In the office of Chris Watson and Rufus Wedderburn what looks like a can of lighter fluid sits on a radiator behind Wedderburn’s desk. Whether this is a remnant from the research stage of their Roses award-winning fire safety ads is unclear. But one thing that is certain is that Watson and Wedderburn were one of the hottest creative teams at this year’s Roses Advertising Awards, scooping two golds, four silvers and a bronze award on the night all for their fire safety work for the Scottish Executive.
Glasgow-born Watson joined The Leith Agency around four years ago after a successful stint at The Bridge, during which time he penned the lyrics for the HEBS Stinx commercial and subsequent record. Newcastle-born Wedderburn joined forces with Watson at The Leith Agency when he joined around two years from 1576. He came to Scotland to take a placement at McCann-Erickson and, like many, he never left.
Speaking of their impressive awards haul Watson said: “I suppose winning creative awards is expected of creatives to a degree. It is obviously nice if you do, but it is more important to do ads that the punters like and that actually work.”
Wedderburn added: “The Scottish Executive worked out well for us. In fact it was a bit of a rush job for us as it was initially a brief for some TV and they wanted some press work to go with it. We tried a few different routes and then Chris just wrote these lines and we both really liked them, so that was it.”
Watson added: “Doing this sort of work is pretty different to doing an Irn-Bru poster for instance. There is no room to go bonkers, and you have to be very responsible in what you come up with.”
Perhaps the romantic picture is that creatives sit around in the pub or park all day searching for that spark of inspiration to get them started on an award-winning piece of work, but that is not the case for Watson and Wedderburn. A hectic workload, which includes working on Coors, Irn Bru, Diet Irn Bru, Baillie Nicol Jarvie and the Scottish Executive, ensures that the creative pairing have little time for prolonged searches for inspiration.
Watson said: “We have a pretty open way of working on creative briefs here. There are always lots of briefs going around and it is not the case that the most senior teams get the best briefs and the less senior ones get the dull ones. I suppose each team will perhaps be working on two or three briefs at the same time and everyone gets the opportunity to work on the TV briefs, they are shared out, which is good for us all.
“Last year we worked on Coors and it took between six and eight months to go through the whole process and get approval. We are working on a Coors brief now and have been for about the last three months. It is a long process. You’ll do a round and then it goes to the client for approval, and then you’ll do another round of work and then there is the research. Then sometimes we have to do another round.”
Wedderburn continued: “It is certainly busier here than other agencies I have been at. Our inspiration usually comes from the brief itself because ultimately if you do not answer the brief you do not get the work through.
“You do actually spend more time working on the bigger accounts such as Grolsch not necessarily because they spend more but because you have to search harder to find something new to say. Working on the more serious stuff like the fire safety work is actually quite a nice break from doing the Grolsch and Irn Bru stuff.”
And speaking of getting work out, both agree that working under a creative director like Gerry Farrell has improved their own standard of creative output.
Watson said: “You get used to having your ideas reworked or rejected, and as a creative you have to expect it. Sometimes you just have to come up with another idea. Sometimes a client comes up with an idea that actually makes your ad better. It is pretty difficult to get work through Gerry’s office though, he edits most things in some way, but he is very fair, and I have certainly got better as a creative working under him. Sometimes you get upset if he doesn’t like your stuff, but he is just doing his job.”
So, what do they think about the state of the Scottish ad industry at the moment?
Wedderburn said: “I think the Scottish ad industry misses a big player, like Faulds. The Union are pretty big now though, and it has become a bit of an us and them situation. That said The Bridge are doing well at the moment.”
For Watson it is a question of where the next big client is going to come from.
He said: “The issue is getting a high enough standard of major clients in Scotland. The only way Scotland’s ad industry is going to get any bigger is if it can attract some really major clients.”
So far Watson and Wedderburn have enjoyed their time at The Leith Agency, but what of the future. Neither shows any desire to head of to the bright lights of London – thank God – so what do they want to do?
Wedderburn replied: “It seems like I haven’t been here very long anyway, so I am more than happy to keep working away here and to see what happens for us with The Leith Agency.”
Watson added: “I want to keep making my work better. I have been here four years and there was a time early on when I was not getting much work out, but now, fortunately, we have a lot of good stuff coming out so we are pretty happy at the moment.”