South West review

By The Drum, Administrator

August 1, 2006 | 6 min read

There was a time when choosing ‘quality of life’ would have meant easing up a bit and taking a step back from your career for the benefit of alternative priorities. However, today that’s not always the case. Make no mistake, quality of life is definitely gaining significance for the majority of us, but it’s no longer an ‘either or’ situation. Agencies based throughout the country now offer appetising career prospects and do so in a variety of different settings to suit your every whim. You may like the hustle and bustle. You may favour more leafy surroundings. Whatever your preference, the decision on where you want to live no longer has to be made at the expense of your career.

If you’re looking to relocate and try something new, one part of the country that may be vying for your affections is the South West of England.

\"The advertising and creative business is great fun, but is very tough,\" commented Gellan Watt, creative and managing director of Bournemouth-based Thinking Juice. \"Long unsociable hours, tight deadlines, accountability and being a young creative business means we have to unwind properly, and there’s no better place. It’s a great place to escape from the pressures of work, which is really important to keep your energy and enthusiasm for the job. You need a happy and healthy mind to produce great work.\"

In full agreement is Ian Noble, managing director of Bray Leino, located in both Bristol and Barnstable. \"Ask anyone to compile a checklist of things that would constitute a great lifestyle; it might include ‘rewarding career, A-list companies, stunning scenery, fabulous transport links, Cider, The Wurzels, a sense of history, architectural excellence, inspirational music and arts and the perfect blend of urban and country. The South West simply ticks every box.\"

It should be noted that Noble did sight the area’s lack of Premiership football, as well as caravans, as a possible downside to moving to the area and, while it may be the only part of the country to be in a worse football predicament than the Midlands, there is more than enough to overcome its shortcomings in the world of sport. Matt Fleming, chairman of Bournemouth’s Aylesworth Fleming, said: \"The lifestyle is fabulous here. Who wouldn’t want to have the Solent on their doorstep and the New Forest at their back?\"

Whether clients have caught on to this too and like to visit their agency wearing sandals, or are just genuinely impressed by the level of service they receive from this contented bunch, is anyone’s guess. But one thing’s for sure: they are coming in their droves. In recent months AIG, Land of Leather and Redrow have all placed seven-figure marketing briefs with South West Agencies. Meanwhile the likes of The Guide Dogs for the Blind, Halifax Card Services, Liverpool Victoria, Envirowise, Firestone and Leskol have all recently appointed agencies in the area.

\"Staff used to have to choose between either working on great clients or enjoying a great quality of life,\" commented Julie McElroy, managing director of Tetbury-based Clear Communications. \"As more high-profile clients are realising the benefits of using agencies in the South West, Clear is increasingly being contacted by people looking to relocate who want to enjoy the best of both worlds.\"

In Cheltenham, TDA managing director Heather Westgate also believes that this upturn in client interest has ensured that the best of both worlds is a realistic prospect. She said: \"The lifestyle benefits of the South West go without saying, but relocating to the region is also advantageous from a professional point of view. There are some excellent agencies here that are recognised as heavyweight industry players on the national stage.\"

Paul Handley, managing director of Rapier West, added: \"You can get the same levels of creativity, and the same prestigious clients to work with as many of the London agencies whilst being able to work and live in a far more civilised manner.\"

While the likes of Bristol, Bath and Bournemouth, as well as South West towns that don’t begin with ‘B’, are continuing to attract staff to relocate, agencies are also finding an increasing amount of fresh talent emerging from the local universities and colleges; many of which have developed highly-regarded courses on a range of marketing disciplines.

Martin Walker, managing director of The Walker Agency in Bournemouth, said: \"We are very lucky in Bournemouth in having a University which has great strengths in its media courses. They turn out some excellent, high quality graduates in advertising and PR which we have been able to benefit from in recent years.\"

It’s a similar story in Bristol, where Noble sites the University of the West of England as catering \"brilliantly for the marketing business.\" Handley, also in Bristol, said: \"There is also an increasing volume of students coming out. It’s great to see marketing is still a popular chosen profession for students, and so it should be because there is nothing else like it.\"

Many agencies have also struck up partnerships with local education organizations, either for placements or developing a course, to help produce better-prepared graduates and students.

Westgate said: \"TDA’s head of art recently tutored a group of students from the University of Gloucestershire who went on to win a D&AD Global Student Award for work produced in his module, so there is clearly some real talent coming through.\"

Clear has a similar arrangement. McElroy explained: \"There is a good supply of graduates from both the traditional courses and from the new vocational degrees at places like the College of St Mark and St John in Plymouth and Gloucestershire University. We have been working closely with the latter on the introduction of a new practical degree in advertising which shows that there is a great deal of respect and co-operation between practitioners and academia in the region.\"

Aylesworth Fleming has benefited from a relationship it established with the local Arts Institute a few years ago, meeting with \"a very high quality of candidates\" for creative positions. Fleming added: \"On the Public Relations side of our business, we have been taking on placement students for some years and have found them to be hard working, enthusiastic and of a very high quality indeed. We are fortunate in as far as our local University (Bournemouth) has a reputation for excellence in MARCOMMS disciplines.\"

With agencies, clients, staff and students all enjoying the personal and professional benefits of being in the South West, there’s little doubt that people from all walks of marketing life are beginning to take note of this emerging corner of the marketplace.


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