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Focus on Newcastle

By The Drum | Administrator

April 3, 2006 | 10 min read

Regarded by many at the time as one of the favourites for the title of European Capital of Culture 2008, the city of Newcastle was understandably crushed when the decision came in. However, with so much development completed, plans for further work commissioned and the promise of future investment, it soon became apparent that Newcastle had everything in place to be a truly great city, regardless of the accolade.

A number of organisations, including Newcastle City Council and One North East, subsequently decided to partner up in a bid to ensure all plans laid out in the event of winning the Capital of Culture would be seen through. As a result, Newcastle remains one of the most vibrant and active cities in the country today. And if you thought the marketing and media community by contrast had been a little conspicuous by their silence of late, think again. With the likes of Northern Rock, Flymo, Barbour, Sage, Proctor & Gamble and Holland & Barrett all placing their substantial accounts with North East agencies, the marketplace is looking particularly buoyant.

So when a few of the city’s most well-established agencies insisted that we come and see what was going on, over a few pints we might add, it seemed only polite to accept their kind offers. Several pints later and we were understandably delighted to see that Newcastle, and the rest of the North East, is flying high. While time and the sheer quantity of agencies restricted us from seeing everyone, we did pop in on a few of the big hitters who were more than happy to reveal what’s been keeping them busy of late.

So, where better to begin than with Adline’s North East Agency of the Year 2005: Guerilla Communications. Founded in 2002 as a breakaway from Yellow M, the agency has since established itself as an agency with a reputation that far exceeds what its young age would suggest.

In the last six months alone Guerilla has successfully executed the £6million TV advertising campaign for Holland & Barrett, rebranded Rowlands Pharmacy, created a campaign for the NHS to highlight the importance for pregnant women to quit smoking and rebranded and relaunched the Nexus Hopper service. The agency’s other key clients include Glasgow City Council, Gateshead Council, Learning and Skills Council, Connexions and Fenhams.

And from an agency in its youth to Cravens, a business that will celebrate its sixtieth birthday later this year. Much in the same way that age has not dictated Guerilla’s emphatic rise to success, Cravens is showing no signs of slowing down during these advancing years. The team steering the ship at present have just spearheaded a rebrand and reposition for the agency, ensuring that it remains a fresh and exciting proposition for a wide range of clients. Alongside sister agency TH_NK the firm now boasts 52 staff and offers advertising, design, public relations, direct marketing and new media, among a range of other services. Northern Rock, Sport England and HBOS continue to plough work into the agency, while ZSL London Zoo and COI both became new clients at the back end of 2005.

Also joining Cravens on the COI’s roster of agencies last year was Different; regarded by many of its peers as one of Newcastle’s most exciting agencies. Established in 1999, and with a current staff count of 32, Different has caught the eye of the likes of Proctor & Gamble, Nexus, Envirowise London and Sunderland University in recent months, with high-profile campaign work heading the agency’s way.

However, one of the most significant projects for the agency has been its continued work with regional development agency One North East. Earlier this year the agency launched the latest TV campaign around the ‘Passionate People, Passionate Places’ proposition. Add to this the Tommee Tippee brand relaunch and further work for Barker & Stonehouse and it’s easy to see why the agency has caught the eye of competitors and clients across the country.

Another well-known and highly regarded agency name from Newcastle has to be Robson Brown. Over 20 years old, the agency arguably has the most comprehensive offering in Newcastle for clients looking for the one-stop shop; providing advertising, media planning and buying, PR, design, film production and new media. Now up to 120 staff (although this includes the firm’s Manchester and London offices), Robson Brown has an enviable client list that includes De Vere Hotels, Electrolux Home Products, Greggs and Sealy UK.

The agency has recently repositioned Malmaison, produced creative collateral for the Royal Shakespeare Company and delivered campaign activity for retailer Dreams plc. More recently, the agency has added a further £4million of new business from Chester Zoo, Eastgate Renewable Energy Village and Berghaus.

Yet another established name in the Newcastle marketing scene is Karol (recently rebranded from Karol Marketing), which has spread its wings from a PR-centric upbringing to offer services such as advertising (press/radio), direct marketing, design, new media and exhibitions. Established in 1992, the agency has gathered a client list that features Nike ACG, Newcastle International Airport, Simpson Group, Kavli and Darlington Borough Council.

In recent months the agency has been handling the international launch of Specials Clinical Manufacturing (SCM) and the launch of the Primula Proud to be Cheesy campaign.

Another agency offering a wider package to clients and prospective clients alike is Onebestway Design and Advertising. The agency has been busy working on campaign activity, both on and offline, for the likes of Newcastle College, Pure Leisure, Mincoffs and David Grey Solicitors.

Newcastle’s design contingency has been similarly busy over recent months, with Sumo, Infinite Design, Hippo and Drummond Central all having caught the eye of peers and clients alike for achievements in awards, creativity and new business.

One of the more established design outfits in the city, NE6, has also picked up pace in recent months. Now offering a wider range of disciplines, including new media, media buying and advertising, the agency has been busy delivering creative executions for Beaverbrooks the Jewellers, rebranding Nigel Wright Recruitment and developing an advertising campaign for Dunelm Castle Homes. Other clients for NE6 include Midland Mainline, BSW Timber, Barnardo’s and Sage.

Blue River, the 1996-founded design agency, has also been busy in recent months. Now hosting 10 full-time staff and offering expertise in print, direct marketing, new media and branding, Blue River has been busy working with Baltic, Durham University and Marks & Spencer.

Another agency that has expanded it’s offering, in line with a perceived client requirement for a diverse and more integrated offering, is Mobious. Born out of a core specialism in direct marketing, the agency now handles advertising, database marketing and a range of new media projects for its growing client base. Among Mobious’ key projects of the last six months are a relationship marketing program for Carling, a direct marketing acquisition program for Sky Bet, Gant’s Spring/Summer 06 Catalogue and brand development work for Lloyds TSB Autolease.

The agency also counts Nexus, Enterprise Ireland, Daimler Chrysler, Coors Fine Light Beer and Countryside Properties on its existing client portfolio.

Again, it’s important to remember that this is merely a cross-section of what is being achieved by agencies in Newcastle and the rest of the North East. However, what these projects demonstrate is how clients are confident in the abilities of agencies in this part of the world and are willing to place their coveted marketing briefs with them. Only time will tell if more clients will follow suit, however there will almost certainly be a few drinks around to toast their arrival.

Can Newcastle attract the

best marketing and media

talent to relocate from other

parts of the country?

“Of course it can. However, to my mind the issue is more about retaining the talent we have; for far too long the talent has had to migrate away from the region to realise its potential. I had to move away for seven years to gain experience of working for an international agency group at a senior level.

“There is a quality of life here in the region that is second to none, however we as an industry in Newcastle are too insular. Consequently, the accounts in the region are predominantly regional accounts. We need to start spreading our reach and bring major national accounts to the region. Only then can we offer real career opportunities to attract and retain the best talent.”

Iain Gibbons, Managing Director, Mobious.

“Yes, Newcastle has enormous opportunities for quality staff, but people need to know it is here. Newcastle has everything; it even has the vision to be a fantastic city. There isn’t a city as unique as Newcastle, there is the Sage and the Baltic on the doorstep and there are a huge variety of restaurants and the nightlife is great.

“There is not only access to the country but there is access internationally due to the airport. Sadly, people outside the region don’t seem to realise the opportunities Newcastle has to offer but hopefully that will soon change if bigger businesses come to the North East.”

Stefan Lepkowski, Managing Director, Karol.

“We already do! We’ve got a thriving marketplace that attracts clients from right across the UK and in which talented hires can really make a mark. And aside from that, people in the North East benefit from a great quality of life.”

Duncan McEwan, Creative Director, Robson Brown.

“Yes, of course. It has the benefit of large-city facilities but with village size and intimacy; all in all, a great place to live for a high standard of living, where your money goes further and there’s loads to do. And access to the rest of the country is not a problem by road, rail or plane these days. Recent surveys have cemented Newcastle’s reputation as one of the best places in the UK to visit.

“The marketing community here is now of a high standard and is improving all the time.”

Ben Quigley, Managing Director, Different.

“The people in the region are friendly, relaxed and warm-hearted, the nightlife and social scene is constantly buzzing, there’s always somewhere to go and something to do and you won’t be pushed to find someone else up for having some fun with you. Culture-wise the city is booming, with galleries, museums, theatre, music, dance and of course the strong sports scene.

“The region is also home to beautiful beaches and stunning countryside and can also offer an antidote to the buzzing and culturally booming cities. The best of both worlds. This is more than enough to attract quality staff to relocate to Newcastle. They would be mad not to.”

Georgina Hill, New Business Manager, Cravens.

“Newcastle has now got enough diversity and energy to rival most cities in the UK. If you want excitement come to Newcastle.”

James Allen, Managing Director,

Guerilla Communications.

“Undoubtedly. Newcastle is an organic and interesting city with zones to suit everybody’s tastes. Slick and contemporary city centre apartments, more quaint out-of-town options and the coast is just six miles away too.”

Michael Owen, Managing Director, Onebestway.

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