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Leith Agency Feature Scotland

Sunshine on Leith

By The Drum | Administrator

May 17, 2007 | 8 min read

Strength in numbers

For Marsham – who has taken charge of running Leith following four years as head of account management, while Adams has taken more responsibility within Cello – these are exciting times. “I’m loving it, I really am,” he says of his new role. “It’s one of those things where, until you actually do the job, you don’t quite know what it entails, but I’m enjoying it more and more, and I’m optimistic about the way it’s going."

The role of managing partner has grown considerably, even in the time since Marsham took the role, but he is clearly undaunted. In fact, he’s positively enthusiastic about the challenges he faces. “The role is quite a wide-reaching one," he says. “And with the new disciplines coming in, it’s made it particularly challenging. We’ve taken on disciplines we’ve never handled before, so we’ve got to make sure we’ve changed internally so these new functions operate efficiently. We’ve had a lot of internal change in terms of how we’re set up, so that side of it has been challenging – but generally, I’m loving it."

Having just led Leith to pick up Marketing Services Agency of the Year at the Marketing Excellence Awards, for the second time in three years, Marsham is allowed a brief moment of reflection on his new role.

“The result reflects a lot of new business wins that we’ve had over the past six months and the way we’re going as an agency," he triumphs.

The new disciplines were added to the agency through the launch of the specialist divisions. These include brand consultancy and research division Leithal Thinking, PR through Stripe, and new media through Blonde. The newest arrival is promotional marketing division Marvel.

“In terms of managing the agency, the job has changed a lot,” Marsham says. “In the old days, we just had an advertising division – now there are a number of divisions. It takes a lot more time to make sure they are all integrating, while going out in their own right and running smoothly. We really have to make sure they have good enough resources in place, and be sure that the agency is structured to help them operate as efficiently as they can.”

Leith officially launched Marvel last month, with nearly £1million worth of billings already on the books through the the Scottish Executive, Nambarrie Tea and Skinny Cow Ice Cream. Heading up the division is Claire Kinloch, who joined Leith as head of promotional marketing.

“I started at Leith in the middle of last year,” Kinloch says, “and it was important to understand how Marvel was going to work and how we could leverage the benefit of the skilled planning and creative resources within the agency. So while we’re a separate branded agency, we have access to the planning department within Leith, the Leithal Thinking team and the nine creative teams that Leith has.

“We now offer a number of things under the Leith umbrella including advertising, direct marketing, graphic design, promotional marketing, digital and PR. But they all have one key thing in common: they all use the same strategic planning resource through Leithal Thinking.

“From a client perspective, they might want a very integrated solution and approach Leith in terms of how we can deliver across all the disciplines. Alternatively, they might access one discipline directly. Over time, we might be able to introduce other disciplines when a client needs them. We’re offering a huge flexibility in terms of a client’s entry point into the Leith group.

“While Leith has a lot of heritage and success with its clients above-the-line, and while direct marketing also supplies a large part of the Leith business, it is safe to say that clients are looking at using their budgets more effectively and looking at more integrated activity. That was probably the rationale of Leith originally. Rather than recruit people at a junior level in terms of implementation, Leith has recruited quite senior people who are experienced in these disciplines, who can work with their existing clients.”

Having launched these new ventures, Marsham admits the agency’s priority is to see a return on investment in 2007. “We brought in 14 people last year, set up these new disciplines and invested heavily. What I really want to see now is a return on that investment. We’ve got the right people in place, but this year I want to drive the new business – and not just on what you would consider to be the big, traditional, above-the-line advertising accounts. I really want to drive the digital, promotional marketing and the direct sides too.

“In 2006, above-the-line still accounted for 72 per cent of our income. This year, we’re forecasting that it will only account for 58 per cent, and all the other disciplines are going to weigh in with significant returns.

“There are a number of benefits from launching these new divisions. First, we are a major shareholder in all of these divisions, so any money they make, we get a return on. But it’s much more than that – these agencies give us credibility in front of clients. A lot of clients say they want integrated agencies or an integrated response. In the past, you’d maybe have one or two people internally who have a bit of experience in that area. Now we can do it with a level of expertise, and the people we’ve brought in are all top of their trade. They are hugely experienced – ex-MDs and people who have run their own companies – and are now sitting in our building. So when we present to clients, we really are fully integrated. And there have been some recent pitches where the feedback has been, ‘You’re one of the few agencies who really do come across as fully integrated in your response and not just a bit of add-on at the end.’”

So it’s all change at the agency which was once arguably the leading creative force in Scotland. Marsham still believes Leith is leading the way in many respects, but he admits the competition from other agencies keeps those working at the agency from ever becoming complacent.

“There’s certainly no other agency I would want to work in,” he says. “And I like to think we’re still number one in image and reputation. Everyone goes on about Newhaven, but The Union were the guys who did really well creatively last year, and that’s good to see.

“Creatively, we have got work to do – but I think that with The Snowman Irn-Bru ad, we’ve probably launched the best ad to come out of Scotland for as long as I can remember. And on the back of Derek The Cuckoo and other campaigns, we’re producing some brilliant creative work. It will be interesting to see how The Snowman does this year in the awards – I’d be very disappointed if it didn’t do very well because the reaction has been amazing.”

At the same time as Marsham was appointed to his new role within the agency, John Rowley, managing director of Leith London, was set the task of overseeing the operation following the London office’s merger with Farm.

“We’ve learned that London is a hard market,” says Marsham. “It’s a hugely competitive market, so to start from scratch is difficult, and we make no bones about that. But, in the same way, any London agency which thinks it can come to Scotland and set up will have exactly the same problems. There has never been a London agency which has been able to set up here successfully.”

Marsham says that part of the problem with the London office was that it depended too much on business from its Carling account, which it eventually lost last February. “It was beginning to pick up business, but you need an agency to get a critical mass and be taken seriously by a lot of businesses down there. Leith London didn’t have that – it was seen as Carling’s agency in London. So when Carling went, it was left with three or four accounts, which gave us the opportunity to really look at it and plan for the future.”

This led to the acquisition of Farm, which, according to Marsham, was the closest fit in terms of culture and creativity to the Edinburgh base. “We wanted Leith London to reflect the values of Leith Edinburgh,” he says. “With Farm, it was apparent very quickly that they were very similar people. Yes, they want good creative work, but they aren’t overly precious and they get fun out of what they do.”

The relationship between the offices has strengthened following Edinburgh’s hand in advising London’s pitch for the smoking ban campaign in England. “David Amers and I did a presentation to Farm’s clients, COI and sister agencies,” says Marsham. “It was on everything we had learned in Scotland – how we did it, lessons from it and barriers they might face. While it wasn’t necessarily down to that presentation, Farm was awarded the smoking ban.”

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