift away from process-driven project management to client service that genuinely adds value.

ïAn appreciation of the broader commercial context of every client brief.

ïAnd an ability to develop creative ideas that can be embraced and enhanced by agencies in other disciplines.

If we excel these areas then we’ll all have a happy new year. If we don’t, then what can I say ... it’ll be “interesting”.


Managing director, 3X1

2003 was a very challenging year and the ripple effect of the advertising sector eventually took hold of the public relations industry in Scotland with some senior practitioners reporting one of the worst years ever.

A tough economic climate, clients and employers cutting budgets, demanding more value for money and squeezing margins appeared to be the norm. But it wasn’t all doom and gloom.

We can look forward to 2004 as the Institute of Public Relations (IPR) Scotland is alive and kicking. As the leading professional body for the PR industry, membership has increased significantly here in Scotland, bucking the UK trend in a recession. Scotland is now the biggest region outside London, with 646 members. We look forward to hitting the 700 milestone in 2004!

Scotland also boasts five new Fellows in the last twelve months: Dorothy Fenwick of Railtrack; Tom Fox of the Scottish Prison Service, Charles Moncur, formerly of the Scottish Business Crime Centre; Dr Jacquie L’Etang, course director at the University of Stirling and Cameron Grant of 3x1.

While some sectors, like financial and consumer PR, have experienced a downturn, the public sector has seen growth with the emergence of new Quangos and hotspot sectors such as health and education reflecting a few of the Government’s priority areas.

In 2004, PRs should expect to be even more accountable as we operate in a transparent business. While the Machiavellian world of spin has tarnished the image of PR and put corporate and individuals’ reputations in shreds, it is encouraging that there is increasing recognition of public relations as a serious management discipline.

Basically, PR is about managing reputations and in 2004 it will play an increasing role advising on issue management, employee relations and CSR issues.

But PR practitioners must not shy away from measurement. Instead of triggering terror, evaluation should be seen as an opportunity to demonstrate accountability and increase PR spend – but clients must also be prepared to commit funds to implement procedures.

And since the IPR is about raising industry standards and promotion of best practice, I believe more employers will look towards employing an IPR member who has made a firm commitment to our code of conduct.

In 2004 we will continue to embrace members’ skills through our training programme in Scotland and unique Developing Excellence (Continuous Professional Development) scheme, which enables members to assess their own strengths and weaknesses in order to plan their career progression.

2004 must be a year when the influence of public relations will continue to grow. But in a fiercely competitive market, IPR members must be more vocal as the champions of reputation management.


Associate director, SPIRIT MEDIA

Where to start? A review of 2003 would be sensible but – well, I know I shouldn’t say this but I missed two months of trade press in the middle of the year, given events at Faulds, and I don’t want to admit my ignorance. Oh.

But I can still make my predictions for 2004 as well as the next wo/man. Let’s go compact big style! I always thought that the Glamour Magazine launch was truly inspired with the handbag format. I want to know most of all which of the Scotsman or the Herald will go first. Come on, guys, do it! ... Although one of my colleagues here saw the compact version of The Times and thought it was “a bit strange”. But we’ll get used to it! In five years the broadsheet will be just part of the junior media planners’ induction course on how the newspaper market used to be. For goodness sake, do it before the Dundee Courier!

The Telegraph has more to think about than going compact, following Conrad Black’s resignation. With likely bids from Express Newspapers, DMGT (owners of Daily Mail) and Barclay Brothers there are interesting times ahead. And Gannett? Second biggest UK regional/local press publisher, just bought Herald and Sunday Herald from SMG. Next move? Got to be UK National Press. And heaven knows what will happen to Hollinger’s the Jerusalem Post.

Of course, I would be a very bad media planner if I didn’t mention the ITV merger. Comments? Well, a February start when a final sales team is not yet in place makes me think “whooah”. Interpret that as you think fit. Is it going to make any difference to how we plan and what we pay for TV? Well, CRR is there to protect TV advertisers from ITV abusing its dominant position although the need for an adjudicator/referee and the 30 pages, just on the CRR remedy alone, on Ofcom’s website (depending on your screen resolution obviously) tells us that it will be anything but straightforward. And despite objections from ISBA, the ban has been lifted on further mergers, which could well result in a combined Sky/Five sell. I’d like to see SMG extend its TV interests. GMTV?

But who wants life to be too straightforward? Although I am scared by BARB’s plans to evolve their measurement systems to allow for interactive television content and use of personal video recorders. Sky Plus are promoting themselves very heavily and in theory the need will be there but . . . well, will it take less than two years to develop and six months to . . .work?

What else? Well, just as white will be the new black, Desmond will still not launch his London evening paper, although we may find a new Sunday midmarket launching, Sunday Life. Not sure about the name ... mind you, News of the World hardly describes the product.

I would like to see Rajar find the right electronic measurement system for radio listening, but I’d also like to see Kelvin MacKenzie talk about anything – sport? – just not audience methodology. He’s not been doing the industry any favours . . . although commercial radio is doing pretty well. National Advertising was up 6 per cent in the last quarter and digital radio sales will rocket this Christmas – we just need more complete audience figures to go along with it. (What IS IT with me and measurement systems?). And the over 50s in Glasgow have Saga to look forward to . . . which’ll be nice.

Talking about measurement (Stop!) the IPA have just announced a new multimedia monitoring research initiative to give us a “hub” for the current single media-based industry surveys. Just what we need. No, I mean it!

I’d love to go on but that’s 600 words. Well over, and of course they have cut all the good bits. And I had so much more of huge interest to say. You can always call me “to discuss”? Cheers all. I hope it’s a good one.


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