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Unsung Heroes II

By The Drum | Administrator

January 26, 2006 | 13 min read


Stirling-based agencies, by and large, don’t enjoy the same profile as their counterparts in Glasgow and Edinburgh. But that’s not to say that they don’t deserve it.

Take Stirling’s TBDA, for example, which works with organisations such as Scottish Natural Heritage and companies like Tullis Russell and drinks companies, Diageo, Douglas Laing and Duncan Taylor.

TBDA has also just designed the bottles for the new Weight Watchers range of flavoured water, and is currently developing the packaging for a new range of ice cream for supermarket giant Sainsbury’s.

The agency was formed in December 1994 by managing director Tanya Hine and creative director Billy Dobbie and now has four staff. Each of the company’s designers are members of the Chartered Institute of Designers.

However, successful as the agency has become, TBDA is keen to support younger local businesses that are starting out. Hine says: “We charge a very low premium to start-up companies, which is really our way of putting something back into the industry.”

Stirling was considered a more neutral location to base the company than either Glasgow or Edinburgh, but it has brought challenges for Hine’s team. She says: “It’s not really a boon being based here. A lot of people think of you as a little company so you have to work that little bit harder to be taken seriously.”

Clearly this has not proved too much of a hurdle, though, as TBDA appears to be moving from strength to strength.

Moriarty Design & Marketing

Formed three years ago by joint creative directors George and Mike Neil and managing director Dave Gibb, Edinburgh-based Moriarty has merged client-side product marketing experience with a strong design team.

The Neils had gained considerable experience in the design sector prior to the establishment of Moriarty, working in several different design consultancies, while Gibb had made his way in the world on the client side of the fence.

“It seemed like a good idea to build that into what we do and offer it to clients,” says Mike Neil.

The agency has spent the last three years making a name for itself by bringing its considerable experience to bear on design projects for print, multimedia and web.

Moriarty’s diverse client list includes organisations such as Scottish Water, for whom the agency designed last year’s annual report and is currently at work on this year’s document, the Forestry Commission and Scottish confectionery company, Millar McCowan.

For the latter, the agency is working on product development, which will develop into packaging design projects.

Go Lower, a start-up company selling health food products, is another company benefiting from Moriarty’s skills.

In addition, the agency also works with a number of partner companies, including digital company iteration:two, which was recently acquired by Macromedia and, subsequently, by Adobe. Through these types of partners, Moriarty has worked on projects for client companies such as Intelligent Finance and Jim Beam Brands.

Yet despite this, the agency has managed to stay firmly under the radar. Mike Neil explains: “We tend to bring our business on through word of mouth, recommendations and sometimes networking. We’ve never really taken the time to promote ourselves. We just knuckle down and get on with it, which is much more important than banging our own drum.”

As to the future, Neil states that the company plans to keep its current course, continuing to value its client service.

He says: “We’ve no plans to be the next Tayburn. One of the things that’s a little different about us is that we don’t have any account execs. Clients deal with the principals, and we want to retain that. We’re good at keeping clients and we obviously want to stay that way.”

Marketing Café

Glasgow’s Marketing Café has been around for just under three years and was the brainchild of director Ian Palmer.

Palmer’s background was as a client-side marketer, working in different publishing companies, before deciding to strike out on his own and set up an agency that would combine his experience as a marketer with a strong graphic design service.

“We’ve called ourselves the Marketing Café because there’s a wide range of choices on the menu,” says Palmer.

Working primarily with small and medium-sized companies, the Marketing Café has built a solid client list which includes the likes of Corum Estate Agents, DVD and Hi-Fi manufacturer Cello Electronics and software company EJS UK.

Recent projects completed by the three-strong agency have included developing the marketing strategy and exhibition design for engineering company EPM Solutions and the corporate brochure for Corum, which is to be followed by a website.

Having been in business for less than years, the Marketing Café seems to have added several interesting flavours to its menu.

Buzz Connections

Founded two years ago by Janice Melville and Sylvia Campbell, Buzz Connections offers a full design, advertising and copywriting service to its clients. Initially trading with only Melville and Campbell, the company now employs eight staff.

Melville has spent 25 years in media, working in newspapers and radio in both Scotland and England, while Campbell has 23 years experience working on the agency side.

“Most of the business we’ve had since starting up has been through networking and word of mouth. But we have been out and pitched as well – sometimes you have to when you’re looking to bring on new business,” says Melville.

With experience working in various sectors, Buzz handles a variety of clients in retail, financial and construction, and works with companies such as Ogilvy Homes, Carvell Homes and Exchange Business.

Not content to stay where it is, however, the agency is planning on a period of growth, building up the recruitment and training side of the business.

Melville comments: “I think our USP has got to be that we are really experienced people in the media industry. We’re able to help our clients because we’ve been through a lot of the problems that they face. Also I think it’s important that the clients are dealing with the top people. We don’t win business and then delegate to minions, because we don’t employ any.”


If you’ve seen a large format banner ad in Glasgow over the last year, chances are that G5 has been involved.

The company specialises in the digital printing of large and wide-format posters for both indoor and outdoor sites.

Since its formation in April of last year, G5 has grown to 20 people and plans to expand by another five to ten in the next six months.

“All of the new personnel have been chosen because they all share the same goal as the company directors, to offer the best service and quality at all times,” says sales and marketing director John Taggart. “It might sound a bit corny but G5 has grown substantially and quickly on the back of these basic principles and the professional way we handle all our clients, both trade or direct.”

The company’s varied client list includes HSS Hire, the country’s largest tool-hire company, and Glasgow City Council, which recently commissioned G5 to print a 36.5metre by 12.5metre mesh banner to replace the ‘Glasgow, Scotland with Style’ banner currently located on one of Scotland’s largest sites, next to the M8 motorway. The new poster will promote Glasgow’s bid to host the Commonwealth Games, and will further embed G5 into the Glasgow industry.

Debbie Dougray

Freelance proofreader Debbie Dougray graduated with a degree from Napier University and immediately began working in the publishing industry before spending time at various typesetting and design agencies.

A five-year stint at Edinburgh-based financial giant Scottish Equitable followed where, as copy editor, Dougray’s role entailed editing and proofing all of the company’s internal and external publications nationwide.

For the past eight years, Dougray has been working freelance for a list of companies that includes WWAV Rapp Collins Scotland, Editions Publishing and Audit Scotland. In addition, she has also been employed by companies who are keen to handle their proofreading in-house, training their staff on how best to proof copy.

“It really appealed to me to work freelance and I wanted to be my own boss,” Dougray says. “I wanted to make decisions about my own working life.”

Having firmly established herself in the Scottish marketplace, Dougray aims to continue providing a strong service to a select group of clients. “I think my main selling point is my background and attention to detail,” she says. “I also have a very proactive attitude to it and fast turnaround. I’ve distinguishable from others in that I offer a combination of different services. I always give a job two full-readings, giving it much more of a close examination that a lot of other proofreaders.”

Different Voice

Different Voice managing director Bill Bruce cites chameleonic musician David Bowie as an influence on his agency.

The Stirling-based agency, which rebranded from Bruce Design last April, has been established for almost 11 years, and positions itself as a communications agency, offering services which start at branding and leads through to communications material. Like Bowie, the company has mastered changing with the times.

Bruce says: “We chose Different Voice because it deliberately eschews the use of the terms graphic or design, or indeed anything visual. Instead it connects with one of the most basic and yet most powerful forms of communication – the human voice. It indicates that we are about communication on a personal level.”

Bruce is keen to stress that, while the company remains creative, it has moved on from its graphic design roots.

“Our primary focus going forward will be on graphic communications, not just design,” he says. “And also the creative use of words and images to express meaning and messages through a variety of media. We think the Voice brand will allow us to express this focus better than before and it helps to put us at the strategic heart of communications, helping to define and express the identity, values and culture of organisations, services, and products through better branding and the production of marketing collaterals.”

Design Matters

Turning 20 this May, Design Matters is by far the longest-established business to be featured.

The agency was founded in May 1986 by director Gordon White and currently employs four staff, although the company has varied in size over the years. White says that the current size suits him fine, allowing the agency to choose its clients carefully and enjoy the projects that it works on. He states: “The problem when you’re chasing work and trying to grow is that you take on jobs that you don’t necessarily want to be working on just to keep everyone busy. Our situation now is that we have long-standing clients that we’ve built up a good working relationship with. Seventy per cent of the clients we’ve got now we’ve had for ten years.”

Specialising in designing corporate identities, brochures and websites, Design Matters counts both One Devonshire Gardens and The Hallion amongst its clients.

As well as maintaining a strong client list, the agency also has a philanthropic side. “We’re fortunate enough to have had a reasonably good time in business, and I’m a great believer in giving something back,” explains White. “We tend to pick two charities every year and do the work completely free of charge.”

Charities that have benefited from this philosophy include the Cystic Fibrosis Trust and Live 8, for whom the agency designed promotional material for last year’s Murrayfield concert.

Young Marketing

Having already co-founded an English-based agency which grew to employ 25 people and a turnover of £5m a year, Ken Young was no rookie when he set up Young Marketing in 1999.

“I found that I was spending all my time running the company and wasn’t dealing with clients anymore,” he says. “Neither myself or my business partner were happy with that, and because I wanted to move back to Scotland anyway it was a really easy decision for me.”

Young sold his share of the company and relocated to Glasgow, where he set up his promotions and incentives agency.

Almost seven years later and Young’s client list includes Volkswagen and Oki Cumbernauld. His work includes incentivising staff and introducing promotions that will attract customers, as well as arranging corporate hospitality events.

At Oki, Young initiated a website where employees could vote for their colleagues if they thought they’d made a particular contribution to the company over the space of a year. Periodically, the management would pick winners, who would be rewarded with a trip abroad.

Another scheme saw Dundas Castle rented so that seven couples could hold a winter house-party.

“I don’t believe in just taking people to Murrayfield to see a game,” says Young. “I really like to provide events that are unusual and produce a real experience.”

Lawrence Creative

Firmly reinforcing the idea that profile doesn’t always equate with success, Lawrence Creative has been keenly working away under the radar for 18 years.

The agency, founded by managing director Keith Lawrence, employs 18 staff and works for businesses such as Shell and Sasol Chevron.

Lawrence Creative bills itself as a full-service creative agency, offering design and advertising services, as well as direct marketing and new media.

Account director David Ray believes the company’ success lies in its honesty with clients. He says: “I think that we’ve built up a lot of trust with our clients, which is why we’ve had a lot of them for a long time. Our creativity is very strong, but is only part of the process. We’re very upfront with our clients and win their confidence very quickly because we’re transparent. Clients appreciate that we don’t ram the creativity down their throats. Our clients know their industries better than we do, so we listen to them and then fit our creativity into that.”

Current projects being developed by the company include a direct marketing campaign for Shell’s gas division and promotional material for Sasol Chevron, which is to target the company’s markets in South Africa and Nigeria.


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