Avian Ink Digital DC Thomson

Dundee Focus: Bridging the divide

By The Drum, Administrator

March 4, 2008 | 8 min read

The buzz in this sector has seen the industry continue to grow, with help of investment from Scottish Enterprise and its specialist Interactive Tayside arm. So much so that there are now 354 digital media businesses in Tayside, employing 3379 full time staff.

With Dundee a city on the rise, it is obvious that it is pushing its own boundaries with developments springing up all over its limits.

Commuters are travelling from outside the city from bordering Perthshire locations. There are also new, high end hotels, casinos and offices that have appeared in recent years – notably Seabraes Yards, the recently completed first phase of the Dundee Digital Media Park.

However, since the demise of the once lauded Baillie Marshall from the area, there has never been an established agency, recognised by the rest of the industry as being able to attract and service large scale clients.

This is a perception that Avian is attempting to alter as it looks to take on the central belt’s big boys. And indeed, it seems to be an agency that is going places. Literally, in fact as it moves offices to relocate to an old church found in Broughty Ferry in May.

While the agency prefers to not look upon itself as a Dundee marketing agency, it is still very firmly headed from the city. However, from strong foundations the agency may well, in the future, invest into Glasgow and Edinburgh.

While continuing to offer marketing services, including TV, radio, outdoor and press advertising, as well as brand design, the agency is also looking to extend its digital division which is growing rapidly and has boosted the business through work with clients such as Lloyds TSB for which the agency is working on system integration and software development for the finance company.

The agency includes Walkers Shortbread, Our Dynamic Earth, Scottish Enterprise Tayside as well as a host of overseas clients in its portfolio.

Commercial Appeal

Over on the other side of the city sits DJS Marketing, just behind the relatively new Gallagher Retail Park. Yet more evidence of Dundee’s commercial appeal.

Headed by managing director Derek Soutar, DJS is a company that allows Soutar to use his experience in Scottish media having previously worked at The Daily Record and Radio Clyde, as well as Baillie Marshall itself.

Soutar has built his agency alongside his construction and property development companies which are also clients of DJS Marketing.

He says that the key to his own agency’s long term success has been due to learning that servicing existing clients to the full is the key to building a strong reputation, something Soutar believes that Dundee agencies appreciate and aim to provide.

Soutar is never shy to give an opinion, and doesn’t hold back when asked about the long-running City of Discovery branding, saying that it no longer represents the city; “The city’s is long overdue a rebrand or re-engineering to reflect and reposition it. It is not the city that it was in ‘86 when it was created.”

He goes on to say that the campaign used by Glasgow could be followed as a template.

Jim Patrick of Blue Square Design agrees that the branding is no longer adequate to represent Dundee, but understands why a “cartoony” style logo is in use with DC Thomson continuing to cast a prominent shadow over the city’s media industry.

Indeed most marketing agencies in Dundee still receive work from the Dundee-based publishers which, following the recent purchase of the Press and Journal alongside its Puzzler Media division, creating Sudoku puzzles, is looking for new platforms on which to base its future.

Blue Square deals with several medium-sized clients as well as some more niche firms from the city’s vibrant life sciences sector, along with the Queens hotel found in the city centre and law firm Baillies, with many local clients continuing to “place jobs locally”.

Patrick points out the lack of PLCs left to work within the Tay area, although Blue Square has worked with IBOs and the in-house team at Alliance Trust in recent times.

Patrick also highlights the problem with recruiting real talent in the area, after last year looking to recruit graduates from Duncan of Jordanston and losing out to London. He believes the key is to recruit people with roots in Dundee who are looking to return to the city having worked away, but these are few and far between.

Recruitment is a subject which is continually proving problematic for the growing digital sector of Dundee. While graduates from the universities are plentiful, again, attracting them to remain in the area is difficult.

Carri Cusick, project manager at Interactive Tayside, says that the rejuvenation of the city will help to keep people in the region.

She highlights the growth of Realtime Worlds which has moved into a vastly larger office to accommodate over 200 employees, a number she expects will have grown by another 100 in the next couple of years.

Indeed, so important is the digital sector becoming in video gaming, that it now has an annual sales turnover of £185m and is also employing script writers, designers and has become an art form for media creatives in itself.

In order to address the recruitment problem in Scotland, not just Tayside, Interactive Tayside organises an annual video games conference which has helped build the awareness of the Scottish scene around the world, bringing in foreign workers to Tayside.

Ink Digital is another agency working in the digital arena that has seen a vast amount of growth, following an office move in the first half of 2007.

According to Bob Last, CEO for the agency, it has formed a close working relationship with Edinburgh-based The Leith Agency, having worked on a few high profile projects with the advertising team. These projects included Leith’s first campaign for S1Jobs and its high profile hand washing initiative from The Scottish Government.

The Illusionist

Ink Digital has also created a Gaelic web project to promote the language to non speakers and is working on an animated feature, The Illusionist, with Pathe Pictures .

While its studio has expanded to 25 people, the company has also expanded its skills by branching into the world of CGI graphics for which is has worked with Orange and ISO Design.

NXO is the recently established marketing agency set up in Tayside by Fraser Ritchie – a franchise linked to other divisions of the company across the UK. Ritchie’s experience is in the account planning sector, and has been working on projects in Manchester and Edinburgh. His business enables him to use many smaller suppliers such as web developers and local designers in order to service projects, and indeed he has recently been appointed to work with “a big international client". A result of this, he feels it is time to concentrate on talking to smaller more local clients in order to build a more solid foundation for his set up in the area.

Ritchie says that through his dealings with businesses in the area, he can see that there are likely to be more moves from companies looking to join forces and merge in order to build and create a more attractive proposition.

Indeed, The Ad Shed proves this point, with its founder Crawford Mollison bringing on board Kevin Anderson – who is currently working on a six-month basis through his own company, Kay Jay Interactive, with the marketing department of DC Thomson.

Anderson will wind down the company over that period, working alongside Mollison for a couple of days every week until he finishes at the publishing company and joins The Ad Shed full time. Mollison says that the move is the first stage of his plans for expansion over time, and that the two will work together on growing the five year old business.

With so many agencies looking to the future and a lack of competition between them to find clients, the area of Tayside and the expanding city of Dundee looks to be in good shape during a time when their central belt colleagues are fighting tooth and nail for every scrap available.

Avian Ink Digital DC Thomson

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