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Christmas Feature Scotland

Below the line review

By The Drum | Administrator

June 16, 2005 | 12 min read

This time two years ago, everything was different. The below-the-line industry in Scotland was ruled predominantly by the multinationals. The Drafts, the KLPs, the DDBs and the WWAVs... But in a few short months it all changed. WWAV swallowed-up sister Omnicom agency MA DDB; KLP ‘reviewed’ its operation out of Scotland, while Draft also took a ‘strategic’ move, closing the doors to its Edinburgh office.

But the legacy of these global giants remains.

This legacy was a new breed of agency – hungry, lean and independent – born out of the skills nurtured at the worldwide networks.

The success of existing Scottish b-t-l shops (Navigator and BD-Ntwk, to name but a couple) and the emergence of Story as a new force, highlighted the opportunities to grow too.

Add to that the resurgence of a beefed-up WWAV and ARC’s new-found worldwide network (having rebranded from IMP) and a fresh picture of Scotland’s below-the-line landscape is almost complete.

As the new breed have established themselves, from the remnants of Draft and KLP, other players have come to the fore too. The Union, Leith, Family and 1576 have all taken stock of their b-t-l offerings evolving services to meet the needs of their clients.

The changes have been wide-reaching. Perhaps, then, it’s fair to say that b-t-l is one of the most evolving sectors of Scotland’s marketing industries. However, despite the recent upheaval, the b-t-l industry north of the border has been going from strength to strength.

BOB was one of the companies to leap forward as a result of Draft Worldwide’s closure – although the agency’s managing director Ward Mulvey left Draft before the decision was taken to shut the office.

“We’re doing very well as a company. We’re now up to 15 staff from a standing start in December 2003,” says Mulvey.

“We’ve developed through a mix of looking after existing clients well and delivering promises – excellent planning and creative at a cost effective price – the best of both.

“But we’re not cutting-corners, we are delivering a value service by carrying no excess baggage. Clients don’t care for bag carriers.”

But as well as servicing existing clients, BOB’s been busy bringing on new clients too. Namely Glenmorangie’s global CRM business for it’s flagship product.

BOB is just one of the handful of agencies that have opened recently in Scotland. This glut of new agencies opening, whilst largely welcomed, comes with some concern.

Daniel Clare, managing director of The Union Direct, sums up this caution: “There is nothing wrong with and we shouldn’t be scared by increased competition. The launch of new agencies is a sign both that there is optimism in the market and a belief that there is business to be won. However, especially in Scotland, there isn’t room for more of the same. Any new agency needs to offer a tangible and relevant point of difference to clients if they are going to survive.”

This is a view perhaps shared by Gary Smith, formerly director of Draft and now joint managing director of 1576: “I'm not sure the number of new start ups is healthy. Draft and KLP were part of international networks and provided something different to clients.

“For example, when I was running Draft we would take clients over to the States where they would get a brief on what was happening in their market in the US. The larger networks also give easy access to worldwide research for clients who have a desire to see what is happening in other countries. There are also greater staff opportunities to learn from a wider pool of colleagues.

“The irony is that Draft and KLP were both profitable agencies with strong client lists – they just didn't fit the aspirations of their respective owners anymore.

“On the plus side the likes of BOB, Jump and Multiply have emerged successfully from the debris and given the principals a chance to be in charge of their own destiny which can only be a good thing.”

One such success story is that of Jump Marketing. Four former Draft staff launched the agency at the start of 2004, winning the much sought after Burger King business.

While some of the larger brand names look to London to source their creative campaigns, b-t-l is still one area that attracts the big clients to Scotland. Burger King being a prime example.

“Scottish agencies have a wealth of experience and some very good creative people. FMCG brands were traditionally a core user of sales promotion with a natural tendency to think national (or in our case international) rather than soley Scotland,” says Moyra Harvey, managing director, Jump Marketing. “Likewise the strength of the Scottish financial sector inspired many DM agencies to excel in this area.

“But perhaps the key to continued success is Scotland maintaining a high profile as a country, and for me, events like MTV Awards and the G8 Summit are a real boost to putting Scotland on the map – a bonus when approaching non-Scottish companies.”

Others, however, attribute the success to multiple factors.

“Below-the-line, it can be important to be close and local to clients and targets,” says Mulvey. “You need a good insight into the local market, as campaigns are often a lot more tailored. And more frequent. So, location can sometimes be a factor. Planning times are shorter. So there is no luxury in time and distance.

“B-t-l shops were more forward thinking in location. A London office didn’t tick the UK box. Because of the need to understand the local market, the big networks like Draft and KLP opened offices in Scotland. Such agencies employ a very high standard of staff, and it is this legacy that they have left us with [of high-calibre professionals] that has seen a wealth of new businesses open, servicing top quality clients.”

Gary Smith, agrees with his former colleague. “Below-the-line activity could also be viewed as being below- the-radar activity. The budgets are often smaller and there is less kudos in the senior client’s eyes in the agency appointment, so rather than feel as if they have to have a London beauty parade they are happy to simply select the best agency for the task – and if they are based close by then so much the better as the service levels will be higher.”

“Our experience is that clients seem to be more willing to accept that

Scottish b-t-l agencies are as good as, if not better than, London agencies in terms of quality, value and cost,” continues Yvonne Balfour, managing director, Navigator. “On the basis that all our work is measurable in terms of return on investment, if we can meet or exceed business targets, then our clients need look no further.”

This ability to attract top clients has led to Scotland’s below-the-line industry performing well, even through a widespread slump in spend.

As CEO of WWAV Rapp Collins, Chris Gordon is well placed to monitor the current market conditions in Scotland and further afield.

“What we’re seeing at the moment is a stability of client budgets. There’s no doubt that in the first quarter of this year campaigns have been more successful.

“After a period where campaigns were struggling to perform as well as some clients expected, there’s now an environment where clients are thinking more positively and proactively about the future as opposed to trying to work out how to keep the finance and managing director happy.

“Still, I have concerns over the whole lack of consumer confidence. I think what we’ll see over the summer is everybody trying to second-guess the market and unsure as to how they will be placed for next year.

“The place where we’re seeing most activity going on is with international and very big national clients. Smaller companies in the UK are not seeing as big an upturn. I don’t think Scotland is seeing as big a lift as the rest of the UK in terms of below-the-line.

“But, in research, when they ask marketing directors what their biggest priorities are, the fundamental one is always accountability. The second one is measurement.

“As direct marketers, if we can’t trade off that then we’re not worth our salt.”

Gary Smith agrees: “Measurable activity always thrives when times are tough. If you imagine the argument along the lines of "You gave me £100 and I turned it into £500 worth of orders" as opposed to "You gave me £100 and I increased the propensity to purchase and overall awareness" then in tough times, where a quick return on marketing spend is needed, there'll only be one winner.”

“Clients are seeking more connection with their consumers, and below-the-line offers the ability to translate above-the-line propositions into a piece of consumer connection that really drives a response,” says Lisa Gray, senior account director, BD Ntwk. “As a result, b-t-l has become more accountable in measurement, but also a more consistent method of reaching consumers.

“As a-t-l media becomes more fragmented and seeks to constantly innovate, b-t-l provides a more steady measure of communication, and ultimately return on investment.”

Speaking as an ex-client Joe McAspurn, managing director of Arc Worldwide, knows that when budgets get cut, targets don't. “Naturally, clients facing budget cuts will start to take a more short-term view, so will use DM or sales promotion activities to help plug gaps in their sales forecasts. The shame is that when the budgets come back the b-t-l activity gets dropped in favour of ads, so you lose the compound effect of repeated activity through b-t-l channels.

“I still think that some clients are over reliant on above-the-line and can overlook the brand-building potential of innovative below-the-line activity. B-t-l agencies take more naturally to integrating activity across disciplines, so have a role to play in knitting all your activity together into apparently seamless campaigns. There's a real opportunity for collaborative working that more traditional ad agencies shy away from.”

This is an opportunity that Sue Mullen, managing director of Story, has jumped on. Increasingly clients are looking for communication solutions, and a large amount of the work undertaken by Story in the last two years has been focused on producing integrated campaigns.

“Clients are looking to maximise and justify their budgets so whatever the appropriate media, measurement is more important than ever.

“Even in the case of our work for National Australia Group, where being back on TV after 10 years meant a brand awareness campaign, the strategy had to allow us to develop a cut-down response version of the ad to generate sales.

“I think it is fair to say that all advertising is about targeting however, where below the line has an advantage over traditional advertising is that we are always in the mindset of targeting effectively, whatever the brief.”

Another area that is helping drive b-t-l activity forward is experiential marketing – says Mark Evans, director of Kommando – where a brand can be instantly sampled. “This done with the correct timings can influence fantastic sales uplift without any waste. Budgets can be instantly measured by instant results.

“If you want to see some wonderful pie charts and flow charts then invite an a-t-l sales guy for a chat, but if you want measurability and accountability then look b-t-l. B-t-l has versatility and the potential to reward innovative minds more so than a-t-l.

“You have to be cunning and in touch with the rhythm of tribes and society as a whole. Great b-t-l campaigns can be executed on shoe string budgets but achieve enormous results. The danger is that when everyone starts to think they are good at something horror stories appear and the specialist disciplines that sit outside the traditional mix such as guerrilla marketing and experiential marketing get a bad reputation... Just ‘cause you can change a plug, that doesn't make you an electrician. People should really stick to what they do best.”

But now, with technology advancing, the question is no longer just a-t-l or b-t-l, but what about ol – online?

“As those who understand targeting we are best placed to really make the most of this media,” says Mullen. “A good example of this is our work for First Direct. We wanted to grab the attention of First Direct customers and prospects like them. The best place for us to do this was online. Working with the media company we managed to achieve a first when we negotiated hi-jacking the home page of Yahoo for one day to promote First Direct’s message – reaching an audience of over 20million, with a click through of 44,000 to the First Direct site with a couple of hours.”

Navigator has just launched a new media division, and Balfour agrees with Mullen’s sentiments, however she is also quick to point out that when it comes down to targeting sometimes, despite the technology available, the traditional methods are still the best.

“We have to continue to innovate to target our increasingly segmented audiences and gain maximum cut-through for our message. At the same time, some traditional methods are still the most powerful – word of mouth for example is still the best possible way of getting your message heard.”

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