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Leeding the pack

By The Drum | Administrator

January 26, 2005 | 11 min read

If it was possible for a city to leave skid-marks, you get the feeling that Leeds would have made a right mess of the Pennines. Not because it’s got anything to be scared of, far from it. Instead the besmirching would have occurred due to its accelerated development over the course of the last decade or so.

Always celebrated as a major force in the world of banking and finance the straight-talking, poor-footballing regional capital has rapidly evolved into one of the country’s top city destinations and a veritable Mecca for the media and marketing community. Gone are the grim skylines, glum expressions and low expectations and here to stay, we hope, are the exclusive retailers, munificent salaries and hotbed of industry talent.

Don’t believe us? Then how come Leeds was voted Conde Nast Traveller’s favourite city in 2003, the Visitor City of the Year 2004, best University Destination, Best Place in Britain to Live, the UK’s number one clubbing city and Britain’s Best City for Business? And, perhaps most importantly of all (ahem), Adline named Yorkshire its Marketing Region of the Year in 2004, largely due to the enduringly impressive performances of Leeds based marketing services firms. So there.

But of course many of you may not be prepared to take our words for it. So, with you cynics in mind, here are the people in the know letting you know why you should look to Leeds for your business, career and personal life.

Q1 What are the main advantages of basing your business in Leeds?

Phil Dean, MD, Thompson “It’s confident – the buzz of a fast-growing city like Leeds is hard to beat and the feeling that you’re part of a city really starting to stretch its legs is fantastic. There’s a real confidence in the city that’s not based on bluster – it’s based on solid hard work and talent. It’s corny, but success breeds success.

It’s connected – we can literally be anywhere in Europe in a matter of hours and this is helping a lot of Leeds companies spread their wings and look further afield. Logistics matter when you’re growing your business.”

Gary McCall, MD, Poulter Partners “The media industry has seen an explosion of new and exciting companies, with around 1,000 businesses now providing employment for 11,000 people. Over the last few years Leeds has become a fertile breeding ground for talent. Creative talent is the essential fuel of that industry, and this city can currently boast some of the top talent out there.”

Mike Phillipson, MD, PWLC “First, Leeds is a city that is buzzing right now and that is attracting bright young people interested in advertising to the city. Secondly, in Leeds the office space is cheaper than London, so our overheads and man-hour costs are more competitive versus the London advertising agencies, which gives us an extra edge in fee negotiations. Thirdly, geographically we are well located, with easy access north and south of the country to blue chip companies.”

Clive Goldstein, MD, The Union “There\'s a good industry infrastructure and good pool of talent because Leeds has always housed prominent UK agencies and attracted top calibre people who, like me, seek a good work/life balance without compromising professionally.”

Gary Shaw, MD, MBD “Clients and staff alike realise that a pound spent in Yorkshire goes further.”

Charlie Lyons, business development manager, Mezzo “There’s a plethora of lap dancing venues.”

Q2 Why should agency staff looking to relocate consider a move to Leeds?

Gary McCall “All the time, more and more staff are realising the smart career step is to move to a city such as Leeds where they can be part of sustained industry growth. And it’s not only people moving to Leeds – plenty of talented young executives start their careers here and choose to stay. The graduate programme here at Poulters is the perfect example of that process in action.

“In the end I think it comes down to one question: Why would you want to be a small fish in a big pond when in Leeds you could be a big part of a media revolution?”

Andrew Jones, MD, The Marketing Store “Leeds is a great city to work and live in. You can enjoy all the benefits of working in a big city with big name employers, big clients and big nights out. Additionally, there are lots of great places to live, from urban waterside locations, through to life in the dales. Whatever you want to do you can choose it.”

Andrew Brown, creative director, swamp “For the new media community, I\'d say just because there is tons of work and a lot of it is for global blue chip clients. There is a sense in Leeds that we bat with the big boys and when you\'re out to pitch you can be up against a bunch of London hard-hitters and come away with the prize. Weighed against the fact that Leeds is actually pretty small and within the creative arts and industries the family trees can get pretty incestuous, you have this great balance of really being part of a larger network of things going on – without the sense that the work is parochial.”

Phil Dean “I believe that Leeds can genuinely offer a challenging and rewarding career for marketing services employees – the sector has enjoyed massive growth over the past decade and has a strong heritage in creativity. What’s happening now is talented people are relocating and adding to the pool of talent, and the knock on effect is successful and award-winning agencies based in the city.

“We meet a lot of disenchanted London employees looking for an easier life outside of the capital, and although Leeds is definitely a better city to work and live in, in terms of quality of life, I believe it’s actually tougher up here from a work perspective.”

Charlie Lyons “Leeds as a city is developing at a phenomenal rate with a strong and expanding media community – at present it is one of the fastest growing cities in Europe and offers a fantastic work/life environment.”

Julian Kynaston, chairman, Propaganda “The best people, when in their most ambitious, career-building phase simply look for the best agency, and will go where their career takes them. Certainly our location has never been an issue, although being close to both the M1 and the city centre do bring its advantages – easier commutes, great countryside balanced with a fantastic bar and club scene, and a lower cost of living.

“But people come because they want to work for Propaganda. In 2004, 65 per cent of our new recruits relocated to Leeds from outside the region. Of these, one was previously based in the USA and the other in Australia.”

Q3 What\'s the best thing about living in the Leeds area?

Phil Dean “Obviously not our football team!”

Andrew Brown “Leeds is a \'got it all\' place. Only a few hours directly, either way, to London or Scotland; or for that matter Switzerland or Brussels. A nice big house for the price of a pokey London flat. You can walk around the city as it\'s that compact. It’s spitting distance to some of the most beautiful countryside in the world (fact – God lives in Yorkshire). Culture, nightlife, shopping (if you like your Vivienne Westwood), drinking and eating. Some genuine examples of working multi-culturalism. And when you\'ve had enough, the great thing about these Northern cities is you can get a night out in other cool destinations such as Liverpool, Manchester or Sheffield.

“There\'s not much you can\'t do in Leeds.”

Dominic Geary, director, Mediavest Leeds “The atmosphere of the city is a very friendly one. There is always something to do. There is always some new bar, or club, or restaurant opening, and the nightlife is arguably the best in the country. Leeds is big enough to be able to discover something new every day, yet small enough to feel familiar.”

Mike Phillipson “Living in Leeds, you don’t have the London Underground to contend with, the constant conversations about the weather that you get in Manchester, or the traffic chaos of Birmingham.”

Jonathan Sands, chairman, Elmwood “You can do fantastic work and live in a place where the air is as clear as day, where you can still afford to live in a house with a garden, where people in shops serve you with a smile and a ‘morning chuck’, where pub food is still homemade and the beer has a head on it, where your kids can still get a good state school education, etc., etc., etc. Or, for those living in London, you can do fantastic work and tell yourself three times a day, before each bowl of sushi, that ‘It’s grim up North. No, really, it is’.”

Q4 Has being based in Leeds ever caused difficulties when targeting prospective clients?

Clive Goldstein “Not a bit.”

Steve Empson, director, Brilliant “In the past there has been a tendency for prospective clients to limit their selection process to London, however with improved infrastructure, technological advancements – video conferencing, etc. – and the range of skill-sets offered in the North, we have found a change in attitudes.”

Carl Hopkins, MD, JDA “You are talking about an agency that was based in Bradford for 16 years, so compared to the postcode-bigotry we did come across Leeds has never been a problem. The awareness of Leeds is rising on a national level. You read articles about it being the best place in which to live, work or shop. I even read it was the least stressful city in the UK! Also, in my travels into the South I am always amazed at the amount of marketing people who went to university in Leeds and have fond memories and high opinions of the place.”

Phil Dean “We’ve never let location restrict us whatsoever when targeting prospective clients – if you’re good enough then, in our experience, location is never an issue.”

Mike Phillipson “Seventy-five per cent of clients based within the M25 will not consider putting their business into an advertising agency outside of London. Other disciplines like media and new media fare better, but advertising is still the one that needs to be cracked. There are always going to be prejudiced clients outside of the M25 who have not investigated the advertising agencies available to them on their doorstep, and they know who they are.

“They make up their minds based on what they read in London-biased trade magazines like Campaign, so they feel any regional advertising agency would be like a step backwards. They need to visit the regional advertising agencies that are rising up the ranks or otherwise they could end up appearing rather narrow-minded and misinformed.”

Dominic Geary “You will always come across clients who insist upon a Soho address regardless of your location or proposition.”

Gary McCall “A few narrow-minded people perhaps still believe that the best talent is in the capital, however the more progressive understand what is on their doorstep.”

Julian Kynaston “We have international clients, clients based in London and clients based in the North. Because we insist on being measured by our results, potential clients no longer have to base their decision on our client list – and client lists can be so misleading – or a glamorous Soho address.”

Andrew Jones “If anything it’s a positive advantage.”

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