Mediacom Profile

By The Drum, Administrator

November 16, 2005 | 8 min read

Mediacom (or the Media Business, as it was then known) was launched in Scotland in the September of ‘97. Four bare desks furnished the small serviced offices just off Leith Links. There were no computers, no telephones and, more worryingly, there was no business.

That same agency, just eight years later, is now predicting that it will be running £100m worth of business through Scotland within the next two.

“I was looking at an old credentials document last week, our first creds document... I must have been struggling to fill the page,” says Euan Jarvie, Mediacom Scotland’s managing director. “The clients were in huge type. The Scotsman, The Evening Times, Scotland on Sunday, the Herald and Post and every version of the Herald and Post ever to be printed...

“When we launched we had to go and find our own business. It was incredibly hard work, but that’s the way that it should be. The Scotsman was, essentially, our seed client and we had to go out and build from there.

“But one of the reasons that we have done well is that it was not made easy for us coming into Scotland. There was a fair amount of resistance to new people coming into the market.

“The press in Scotland carried volleys of response saying that we would never last, that it was a just a sham or a shop window. But that’s what got us up in the morning. That’s what put the fire in our belly – we wanted to prove everyone wrong.”

Although Scotland may not be a particularly large market it is ferociously competitive - particularly in media over the last four or five years. This was something that Jarvie was quick to discover. And this competitiveness has led to some interesting rivalries being established north of the border.

“Our competitors are incredibly vocal about us. The rivalries are fantastic, though. I know my competitors. But I don’t know them well. They are not friends of mine – they are my competitors. It must be incredibly difficult to take business off your best friend, because it is essentially money off the bottom line. But the fact that they are incredibly competitive, and actually very good at what they do, really gets you working.”

While Mediacom has been steadily growing over the last eight years, both in terms of staff and billings, to a £60m business, winning a number of high profile accounts, times have not always been so prosperous for Jarvie and his team.

“The first two years of our business were very, very tough,” recalls Jarvie. “It’s no massive secret that we very nearly didn’t continue after the first two years.

“We had won the Carlson Worldchoice business, which was a £5m account. We won it in the October doing their Christmas campaign – they spent £1m on press over that period alone.

“We were planning the main chunk of post-Christmas activity when they got bought by Thomas Cook, and that was it. Gone. There was nothing.

“We also had to resign two bits of business as we just couldn’t insure them. What looked like a fantastic second year, turned out to look like a big problem.

“Even then our parent company didn’t gift us anything. They never have. They have allowed us to use their resources and their minds. But we have to find our own business. I’ve worked at a lot of networked businesses [ WWAV, Carat, Ogilvy & Mather]. The really successful regional networks populate their own business. But they populate their business through the strengths they have collectively.”

Now, however, times are very different indeed. Still, Jarvie believes that Mediacom is not always recognised for the business that it is.

“We had built a £40m business in Scotland before we won the Executive contract. But no one seemed to know that.

“Is the Executive account win a statement of intent? No. It was a statement of credibility to the Scottish market, although,” he adds, “I don’t think anyone has a problem with us outside the Scottish market.

“We opened a business to deal with the biggest and best Scotland has to offer, and I believe that we are working, perhaps not with all of them, but with most of them. We are working with the Royal Bank group internationally, it’s a global appointment now. We are also working with the government across the full range of public expenditure. They work us hard and it’s really challenging work, but the subject is fantastic.

“We consistently populate our business with new, fresh talent. We have just employed the media director (Debbie Kiely) from McConnells in Dublin. Yvette Crimmins has just started with us, last week, from Starcom in Melbourne. Unless you consistently invest in your company you have no fresh ideas, you just end up doing the same stuff over again. And that is the problem I see with Scotland, there is no fresh investment.”

Mediacom’s investment certainly seems to be paying dividends. Earlier this year the Edinburgh-based team won the Subway sandwich chain business, a coup for the agency.

“The Subway business that we won recently plays strong testament to that [need for investment],” insists Jarvie. “The business is £15m in the UK and Ireland this year. But that is likely to double the following year, and double again the year after that. There are 550 stores in the UK and Ireland at present and they want 2010 by 2010 which is a four-fold increase.

“I first got involved with Subway about three years ago. I’d been working to secure the whole business for us. We secured the business and brought it in together and they wanted to put a creative agency pitch together, which we helped them do...”

One of Mediacom’s major successes has been in retaining some of Scotland’s biggest business. While big brands like Royal Bank of Scotland have been looking south to source their creative, they have stayed in Scotland, with Mediacom, to handle their media business.

“Clients don’t just take their money south because they want to be with a London agency,” continues Jarvie. “It’s got nothing to do with the bright lights and nice restaurants. We’ve got nice restaurants up here too. And golf courses. I doesn’t work that way, not now with procurement all over a client’s business. It’s efficiency.”

Jarvie also voices some strong views on the role of the media agency for the coming years... a shift in focus bringing media to the front of the communications fore: “The central focus is going to be media, not creative. Creative is a by-product of consumer and product. Too many creative outputs are focused exclusively on what the product offering is without taking enough recognition of what consumers need and want. Media has to sit at the very focus of that because it is about the interaction between the brand and the consumer - not just what is said but where it’s said and how it’s said too.

“I think we might be close to media companies reverting back to a full-service. But they will be media-led full service agency groups. I don’t think that it’s too far away for us to potentially have an in-house creative function, recruitment division or even a PR division. I see PR as a very interesting area for media companies as I would consider PR to be a media channel. Through our work with econometric and accountability modelling, we are able to quantify the effect of PR, something that no one’s been able to do effectively.

“The Scottish market is a price market. I think you will see less media companies in Scotland in the next three years than exist today. As I don’t think the margins that people are in the market place with at the moment will be able to survive unless they do something else.”

Despite this prophecy of doom, Jarvie is optimistic about the future of Mediacom in Scotland: “We could certainly run a £100m business out of Scotland. And that is what we want to try and achieve. We are around £60m this year, and with the organic growth that we have got, with clients that we’ve got, with the position we have as a group we’d like to be hitting that around about the end of 2007. Our growth has been fairly swift so far, but as you get bigger you take bigger steps.”


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