1576 (AG - after Gorman)

By The Drum | Administrator

July 19, 2004 | 7 min read

Reid: enjoying the challenges

Mark Gorman announced his departure from 1576 in September last year by streaking across a wind-swept beach and plunging into the freezing North Sea as part of a viral e-mail invite to his leaving bash – a memorable moment for the industry. But as Gorman was stripping off, David Reid, co-founder and joint creative director, was trying Gorman’s desk out for size and weighing up the challenges ahead for him and his colleagues at 1576.

A year on and Reid has settled in at the desk vacated by his predecessor, relishing the trials that have been presented. And, as he reflects on his move away from the creative department, he waxes lyrical about the surprise opportunity that knocked: “It came as a bolt from the blue (Mark Gorman leaving), so we didn’t have a plan straight away. He told us on the Thursday, and the following day we talked about it again. We had to reassure him that there was no animosity. He thought we would be angry at his decision, but it is a very brave thing to do, to follow your heart.”

Still taking in the news, Reid went out for a “couple” of beers with Gorman to talk over his decision to leave.

“I went home, and was lying in the spare room, after coming back slightly worse for wear, on the Saturday morning. And it hit me, like a bolt – a flash of inspiration. I’d really like to be the MD. So, I leapt out of bed, found my mobile and phoned Adrian (Jeffery). I told him I wanted to talk to him and, at any point, if he thought I was talking bollocks, then to tell me to shut up. I said, ‘I’ve been on the creative side for a long time (18 years). I see this as a great opportunity, and I’d really like the chance to become MD.’

“Adrian immediately said that he thought it was a good idea and that he’d fully support it. I then phoned Ruth (Lees), and I think that she too was quite surprised but agreed that it was a good idea, if I wanted to do it.”

The following morning Reid phoned Gorman and asked him what he thought of the idea. His pause and silence at the other end of the line were a great deal more pronounced than the others. But he too agreed. “We spoke the following week to our chairman Bill Thompson and it was decided. Initially, we kept a lid on it. We wanted to go around all the clients, Mark and I together, to ask them what they thought of the decision.” The agency is now approaching its tenth birthday, and Reid says that it has long been rid of any “maverick” tag that it inherited in its early years: “I think that we are now, rightly, seen as one of the established ad agencies in Scotland. We’ve been going ten years, and we have never been overdrawn at the bank. We’ve always kept our ship pretty mean, lean and tight. And we’ve got client relationships that go back eight or nine years. It is our ninth year working with Jenners. It is our seventh year working with VisitScotland. Glenmorangie has been with us for seven years. These companies would not stick with us if they didn’t think that we were up to the job.

“I think, naïvely, having two out of three directors on the creative side, and being younger – I think we were considerably younger than a lot of the other agencies – we shot from the hip quite often, sometimes talking without thinking. And I probably blame myself there first, more than anybody else. But I don’t think that initial reputation has been a barrier to us over the years, in growing the business.”

1576 now employs 22 staff and seven at DM sister agency, Metis. Reid, who is chairman of Metis, has “big plans” for the DM agency going forward, with the two agencies working synergistically to complement each other.

1576BC is another (brand consultancy) arm that is developing under Reid’s leadership: “People often see advertising as a necessary evil. The BC idea, which came from Kenneth Fowler, was to add even more value to the offering, doing research and development, brand positioning, looking at where you are in the market and where you might want to go, which may, or may not, lead to advertising.

“BC started two years ago and it’s become a phenomenal battering ram in the quest for new business, and also to increase our worth to clients. Still, at least 50 per cent of the work BC does is for non-advertising clients.”

In advertising, two clients in the same arena can be seen as a conflict of interest, while three can be seen as a speciality. Yet Reid is comfortable with the agency’s tag of destination marketing specialists: “If you show expertise in a particular field, it will attract others. We initially picked up Gleneagles, then we won the VisitScotland account. More recently, we won the Falkirk Wheel and National Museums of Scotland, Scottish National Heritage and the National Trust for Scotland. You get a reputation for being very strong in a certain area.”

The biggest change, perhaps, since Gorman’s departure is the time that the agency spends networking and actively pursuing new business: “If you have a story as good as ours and a track record as good as ours, it is not difficult to get meetings,” continues Reid. “We have pitched for 11 pieces of business since I became MD, and we have won seven of them, which is a healthy batting average. But that is not down to me. I can get clients to sit down and talk to us, but it is the work that wins potential, and existing, clients, over. I can put the ball on the line but it is someone else who kicks it.”

But what of his first love, creativity? Has that been easily replaced with a new ‘suited’ role?

“It’s been remarkably easy to step away from the creative side of the business. I thought it would be a lot harder. Don’t get me wrong. I love ads, I love the creative side, I love watching good ads. I love art direction. If I see a nice bit of type, whether it’s in an old butcher shop, or a new font that happens to be in Creative Review, I love seeing these things. But I think I realised the morning I had the epiphany that that part of my life wasn’t over, in terms of appreciating creativity. But, in terms of generating creative work, it was time for me to move on. I’ve been doing it 18 years. This is a new challenge, and I love it. I absolutely love it. I go to work an hour earlier, I leave an hour later every day at least.

“But you have to remember we are in a service industry. We are not a luxury. We’re not like an art gallery, where people turn up to look at what we are doing because they like it. We are a function – clients need advertising, the public uses advertising to shape its perceptions, and that is really exciting.”


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