Grand Prix winner

By The Drum, Administrator

November 3, 2005 | 5 min read

This year’s Scottish Advertising Awards Grand Prix winner might never have happened. The campaign, for whisky brand Baillie Nichol Jarvie, could easily never have seen the light of day had its co-creator, copywriter Chris Watson, decided to pursue his original career goal of being a professional golfer.

Lucky for Baillie Nichol Jarvie, not to mention The Leith Agency, that he didn’t.

Created by the team of Watson and art director Rufus Wedderburn, the campaign scooped the top prize at last month’s awards ceremony, as well as four other gold awards.

Following their various successes, the pair took time out from editing their latest Scottish Executive television commercial to talk to The Drum.

The team paired up just over two years ago, after Wedderburn joined The Leith Agency from 1576.

“Any time you start a job it’s on a three-month probation thing,” says Wedderburn. “So it’s just pure luck, I think, whether you get on or not.” Watson adds: “It’s quite hard sometimes to get a partner you get on with.”

Prior to joining The Leith Wedderburn had worked at a number of Scottish ad agencies including The Bridge, McCann Scotland, and Newcastle agency Robson Brown. Watson had worked at The Bridge (after Wedderburn left) before Leith creative director Gerry Farrell approached him after being impressed by Watson’s work on the HEBS account.

As well as Baillie Nichol Jarvie, the pairing has completed award winning work for the Scottish Executive as well as recent campaigns for charity Children’s 1st, Beat 106 and Diet Irn Bru.

However it was the BNJ work that was to particularly impress this year’s Scottish Ad Awards judges. Part of the Glenmorangie brand portfolio, Baillie Nichol Jarvie had not been advertised by the company prior to The Leith Agency winning the brief. A mix of various malt whisky blends, the brief was to position the brand differently to other, more traditional, whiskies.

Watson says: “When the brief came through it had a story with it. There was a guy called the Baillie Nichol Jarvie and he sort of gave things a red-hot poker. It was one of those history stories about the whisky.”

“They said to us to give that character to the whisky,” remembers Wedderburn. “That sort of feisty character.”

The two decided from the start to abandon the traditional whisky staples and go for a younger audience.

“We were trying to say ‘just have a whisky’,” Wedderburn says. “It doesn’t have to be in a crystal glass, or it doesn’t have to be over such and such, or with such and such a water. It was to be less precious than other whiskies were presenting themselves.”

“I guess it was just finding the right tone of voice.” Watson explains. “So many whisky ads have been done and it’s always easier to go to the heather, the oaky barrel and old Jock McJock. So once we’d come up with the ‘give it two fingers’ thing the rest just kind of came out. But then it was around the time of ‘Grumpy Old Men’ and it was just kind of nice to talk about things that bug you. Then we just wrote loads and loads for months.”

Several of these ideas proved to be a little too much for the client, and others needed to be tweaked to make them a little less provocative.

Watson recalls: “The parliament one took quite a long time to get right because sometimes our suggestions would say things that they (BNJ)... didn’t want to say.”

BNJ isn’t the only brief that’s been keeping the pair busy, however. The team is keen to point out that The Leith Agency’s seven-team strong creative department is the busiest either of them have worked in, and the variety of work always manages to throw up some interesting challenges.

A recent brief from Coors is a good example. “We just worked on posters for Coors in Russia and there’s so many rules over there,” says Watson. “You can’t show any people in the ads. You can’t have anything to do with sport, you can’t even show the liquid.”

“You’re not allowed to say it’s refreshing, you’re not allowed to say it tastes good,” adds Wedderburn. “So you’re sitting there thinking ‘that’s tough.’”

And next up is perhaps the biggest challenge to date. With Irn Bru looking to launch new posters next year, the duo is currently working on the new approach .

“The agency’s really proud of the old Irn Bru posters so they’re being really, really hard about it,” admits Wedderburn.

“The Irn Bru poster task is good because they want a totally new thing.” Says Watson. “But that’s the thing that makes it tough because there’s been so many good Irn Bru things and you don’t want the one that you come up with to be the ‘oh they’re shit now’ moment.”

One of Scotland’s top brands teaming up with what is now one of Scotland’s top creative teams should prove interesting. Surely golf would never have been this exciting.


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