Dundee and Stirling focus

By The Drum, Administrator

November 29, 2006 | 7 min read

Scotland’s creative industry isn’t just about the two main cities any more. Dundee and Stirling are increasingly attracting a number of creative communications agencies due to their convenient location. Just a short trip away from both Glasgow and Edinburgh, the cities are building reputations for their smart business outlook, and Dundee in particular is now seen as a hub for online and digital firms.

And it’s not just a mass of new agencies which are putting Dundee and Stirling on the map. A number of teams have been successfully working from outside the central belt for years. Here The Drum profiles a cross section of the creative community from Scotland’s heartlands to discover what has been happening over the last year.


As well as contributing to Edinburgh’s Cow parade on behalf of client Our Dynamic Earth, Dundee-based Avian has had a busy tenth anniversary year. Offering a range of integrated services – including design consultancy, brochure and literature design, advertising, web design and brand creation – the agency has picked up a number of new accounts and projects. This included working with clients such as NHS Scotland, First Scottish, Bananagreen, Scottish Natural Heritage, Lloyds TSB Foundation and Alliance Trust.

This year, Paul Sykes was appointed new business development manager while Fraser Ritchie and Frazer Blyth were brought in as account directors to help oversee the growth in the roster list. And to cap it off, Avian also won a Marketing Excellence Award.

“There’s a lot of smoke and mirrors surrounding integration,” says Sykes. “But our view is clear. You cannot create effective communications without a detailed understanding of where a brand touches its most valuable customers and what key attitudes and behaviours a brand needs to influence in order to stand the best chance of meeting its objectives.”


A trip to Deep Sea World was one of the ways Baseline celebrated its fifth anniversary this year. The staff day-out saw them go diving with sand tiger sharks which, according to MD Douglas Walker, “were an awful lot bigger than they first looked”.

The Stirling-based design company admits 2006 was its most significant year yet, as it was awarded Investors in People status while also moving office and winning a five-way design pitch for Radical Travel. Other companies on the agency’s client list are Emap Radio Events, DF Concerts (including T in the Park) and No Half Measures. Baseline’s core service offering is primarily print-led graphic design alongside advertising design and a growing portfolio of website work.

When asked how agencies in Scotland should look to compete with those down south in winning accounts, Walker replies: “By either opening an office down south, relying on a strong reputation, or by not feeling intimidated when finding themselves up against London-based agencies, either before, during, or after the inevitable pitch situation which attracts such interest from down south.”


Based in Dundee, with a second office in Aberdeen, Blue Square Design is an agency seeing an increase in demand for its services.

Established in 1987, the agency has won numerous awards for its website and its multimedia packages created for Elmwood College. Blue Square has also launched a recruitment site for Spar UK and a site for the Hillcrest Housing Group, and it has designed a brochure range for electronics company Blakell Europlacer.

In order to meet with demand, both Blue Square offices have invested in increasing their e-business personnel, having recently taken control of rival agency JKNA. Other services offered by the agency are graphic design, advertising, brand design and exhibition management.

So, does Jim Patrick, managing director of Blue Square, think Scottish agencies have to adapt and offer an integrated approach in order to attach or sustain clients? “Undoubtedly. We are winning an increased amount of work through our ability to provide a full service. Our investment in e-business expertise is playing a full part in this.”


Oomph, established in 2003, and based in Angus, near Dundee, creates web-based and print design work, offering core services that include corporate identity management, promotional literature, branding, exhibition and signage and online marketing.

Oomph currently works with clients such as Scotland’s People, Select Homes, Denis Brincombe Group and Rembrand Timber Limited.

“Clients are now much more web savvy and aware of the needs for professional and effective online marketing,” says Stephen Whyte, director at Oomph. “They are keen to spend more budget online and view it as a ‘must do’ to try and compete with competitors or brand leaders online.”

Oomph was recently appointed by pharmaceutical company Datapharm Communications Ltd to produce a new design for its X-PIL website. The company also built a new website for agricultural, horticultural and construction machinery firm Agricar.


TayFusion was established in Dundee a year and a half ago as a web solutions provider. Offering core services including web application development, internet marketing solutions and web design, it has worked with clients such as Tayside Contracts, Alliance Trust Plc and Piperdam Golf & Leisure Resort.

Following a successful first year, TayFusion is preparing for further growth in 2007, having moved to larger premises in Broughty Ferry where it is now looking to diversify its core activities and establish “a more complete business solutions offering”.

“Online advertising has had substantial effects for both the consumer and the providers,” says TayFusion director Paul McDonald. “Online advertising has allowed traditional media providers such as newspapers and magazines to exceed the limitations of print publication and exploit the substantial revenue-generating possibilities that online advertising brings, while the consumers now have a greater choice of advertising medium available to them at far more competitive rates.”


TBDA Scotland was formed at the end of 1994 by managing director Tanya Hine and creative director Billy Dobbie alongside four other members of staff. In the last year, Stirling-based TBDA has been appointed by a selection of building companies including Laurel Homes.

The agency’s ability to win home-building creative accounts is boosted by its niche ability to produce watercolour illustrations from architectural renderings, which can also be used in the design of brochures and complementary advertising.

The agency has also worked on the development of a Scottish range of Soave’s ice cream, and created new packaging for a range of Weight Watchers drinks. Other clients include Scottish Natural Heritage, engineering firm Duncan Rodgers and Nucana Biopharmaceuticals.

“Scottish agencies have to continue to convince clients down south that they are just as talented, if not more so, than rivals in England,” says Hine. “There is also the added bonus of a lower price, driven by location. Nevertheless, the perceived value of having a design agency based in London is hard to overcome, especially among the multinationals.”


Vizibility, which is about to enter its seventh year, has a head office based in Stirling and international offices in Bulgaria and Canada. The agency’s core services include graphic design, website development and web-enabled software development.

In the last year, the company has released web-enabled software which it claims will position its Webpower product suite as “one of the most integrated and feature rich” currently available. It has already been adopted by several agencies across the UK. Vizibility’s client list includes Morrison Bowmore, SSPCA, The Famous Grouse Experience and publisher Collins.

Scott Dickson, co-director of Vizibility, explains the growth in online demand that the company has seen in recent years: “Companies are now looking for far more functionality on their websites, with the incorporation of booking systems, feature-rich shopping environments and media download areas becoming the norm for more progressive companies.

“In addition, the whole area of viral marketing has taken on increased significance with exchangeable downloads and customised messages such as e-cards and movie files. Beyond this, ‘web2’ and community-based web environments are beginning to show true worth in a commercial sense and make considering how to engage in this arena a real opportunity for many companies.”


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