Scottish Advertising Awards
Him in doors: Andrew Lindsay can be proud to still lead the most awarded creative department in Scotland.It might be something in the water, but since The Union took up residence at Inverleith Terrace the number of creative awards won have put a growing strain upon the new boardroom’s shelves. More likely, though, it’s something to do with the leafy surroundings. Creatives need to be stimulated, and the stimulating setting offered by the former church – now labelled Union House – is certainly the stuff of dreams. But inspiring surroundings alone do not an award-winning creative department make.
Yet for the third year in succession The Union has topped the creative poll, winning 10 awards and 13 Commendations, including the Chairman’s Award for its Baxter’s Loch Lomond Marathon work. This year, however, things are a bit different. Instead of two desks in the creative directors’ office, there is just one. Simon Scott left his creative partner, Andrew Lindsay, a year ago for a sabbatical in South Africa.
Pictures of Scott and Lindsay still hang from the wall, a reminder of the good old days perhaps. But a year without Scott has had little effect on the burgeoning trophy haul of The Union. Lindsay still recounts fond stories of his partner’s eccentric buying habits – a trip to Amsterdam, a rainy day and an antique ladder – but he has now settled in the role of sole creative director.
“Simon and I worked across the table from each other for 17 years. It took me quite a while to get comfortable with working on my own. We were complementary characters and quite different as individuals. Simon is a massive exhibitionist and a huge, larger-than-life character. He used to be the lead in all the presentations. He was the spinning bow tie. Everyone loves him. I’m the quieter one. I suppose, if we were a swan, I’d be the legs flapping away like hell under the water while Simon would be gliding about.
“I had to decide how I was going to take on the full role. I’m actually really enjoying it. I have a pretty clear field of vision about what I want and I’m feeling good about doing it myself.
“It actually gives you a massive injection of desire again – not that I was feeling particularly jaded – but I think that it’s really made me more competitive. I want to be better. I want to be better than when I was a team with Simon. If I’m going to be judged I want to win against what we did before.”
There are five creative teams tucked away in the basement that Lindsay oversees. The agency has a “natural hierarchy” of experienced creatives, most having worked for a number of years at either London or top Scottish agencies.
At any given time The Union might have more than 200 jobs going through the department – from a tiny press ad or an alteration, to a TV campaign.
“From the minute the brief comes into the creative department I’m involved,” says Lindsay. “Everything that comes through, I read and I scrutinise. I’ll then decide who I think should be working on it, and set them the challenge.
“Normally, after we all agree on a particular route, that is the point that we will present the work to the client.”
From time to time the teams will present all the initial ideas, exposing the client to the work and the thinking to see how they feel the ideas are meeting their brief.
“Both ways work well. But you have to go with only the work that you would be prepared to run. If there is work in there that is only to pad the meeting out, you can guarantee that this is the work that will be chosen.”
The Union recently lost a creative team to Newhaven, so Lindsay’s been searching for a team to replace them: “I want a different type of team. I want a more experienced team and I want that experience to be in different areas. So, it’s been harder to find people with experience in these areas.”
He has since hired art director Ben Craig from Citigate Smarts but is currently looking for a writer to come in as well.
“In Scotland it used to be quite easy to bring people up from London,” says Lindsay. “I think that’s getting a lot harder now. It’s a cyclical thing. People are not as willing to move out of London when it is doing well. When there are insecurities, Scotland is seen as a viable alternative.
“The people who come to Scotland for a change of lifestyle are the people that we want to avoid. They don’t appeal to me, as they’re up here for an easy life, to put their feet up and enjoy the lifestyle. I want people burning with ambition for greater things.”
Recruitment is not the only issue that faces creative directors and their departments, though. The function of media buying in the creative process is another bugbear for Lindsay: “I think we, as creatives, all need to be involved more in media selection. When media departments were in-house, creative departments were a lot closer to the media planning. We might have a great idea but it might involve a strip ad or a column on consecutive pages or whatever. But we used to be able to sit down with the media department and have a conversation about it. There would be a discussion about it and we’d come out with something interesting.
“More and more, we are in the business of pre-devised media schedules that are handed to us and we have to fit into those schedules. That has to change. Media buyers are having different meetings with the client and creative departments and media buyers aren’t talking to each other any more.
“The creative use of media is incredibly important, and the industry isn’t working hard enough to make these connections or having a healthy debate, at an early enough time, about the problem and how it can be solved. The problem for media companies is that they are just in the business of commodity buying and the creativity of media buying is not as important as it has been in the past.”
Time is another area that is vital to the department’s performance, according to Lindsay: “Not having enough time is perhaps the biggest problem we are faced with. I’m sure every creative director would say the same thing. Our business is getting squeezed and squeezed. If you turn something around on a sixpence, then you are going to get something of the same value. The most valuable time that you can have is thinking time. To get great work takes time.”
Next month Simon Scott will return to The Union from his massive farm just south of Capetown, where he’s already embarked upon a number of projects – including doing up his farm, selling plots, creating a surf brand, “and he still talks about writing a book.” But will he be back for good?
“He’s an operator. He always has been. He’s back on the 18 December and we’ll see what his plans are then, but I’m not holding my breath. We’ll see what happens. I feel he might have been out of it for too long now.”