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Edinburgh Focus

By The Drum | Administrator

February 12, 2004 | 28 min read

Work by Contagious.

In a world obsessed by weight-loss, low-carb, high-protein, sugar-free, diet plans, big is not always beautiful. And many of Scotland’s creative agencies subscribe to this plan. Edinburgh boasts a large number of creative agencies, from two-man consultancies and freelance teams to the comparative giants of the marketing fold.

Yet, while the Navyblue’s and the Leith’s of this world build their businesses under the glare of the spotlight, a mass of agencies with substantially smaller turnovers are foraging very profitable businesses away from the headlines and scrutiny.

Edinburgh’s creative community is again piling on the pounds after a temporary famine. Following a positive Bellweather report the market looks set to bounce back this year, and already a lot of positive moves are shaping up. As Edinburgh’s creative industries settle following, what many regard as, a year of turmoil The Drum meets a cross-section of Edinburgh agencies that have been benefiting while others have, perhaps, lost out.

From agencies that have been ploughing a furrow in the Edinburgh creative landscape for more than two decades to teams that have formed in just the last two-month, the Scottish capital is again thriving.

Contagious

Vaughn Yates and Matt Chapman set out from Skakel and Skakel in September of 2001 to launch Contagious.

The team is now seven-strong, including Ewen Griffiths, who joined as a director in August 2002 from Skakel, and Louise Liddell, who joined from Tayburn, where she was production director.

After quickly outgrowing its original home, the team built office space inside photographer Paul Bock’s studio in Newhaven two years ago. And there, today, they remain.

Contagious is currently working on a number of new projects, including an exciting new venture with a New Zealand-based vineyard to create a new brand for launch in 2006.

“New Zealand design can be quite brash, full of bright colours. The light over there is different. They wanted to employ a UK designer, as, although New Zealanders are very loyal to their own products, the UK and US are strong markets for their wine.

“There is an excitement about New Zealand wines at the moment. This gives us the chance to do something different.”

Drinks work is perhaps a bit of a specialist area for Contagious, the agency having worked with clients that vary from Plymouth Gin, one of the most recognised gin brands, to Compass Box Whisky, a niche, yet innovative, whisky blender.

“We want to improve the public knowledge of drink. Everyone has been educated to a certain level about food by the mass of programmes on the TV. It is about time that education was transferred to the drinks market.

“Wine is already ahead of spirits and beers in terms of public knowledge, although whisky is getting there too. But more people in the future will want to know more about what they are drinking. And that comes down to education.”

At present, the team is also working on an “upmarket” visitor experience centre for Plymouth Gin in its 16th-century distillery. A “gentleman’s lounge” combined with a plush “cocktail bar” is the theme. Contagious is working on this with its partner company, London-based Farm Consultancy, headed by Bob Thwaites, who is also formerly of Skakel and Skakel.

“Our culture is very important to us. We like to work with clients who value design,” says Yates. “If you make design interesting for clients, then they’ll become interested. Mini put a bit of personality back into cars; we want to put personality back into the brand.”

As well as its base of drinks clients, Contagious also boasts a list of high-profile businesses, including Woolfson, Weir Pumps, Data Discoveries and the National Trust for Scotland.

The National Trust has charged Contagious with an “interpretation” brief to bring alive its gardens and woodlands.

As part of that project, Contagious has commissioned sculptors, and other specialists, to create a number of designs, including a “tree listening” device and a giant magnifying glass. The purpose of the two designs is to draw the visitors’ senses to the two areas in the park where the most activity is going on – the canopy and the ground.

“Visitors often only see the world at eye-level. Most of the activity is happening on the ground and in the treetops. We all miss it. As well as adding interest to the attractions, these sculptures will allow visitors to hear and see the activity for themselves.”

Contagious has been invited to pitch for three accounts in the first month of this year and, despite the growth, Yates doesn’t want to expand too much: “MDs can become an HR department. I don’t want that. I want to remain passionate about design.”

Newhaven

Despite its tenderness in years, Newhaven is already coping with life in the limelight. Hardly surprising, given its baptism of fire – in the form of the much sought after, and highly regarded, not to mention financially attractive, Tennent’s advertising brief.

When The Leith Agency announced that it was set to resign the account, due to a conflict in business, the fuss created within the Scottish advertising scene was immense.

But rather than courting the big names of the Scottish and UK-wide scene, Tennent’s showed faith in the team that worked for them at the Leith, and when they left to form Newhaven, Tennent’s followed. A resounding backslap for the team to accompany the hard work.

However, the “cold frothy” lager is not the only attraction that Newhaven boasts.

After months of hard labour, including a temporary office relocation, work is nearing completion on the main area of the Newhaven building, transforming it into an imaginative workspace – “a stimulating, creative environment flooded with light”, if Newhaven would have its way – that will include bespoke areas for clients.

The building, at 77 Montgomery Street, is an old grain store near the top of Leith Walk, comprising 9,000 sq ft of workspace set over three floors.

Inheriting a thriving creative community – a digital artist, an exhibition designer, a travel writer, a music journalist, a DJ, a best-selling novelist, a magazine and a recently acquired artist-in-residence, Naomi Garriock – Newhaven, having just moved back into its building “now with hot water and everything”, is already a bustling hive of activity.

And Zane Radcliffe, one of the agency’s creative partners, says that the sheer scale of the building just goes to show Newhaven’s ambition: “The building work has been a little slower than expected, but it was a massive building job. Its scale reflects our ambitions. Now that we are back in the building we are very excited about the prospects.”

Having worked for a range of national and international brands, including Honda, Orange, Gordon’s Gin, Pot Noodle, Tango, McDonald’s, Kellogg’s, Heinz, Egg, IKEA and Mercedes-Benz, to name just a few, the founding directors Jonathan Shinton, Gareth Howells, Zane Radcliffe and Ken Dixon further bolstered their team with Jim Faulds joining last year as chairman.

And, during its first year in business, as well as securing the well-documented Tennent’s account, Newhaven has also created work for Edinburgh Filmhouse, James-Morrow Home Entertainment, Argyll, the Islands, Loch Lomond, Stirling and The Trossachs Tourist Board, “Grow Wild” Organic Food and Whyte and MacKay.

Newhaven now boasts ten (full-time) staff but Radcliffe says that the agency is also keen to utilise young talent: “We are forging links with art colleges and universities to bring through a new breed of talent. We already have a good mix of people here and we want to bring the best parts of our experience together (which includes stints at BMP, Leo Burnett, Leith, St Lukes, Faulds and O&M Hong Kong) and create the right kind of environment for both clients and staff. We won’t be sitting still.”

442 Design

Formed at the end of November 2002 by David Dunn, Pete Fox, Kevin Rettie and Laurence Smith, 442 Design has been busy building a portfolio of interior and graphic design clients that can benefit from its offering.

The team, a break-away from beleaguered design company Northcross – albeit over a year before the collapse – combines experience from Scottish, London and client-side backgrounds, having worked on major re-branding projects, including Virgin Megastore and Sainsbury’s.

In year two for the company the client list already boasts a number of well-known brand names, including Highland Spring, Baxter’s Foods, Intelligent Finance, Chivas Brothers, Rangers FC, Southampton FC, Scottish Rugby Union, Klick Photopoint, Tullibardine Distillery and Bookworld; 442 has recently been signed up to rebrand and redevelop the latter.

With its prestigious list of clients on board, turnover in year one was better than projected, and year two is already ahead of schedule, says David Dunn, the company’s director: “We are delighted with our first year and very optimistic about the second and third. Our offer is highly result- and customer-driven and this appeals to our clients. Unless we understand what the customer expects, or can get elsewhere, then we can’t improve the offer. We closely integrate the interior and graphic design – it is essential that they work together for our type of client – and manage the whole process from start to finish.”

Staff numbers are currently at eight, although Dunn also discloses that the agency will be looking to increase that in the near future.

As more clients are added to the raft that already exist, the key to 442’s initial success is its straightforward strategy: “If you were to ask me for our point of difference,” says Dunn, “it would have to be our particularly strong experience in retail and print graphics. We are results-focused, going in where it hurts, perhaps a refreshing alternative to the old school.”

Talking of tactics, however, leads to the agency’s name.

“When we were discussing what we should call our new company we knew what we wanted. It had to imply style, effectiveness, flair and functionality – the embodiment of good design.

“We didn’t want colours, oblique minimal words or obscure artistic references.

Ideas came and went and eventually the conversation drifted back, as it often does, to football. Then it came to us – the epitome of all we were looking for is demonstrated in the people’s game.

“The team formation 4-4-2 is a classic and proven winner. When properly structured, with each position working correctly, it is unbeatable. This is proven over decades of top-level competition. It embodies all we believe our company is about. All the best teams use 442.”

True to type, 442 recently walked away winners of last year’s Creative Cup five-a-side football competition (beating Navyblue in the final), “a proud moment” for the team, although not its biggest achievement, which Dunn pin-points as its “first-class”, and growing, client list.

Dunn Adds: “We are currently working on some very exciting projects that we are convinced will keep people talking about 442.”

The Edinburgh Consultancy

How many agencies in Scotland are invited to pitch for, not just one, but two of the worlds most recognised brands ... and win both bits of business? No, this is not a pun, and there is no hilarious catch line either.

Just last year, the Edinburgh Consultancy, headed by Ian Buxton, completed a project to launch Casa Bacardi’s brand heritage home in Puerto Rico.

The project, which saw the consultancy handle all aspects of the job – from feasibility studies to project management to design, was awarded to The Edinburgh Consultancy following a global pitch that the team was invited to after a Bacardi representative admired work that the consultancy had completed for Dewars’ award-winning brand centre in Aberfeldy.

Following the nationalisation of Cuba’s distilleries by communist Fidel Castro in the 1960s, Bacardi was forced to transfer operations to its Puerto Rico plant in San Juan. And now, after more than two years’ hard work by The Edinburgh Consultancy and its partners in the project, the multi-million-pound brand experience centre opened in May last year. Already it has attracted 30 to 40 per cent more visitors to the flagship brand home.

But, not content to work with just one worldwide brand leader, The Edinburgh Consultancy was also invited to pitch to Coca-Cola in Atlanta. A global brief was tendered for and won.

The consultancy came up with a number of ideas that Coca-Cola liked and one was developed. However, major cut-backs at the soft drinks company forced the developing project to be shelved as the Atlanta-based Experiential Department was lost as part of wholesale cuts.

Yet Buxton is quick to defend the fizzy-drink company: “It was an honour to work with Coca-Cola and the agency was never left short due to the cut-backs. They were very, very professional and I would work with them again tomorrow, if the opportunity were ever to arise again.”

Buxton launched The Edinburgh Consultancy in 2001, following a long stint as marketing director of Glenmorangie. The consultancy now employs six staff. And, Buxton admits that his consultancy presents an unusual offering – as well as the creative aspects of a project, the company offers pure consultancy work, feasibility studies, project planning and brand consultancy.

Buxton is proud of his consultancy’s independence, but admits that caution has been one of the secrets of his continued success: “We have been very careful not to expand outwith our means. At all points we have remained financially robust - that means that you can sleep at night.”

HG Design

Just thirty minutes south of Edinburgh’s city centre, at the foot of Glentress forest in Innerleithen, sits HG Design.

The agency, housed in a former Co-op store, employs six staff, headed up by Harry Griffiths.

The 1950’s building, one of only two similarly designed projects constructed for the Co-op, certainly stands out in the historical centre of the town and, to this day, remains cutting edge in its creative juxtaposition.

HGD bought the office eight years ago and stamped its creative footmark on the interior of the former clothing and footwear department of this futuristically designed building.

Griffiths spent his early years in the design industry working in London and Newcastle before moving to Edinburgh to launch and run a design division for one-time Scottish advertising giants Woolward Royds.

Following his time at Woolward Royds, Griffiths joined the Lewis Design Group “for a couple of years” before launching HGD almost eighteen years ago.

Since then a team, which includes his wife Senga, has been forged that combines experience with youth, and HGD has built up an impressive client list. Johnstons Cashmere, National Trust for Scotland, GF Smith paper, Save the Children Scotland, European Rivers Network, Broughton Ales and Tangram furniture all add to the prestige of that list.

One of the highest profile clients on the agency’s books is Johnstons, for whom HGD designs a raft of marketing material, from sales brochures to point of sale.

Jonathan Etherington of HGD said of the work: “The attention to detail – everything from the paper stock to the length of the cord on the hang-tag – has to be specified. Art direction is so important to these pieces of work. The models, how the clothes hang, the stitch, everything has to be just right as the work is used to sell the product to agents and stockists all over the world from New York to Tokyo.”

For the National Trust for Scotland the agency developed the logo, producing full property and brand-licensing guides.

However, despite a wide-ranging raft of clients, it is fashion that is perhaps a specialist area for HGD, as they have worked with a number of designers, including Betty Davies and French fashion designer Thierry Gillier to name a few.

HGD was also responsible for the launch of “Cashmere Made in Scotland” – a stamp of quality, to raise awareness of Scottish Cashmere. The initiative culminated in a huge fashion show in Korea, launched by HGD.

In the ample office space offered by the agency’s home, there is plenty of room for expansion, space that would turn many agencies green with envy. Yet Griffiths has no plans to grow the team much larger than it is: “We want to retain the service that we provide. The danger is that you lose control.

“The closeness of the company means that we really have the ability to think through the project as a team, from start to finish. We all work for each other.”

BOB Marketing

Founded by former managing director of promotional at Draft Worldwide, Ward Mulvey, BOB has already secured account wins for well-known brands such as Foster’s, Miller and Kwik-Fit.

Standing for Best of Both, BOB delivers both creative and planning expertise to clients through an experienced ten-strong team. Managing director Mulvey believed that the larger agencies were losing their edge because of their size. BOB has been designed to offer the creative and planning expertise while still being quicker and more dynamic than its larger counterparts.

BOB is an advocate of Pragmatic Creativity, firmly believing that work is not creative unless it actually helps to sell more product at the end of the day. Similarly, the agency believes that the creative process itself should be accountable, and believes the industry should move away from the perception of the creative process as the “black art” – a black hole where clients pour money without knowing where it’s going.

Campaign-wise, the agency’s most recent success was a heavy bout of activity during Hogmanay with Foster’s. The drinks brand was the official sponsor of the Edinburgh Hogmanay street party and, while the event itself was less than successful, the coverage generated by partnerships with the Daily Record and Radio Forth through the Foster’s New Year Countdown was impressive. The campaign followed the New Year celebrations in every major city, starting with Sydney and ending in Edinburgh, and was a huge success for the brand.

More recently, the company has scooped work for Scottish Courage and another, as yet unnamed, FMCG brand.

All this achieved in less than six months is no mean feat, and it looks like there’s more to come. In the following months the agency is going to look to recruit some more staff, though Mulvey is keen to stress that there will continue to be a “no bag-carriers” philosophy.

BOB is optimistic that this is the right time for smaller companies to start out. Based on the evidence, it looks like the company may be right.

Multiply

From the smouldering embers that lie at the base of the once mighty KLP EURO RSCG a number of phoenix firms have arisen.

The online department has remorphed into iProduct (headed by former KLP interactive director Andrew Murchie), while the creative team has soldered together again to launch Troyka.

Meanwhile, former KLP managing director Mark Fowlestone and his deputy, Kate Beck, were busy launching Multiply at the end of 2003. Whilst initially working from serviced offices in Edinburgh’s West End, new space was quickly identified in Rutland Square (as well as in Soho) and the process of moving in is already underway.

Fowlestone had been at the helm of KLP for a number of years – following stints at the WPP group with Ogilvy and Mather in London – and highlights include bringing Diageo to KLP and the creation of the Witness campaign for Guinness.

Beck, ex-deputy managing director of KLP, started her professional career as a journalist but poverty forced her into the more lucrative arms of marketing. A few agencies later, Kate joined KLP Euro RSCG UK head office in London – that was eight years ago.

Multiply already boasts a complement of 15 fulltime staff, offering the full-service capabilities of a conventional marketing communications agency. However, with an inventions/product incubation shop where new product or communication ideas are developed and realised, that offering is extended.

Fowlestone says of the new company: “The coming years will see increased focus on brand and corporate innovation – but those best placed to capitalise on this will be companies who can initiate creative solutions without being constrained by historical structures of agency or corporate discipline. Increasingly, brands will seek creative solutions that give them an edge with consumers in any way possible – not simply by having a better ad campaign or sales promotion, but by communicating in new and increasingly unexpected, but still very relevant, ways.

“Companies that can deliver innovative solutions built on robust consumer insights and implemented quickly and with maximum impact will continue to succeed, whilst others lie back and die.

“By focusing on creative solutions and brand innovation, Multiply will provide companies with the ability to stretch beyond their corporate comfort zones of marketing communications.”

Multiply will also develop new brands of its own, either solely owned or in partnership with other organisations. It will provide consultancy services for brand owners to help fast-track the innovation process and to give them the freedom to explore new ideas outwith the constraints of their existing structures.

Already, in the first two months, the new agency has pitched for, and won, two contracts – Avon and The Famous Grouse.

Storm ID

In just three years Storm ID has managed to build up a more than impressive client list working for a wide range of companies which includes, amongst others, global titan Microsoft. Specialising in strategy, programming and design, Storm was founded after the four directors recognised that, although there were several companies in the marketplace offering strategic advice, design and programming separately, few, if any, could offer a complete service in all three.

The agency has since won a hard-fought battle for a place on the Microsoft roster, which has led to the team designing two major websites for the company, www.theeducationcommunity.com and www.bcentral .co.uk (the second most visited Microsoft UK site behind Microsoft.com).

As if one giant client wasn’t enough, the company has also worked on projects for Hewlett Packard, including the development of an extranet application.

On the strictly creative side of the business, the client list is swelled further by Scottish Widows, while both the design and programming functions have been employed to develop a number of sites for the Scottish Executive.

Projects for Young Scot, Scottishappointments.com, Vida (the five-a-side football company that recently underwent an MBO from Murray International) and famous muscular pain-relief cream Deep Heat have kept Storm ID busy over the last year, and this looks set to continue as the company embarks on a new business drive in 2004.

Currently with a team of 12 staff, Storm is looking to relocate to larger premises ahead of further expansion, which could see the agency increase to between 20 and 25 staff within the next couple of years.

Priding itself on creating websites for its clients that are not only well designed but actually work as well, Storm ID looks set to command considerable attention going forward.

Teviot

Celebrating 21 years in business this year, in an industry still characterised by one-off commissions, Teviot has successfully won the trust of many clients year after year.

However, PR has been on Teviot’s luxury list. With clients based in Brussels, London, West Sussex, Manchester and across Scotland, the agency can dispel the myth that distance is a barrier to striking up a rapport.

One of the agency’s biggest wins of the last year is an International, Belgium-based hotel chain - with over five large hotel brands under its umbrella.

This win has kept the team busy creating brand identities for a number of international hotels, while simultaneously creating a new brand look and feel for the umbrella company itself.

Leisure is perhaps a strong area, with the agency also working closely with the Malmaison Hotel Group.

Teviot has also recently expanded its New Town mews offices. “Small is beautiful but not when your cooped up in a rabbit hutch,” says agency managing director Jane Hall. “We extended into the mews next door and now have space to breathe, but with a handful of new staff on board that space is getting smaller already. We've gone from six to 15 in the space of three years.”

Recent appointments include a financial controller and a new senior designer poached from Pure.

Hall adds: “We have had a very exciting start to the year, with three big pitches coming up.

“All in all Teviot has gone from strength to strength. The last two years for us have been wonderful. We are obviously doing something right.”

Ministry of Webs

Founded in 1999 by directors Paul Beveridge and Neil Tosh, Ministry of Webs initially specialised in database-driven websites and content management systems but, with the addition of Bryn Beveridge to the team, has now diversified into front-end web and graphic design as well.

The three-strong agency now also produces corporate identities and printed material for its clients, as well as online solutions.

Recent projects have included a website for Edinburgh lawyers Brodies (www.brodies.com) and identities for bioscience company Glowell and Talking Island, a company which specialises in selling short films about British culture to Japan.

The company prides itself on creating intelligent work which clients can use as actual business tools, as opposed to pretty pictures and online brochures, and ensures that clients are kept up to date on projects as they are developed, taking the client through the process and explaining every decision as it is taken.

The team’s diverse background plays a role in the range of skills on offer at the agency. Prior to setting up the company Paul Beveridge spent time in London working as assistant director on a number of television dramas as well as editing film projects associated with the National Film School.

Tosh, meanwhile, is a software engineering graduate from Napier University who is skilled in a number of different software programmes, while Bryn Beveridge has spent time in both Boston and New York working on graphic design projects.

TBWA\Edinburgh

Rarely does an agency start up with such high expectations behind it as TBWA\Edinburgh. Formed last year as a result of the Scottish Labour Party win, the agency is headed up by Gary O’Donnell and has since recruited former Faulds senior creative team Steve Mawhinney and Pete Bastiman and is now both working on a number of clients and actively looking to bring more on board.

Enjoying the best of both worlds, TBWA\Edinburgh exists as a small creative hot shop but also has the massive global TBWA network to back it up. This connection has brought the team work from Nissan, via TBWA\Paris, and News International, through TBWA\London. The Edinburgh agency now handles a steady stream of work from News International Scotland, working heavily on the Scottish Sun.

Scottish Courage, another client of the network’s London office, has also charged TBWA\Edinburgh with a number of projects. Meanwhile, the Scottish Labour Party account has involved an in-depth communications campaign, which has run across web design, viral campaigns and SMS.

The agency aims to raise the creative bar in Scotland, stating that this could be a solution to the trend of big clients migrating south.

O’Donnell states: “I think we should worry less about which clients are leaving Scotland and start worrying about the quality of work done here. If we concentrated on raising the bar creatively then maybe more clients would stay. Clients will go where the best work is, and so they should.”

TBWA\Edinburgh is now set to embark on an aggressive new business drive, which, combined with the network’s philosophy of servicing accounts locally, should ensure the agency commands attention in the months and years ahead.

Nevis

Nevis has been operating in its current incarnation for three years but, headed up as it is by Scottish stalwarts Ian McIlroy and Graham Scott, has the feeling of a company that’s been around for a lot longer.

Graham Scott Design was operating for seven years before the addition of McIlroy and a partnership with established and respected Newcastle-based hotshop NE6 Design brought about the creation of Nevis.

Now, with a staff of seven, the agency has a diverse client base, which includes companies such as law firm Brodies, jeweller Hamilton & Inches and Standard Life. Careful not to fall into the trap of several agencies of the past, the team has also confidently ensured that no one account dominates the client list, with an equal spend over most accounts lessening the potential for a damaging loss.

Nevis has a policy of working with its clients on a partnership basis, delivering a brand consultant service rather than solely a graphic design resource. The agency works with a number of specialists across a range of sectors to ensure that it can offer its clients everything they need to strengthen and reinforce their brands.

A strong end to last year and a number of account wins this year have brought six figures of new business to the company, and the twelve months ahead should see the ranks of Nevis grow to ten. The agency also firmly believes that, as times in the design industry continue to be tough, the smaller agencies will have a distinct advantage over their larger counterparts.

All this, in addition to overseas work and projects for established clients looks to ensure that Nevis is one to watch in the coming months.

Tsunami

Five-year-old Tsunami is a dynamic hotshop specialising in marketing, graphic design and exhibition design.

The agency works in all areas of branding, from corporate identities to websites and office interiors, but has recently shifted to a much stronger marketing focus. Tsunami is keen to work with clients on their brand as a whole, rather than just as a supplier of design.

Working as a brand communicator, Tsunami has a policy of complete transparency with its clients, allowing them access to every stage of the creative process, from which member of the team is working on which project at which specific time to exactly how much each stage will cost them.

Tsunami also employs a non-hierarchal structure in the agency itself, with no “this is your role and you must stick to it” philosophy. Everyone in the company is encouraged to contribute ideas, and this extends to clients as well. The agency is keen that the creative process be collaborative between agency and client.

Helping clients understand the branding process is an important part of what Tsunami does, and this has led to the creation of the Brand Wash Workshop, a programme open to client companies, which helps them in understanding the importance of brand development and how to go about it.

Recent projects for the company have included work with Merchant Company, Heritage Portfolio, the University of Strathclyde, for which the agency has designed a “Giving Pack” to raise funds for the university, and the Scottish Institute for Enterprise.

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