Advertising Agency of the Year

By The Drum, Administrator

November 5, 2004 | 10 min read

As another year passes, waistlines have expanded, hair lines receded further and there have been more changes to the landscape of Scottish advertising. From the Scottish Executive’s pitch to the departure of Barbara Moyses, the doyenne of the Scottish media, and the return of Mark Gorman, who joined Citigate Smarts as chief executive a year after leaving 1576, it is safe to say that the past year has had its ups and downs.

This year, the process for judging of the Scottish Advertising Agency of the Year’s various categories has changed, albeit ever so slightly. In light of readers’ comments from previous years, the winners were awarded after The Drum’s editorial team had donned their investigative reporters’ caps and despatched to the front line to speak to the agencies and find out not only how their past year has been, but how they rate the competition.

As in previous years, agencies had to supply financial details to be in with a chance of being named Ad Agency of the Year and they also had to feature in our Peer Poll. The Client Satisfaction Poll was, this year, put on hold due to extensive research already being conducted among clients by MRUK, for The Drum’s Recommended Agency Book, which will be published early next year as a comprehensive guide to the best marketing services agencies in Scotland.

Scottish Advertising

Agency of the Year 2004

It may come as little surprise to many that The Leith Agency once again retained its grip on the Advertising Agency of the Year hat stand trophy for the seventh year running.

The majority of senior ad industry people who were interviewed during our research paid great deference to Messrs Adams, Denholm and Rowley along with the rest of the Leith management team.

For the past year The Leith Agency has been consistently producing adverts of a high quality, maintaining a solid business front and an enviable client list in both Edinburgh and London – while also successfully managing to get onto the much anticipated Scottish Executive agency roster.

Only time will tell what it will mean for the agency following the news that the company is to merge into the newly formed Cello Group, but generally this is also being viewed by the industry as a positive move for the agency as control will remain in Scotland.

It is also worth noting at this point that this result was decided totally independently of the Scottish Advertising Creative Awards. Creativity is not a direct factor in deciding the best advertising business in Scotland, hence The Leith’s less than spectacular performance at the Scottish Advertising Awards had no bearing on how the agency is viewed as a business by the industry.

However, while The Leith Agency might have been named the overall agency of the year, it didn’t totally sweep the board, as has happened in previous years. This year it was pushed harder than ever before to hold onto its title by agencies such as Barkers, The Bridge, Family, The Union, 1576, Newhaven and FrameC.

Media Agency of the Year 2004

Perhaps there are no surprises for guessing who wins the Media Agency of the Year accolade - this agency has been knocking on the door for the last few years.

During a year that saw the Scottish Executive put its entire media buying out to tender, it will shock few that this year the winner is Euan Jarvie’s team at Mediacom.

Having successfully won the account from incumbent Feather Brooksbank, the firm has consolidated its business and, in doing so, has also managed to come first in this category.

The general consensus from those industry folk polled was that there had to be credit where credit was due for the work that Mediacom had put into the Scottish Executive pitch and, while many expressed sympathy for second-placed Feather Brooksbank, it had to be Euan Jarvie and co who were the winners this year.

Commenting on their nomination, one agency boss said: “They are the best media independent by miles. They’re strategic, thorough, and think about the brands.”

Feather Brooksbank and The Media Shop were also nominated in this category.

The service that Feather Brooksbank offers still remains very highly regarded by the industry and while the loss of the Scottish Executive clearly had some bearing on this result, the feeling is that Feather Brooksbank can, and will, recover and become stronger than ever.

Likewise The Media Shop in Glasgow has picked up a number of new admirers over the last year. Again service levels were the primary reason for its votes, but its commitment to finding creative solutions was also widely commented upon. Perhaps, with its new brand, next year could see The Media Shop really upset the applecart.

Advertising Peer Poll

As stated already, high praise was duly given to The Leith Agency for the consistently high it has been held in over the past year.

One respondent during our research commented: “It really is difficult to look beyond The Leith Agency. The directors are really getting a return on their investment.” While another stated: “If The Leith Agency were going to represent Scotland in a European advertising contest, I’d feel pretty good about it.” High praise indeed.

Joint second in the Peer Poll was split between The Bridge and 1576 this year. One respondent said of The Bridge: “They don’t go around shouting. Instead they have a fantastic “softly, softly” approach and are doing some of the best work out there.”

Meanwhile, 1576 was praised for “rediscovering their energy levels” under the guidance of David Reid as managing director with Adrian Jeffery, now as the sole creative director.

In fourth place was Family, which is really beginning to make an impact on our Agency of the Year polls, while The Union – big winners at the Scottish Advertising Awards – was placed in fifth position in the Peer Poll.

Managing Director of The Year

Family’s managing director Ian Wright has become synonymous with the advertising industry in Scotland since quitting Faulds some four years ago to take up a managing director’s position at Yellow M.

Having survived the fall-out from the demise of Yellow M three years ago, Wright has gone from strength to strength and his profile has gone through the roof as he continues to grow his agency through some shrewed decisions and seizing opportunities.

Clearly, he is well respected by his peers, with a variety of comments received about his management style during our research, including: “Family had a great policy when they set up and have managed to retain what they set out to do. They go out aggressively and never let an opportunity pass them by. Ian is pretty dogged about the business, contacts and networking.”

The future looks bright for Wright and the agency, which has rapidly set out its table as a solid and profitable Scottish marketing services and communications agency.

Media Planner/Buyer of the Year

While Mediacom might have picked up the top media agency title this year, Feather’s still has cause to celebrate as not just one, but two of the agency’s finest picked up the much-coveted mantle.

Gill Cairney and Gary Wise of Feather Brooksbank couldn’t be separated in nominations this year so they share the award this time around taking the much-coveted title from one of their colleagues, Tony Harding, who was bestowed with the title last year.

High praise for both Cairney and Wise was given by their peers. Of Cairney one commentator said: “She is well regarded and did a fantastic job on the Scottish Executive account.”

Meanwhile, Gary Wise was praised by many for his professionalism, hard work and brand awareness despite still being relatively young.

Client of the Year

Despite a number of respondents pointing first to the Scottish Executive when asked whom they thought was the most influential client over the past 12 months, there was a general consensus that, despite its obvious clout, the Executive was not the client of the year, this year at least.

Instead, those polled opted to celebrate a client that has consistantly championed creativity and continued to push the boundaries forward, while working closely with its agency.

And therefore, in light of this, the winner had to be Tennent’s Lager. It has been yet another successful year for the dream partnership that is Newhaven and Tennent’s Lager.

The dropping of the brand name, simply leaving the big iconic red T, shows how powerful the brand is and the clients bravery to belive in the power of its brand advertising.

The successful branding on the variety of music-orientated events further shows that the agency/client relationship is going from strength to strength and the ‘What The Faro’ campaign was inspired and ensured that Tennent’s Lager (and Scotland to a lessrer degree) was part of the Euro 2004 Football Championships.

Ones to Watch

While start-ups and breakaways have been rather thin on the ground this year, there has been no shortage of changes in the industry. The editorial team this year, therefore, decided to ask respondents who they thought would be making waves over the next year, and the results were varied.

However, three names came to the fore – Newhaven, due to its inclusion on the Scottish Executive shortlist, with one respondent commenting: “I’d like to see Newhaven do a little bit more and I am sure that Jim Faulds will give them good steering and direction.”

Citigate Smarts was lauded for the appointment of Mark Gorman as its chief executive, with one agency boss noting, “Rob Morrice always stays a step ahead of the pack, and it will be interesting to see what happens next.”

Also all eyes will be on 1576 over the coming year according to those polled. Said one respondent: “After Mark Gorman’s departure there were doubts as to what would happen to the agency, but David has stabilised it. Retaining VisitScotland was phenomenal after just losing its MD, but VisitScotland is a good client to have and it stood by 1576 during all the changes that it was going through.”

The appointment of Gary Smith as managing director of its direct marketing business, which has recently been brought into 1576, will also be closely watched to observe the impact such a well respected and dynamic operator will have on the agency.


In conclusion, the responses received during The Drum’s research for this survey appear to show that there is some real optimism out there in industry land for a change.

There is a general consensus, on both the agency and client side, that there is some noticeable light at the end of what has been a long and painful tunnel for many.

After a few years littered with agency casualties it is heartening that 2004 has only seen one advertising agency, Bond, sadly close its doors.

New names such as Guy Harrower’s Campaign HQ will be monitored this year to see what impact it can have on the landscape. In the meantime, the near future looks very bright indeed. Here’s to 2005.


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