Good things come... Emerging agencies
The patient and brave of the Scottish market
It would be naive to think it is anything other than tough to launch a business in the current climate – marketing budgets are being squeezed and there is an over-supply of agencies with many prepared to do anything to win business, while clients are wanting a pitch for every project.
However, it has always been tough to launch an advertising agency.
“What we have on our side,” says Daniel Clare, MD of recently launched Open Glasgow, “is a point of relevant difference, low-overheads and a focus on delivering tangible business results.”
However, it is sometimes such marketing conditions themselves that can drive the start-up activity. Adrian Jeffery launched Mightysmall in October last year – just as the economic outlook turned gloomy. Yet he is confident that his new agency’s business model is right for the current climate.
“The credit crunch will give clients the opportunity to look closely at how much they’re spending on their marketing and what they’re actually getting for their money. Surely there can’t be a better time to have an agency on hand that can offer a strong strategy and creative thinking, for the price of three people not 30.”
Others though rely more on reputation than a radically new business model. While lessons have been learnt from previous ventures, allowing Gary Smith to finely tune his latest venture Hush for the current climate, he believes that clients are still looking for a reputation for success: “Clients are receptive to people with a track record, a genuine service ethos and, crucially, a culture focused on results.”
Even once a business has launched, there are always more lessons to learn, says Derek Sneddon, co-founder of Pocket Rocket – especially in challenging times: “There are plenty of new business opportunities to take advantage of.
“Getting a chance to prove your ability is key to winning business. Make sure you set up good account relationships with your clients early on – cash flow is crucial, but it is scarily painful if you don’t chase payment regularly. However, this is all heavily outweighed by the sheer sense of personal satisfaction and independence.”
This is something that Laura Frame – founder of Fusible Front – agrees with. However, she also admits that life as a start up has, so far been a roller-coaster journey: “I have found the turnaround of clients to be nerve-wracking as when we get work people tend to want it done immediately which means we don’t have many clients lined up for the following months, but so far new clients have kept coming, giving us more confidence. I have found the industry to be very supportive, from organisations like Business Gateway, to design press and even to our direct competitors.”
While the start-up market has fallen in size this year, not least as a result of concerns about the global economy, Lloyds TSB Scotland’s desire to support the SME market has not diminished. New ventures are the life blood of future business and Lloyds TSB Scotland aims to support such businesses.
Ian Collins, Lloyds TSB Scotland’s head of commercial banking for the East of Scotland, says: “Once your business plan is in place, make use of all the facilities available prior to taking the first steps of actually establishing the business. Try to be prepared for the unexpected in so far as possible by knowing how you would react to different circumstances. “The potential to thrive still exits, especially for businesses which have researched their market and planned their strategy for launch and growth.
“For businesses in the creative industries, without inherent physical stock, funding needs and business models can be both more varied and more complex. Any banker likes to see parallels, and when these are harder to find due to the sector being smaller or emerging, this can present a challenge.
“That said, we have a great range of funding options available through our Commercial Finance division and the small firms loan guarantee scheme backed by the Department of Trade and Industry which may be available to clients.”
So, without any further ado, it is time now to meet fully some of the brightest new starts to launch in Scotland over the past 18 months.
Founded by Giles and Rachel Etherington. Giles was formerly creative director of Ten Alps MTD, having previously held senior creative roles at JWT London and San Francisco, MVBMS Amsterdam and Ross Abacus TIW in Jersey; Rachel has worked in senior account roles at some of London’s top advertising agencies.
Number of staff: Two permanent staff. We work differently to the traditional agency model. Our agency ethos is to keep permanent staff to a minimum and utilise freelance and specialist resources with the relevant experience, as and when required.
Established: We opened our doors in January 2007. We hit the ground running with two clients. Kelso Races and the Scottish Conservatives parliamentary election campaign.
Key clients: Other clients include Heriot-Watt University, House Of Hearing, Roxburghe Estates (Floors Castle and The Roxburghe Hotel), Scottish Borders Council, Sykes Global and Tapanet, a new web directory. Fort Kinnaird Shopping Park, Spark Energy (a new energy company) and Murray & Burrell have been recently added to the list.
Why did you launch the agency? We set up the agency because we felt there was a better way of working. It was becoming clear that clients weren’t happy with the existing agency world and were looking for more flexible partners to work with. We find that in many occasions we become part of the team, rather than ‘the agency’.
Has it been everything you thought it would be? It has been a lot of long hours and hard work, which we expected. It has also been a fantastic learning experience. The hard work is now starting to be rewarded.
What are the pros and cons of launching a business in the current climate? Clients are looking for better value from their marketing budget and also want their marketing communications to work even harder. Meanwhile, it takes longer to net a client. We have been speaking to some companies for over eighteen months and only now are they beginning to bite. They are also more reluctant to gamble.
What is your long term strategy? To settle at a managable amount of great clients and provide them with the best, most creative, pro-active service possible.
Open Glasgow was launched by creative director Liz O’Connor, a founder and creative director of The Bridge. She was joined by MD Daniel Clare, previously managing director of Union Direct.
Established: January 2008
Why did you launch the agency? Apart from the desire to control our own destinies and develop a business which reflected our beliefs, we saw an opportunity in the market for a full-service agency that could work closely with a select number of quality clients to deliver tangible business results based on strong creative ideas, integrated communications and an understanding of business – not just marketing communications. With a realisation that this year was going to be tough with marketing budgets under the microscope, increased competition and even more emphasis on results we felt our offer was going to be warmly received by clients.
Has it been everything you thought it would be? We’ve been encouraged by getting on to some decent pitch lists, being approached directly by clients and being referred opportunities. Obviously winning business is important and we are doing that, and not just in Scotland. Our offer appears to be particularly resonating with “entrepreneurial” type organisations who buy-in to the fact that we can be their out-sourced marketing department as well as their marketing agency.
What are the pros and cons of launching a business in the current climate? It would be naive to think it is anything other than tough to launch a business in the current climate – marketing budgets are being squeezed, there is an over-supply of agencies with many prepared to do anything to win business, clients wanting a pitch for every project, etc. However, it’s always been tough to launch an advertising agency. What we have on our side is a point of relevant difference, low-overheads and a focus on delivering tangible business results.
What is your long term strategy? We believe that by remaining true to our principals we can build some great client relationships, do great work, win awards and make some money along the way.
Two of BD Network’s senior players, Gary Dawson and Del Sneddon left the Glasgow agency to form Pocket Rocket Creative. The duo has over 30 years experience between them; Sneddon was creative director at KLP Euro RSCG before joining BD. Dawson was with BD Network for nine years latterly, as creative services director.
Number of staff: Started with two, now five.
Established: June 2007
Key clients: The Famous Grouse, Craig & Rose, Douglas Laing & Co, Central Scotland Forest Trust, Hometech Integration, Chris Stewart Associates
Why did you launch the agency? We wanted to establish an agency that was free from bureaucracy where unnecessary administrative costs are passed on to clients – effectively squeezing creative budgets, which we believe should be a priority. We also wanted to dispel the perception that design and marketing agencies are a great enigma, by breaking down some of the barriers with clients. None of our work is filtered or vetoed internally – we are unashamedly honest about our thinking, and strive to deliver value, creativity and a rapid response, whilst having some fun along the way.
Has it been everything you thought it would be? Scarier and more exciting than we ever thought. Like being at a new school for the first day, every day, with a fresh pencil case.
What are the pros and cons of launching a business in the current climate? There are plenty of new business opportunities to take advantage of. Getting a chance to prove your ability is key to winning business. Make sure you set up good account relationships with your clients early on – cash flow is crucial, but it is scarily painful if you don’t chase payment regularly. However, this is all heavily outweighed by the sheer sense of personal satisfaction and independence.
What is you long term strategy? Build an agency network that really breaks the mould and punches well above its weight.
Directors Richard Keeble and Gavin Tuckerman – both designers – recently left 20/20 Productions to launch Sectioneighteen. Before 20/20, Keeble worked as a designer with publishers Pinpoint Scotland and Hobsons, while Tuckerman had worked with Creative Bridge and Klaklack. The duo met previously while studying graphic design at Telford College.
Number of staff: Two
Established: March 2008
Key clients: Johnson & Johnson, Victorias Nightclub and Kaimpark Hotel
Why did you launch the agency?: It was time to take our own path in the creative industry with the intention to run an agency where creative design is paramount. Our biggest motivation in doing this was being able to take control of our own image and creative direction.
Has it been everything you thought it would be?
When we started out, our top priority was to produce creative work. So far we’ve produced some of the most creative and interesting in our careers. We’re both agreed that it’s the best decision we’ve ever made.
What are the pros and cons of launching a business in the current climate? The ‘credit-crunch’ has hit everyone. Before opening sectioneighteen, we had been warned that during times of economic downturn one of the first things that a company considers reducing is its marketing budget. Which is bad news for creative’s. Fortunately for us our rates are competitive due to our size and lack of overheads.
What is your long term strategy? In the coming years we hope to expand our agency to have several employees. Our biggest wish is to be recognised throughout the UK as a well respected creative design agency that produces new and interesting material.
Fusible Front was started by Laura Frame, a gradute from Glasgow School of Art. She freelanced and exhibited while working at Gareth Hoskins Architects.
Number of staff: Two
Established: November 2007
Key clients: DF Concerts, Andy Scott Public Art, Gerard M Burns
Why did you launch the agency? As a recent illustration graduate, I was acutely aware of the difficulty of freelancing full time but I knew I wanted to be fully involved in the industry as opposed to working in an unrelated day job to allow me to design. I wanted to start my own company as opposed to work for an established agency as I wanted to work predominantly with other creatives and to be allowed to be experimental and to push my own work.
Has it been everything you thought it would be? I’ve enjoyed seeing it take shape and look forward to seeing where we go from here – time has passed very quickly.
What are the pros and cons of launching a business in the current climate? I have found the turnaround of clients to be nerve-wracking as when we get work people tend to want it done immediately which means we don’t have many clients lined up for the following months, but so far new clients have kept coming each month, giving us more confidence so I guess this is a pro and a con! I have found the industry to be very supportive, from organisations like Business Gateway, to design press and even to our direct competitors.
What is you long term strategy? We have many things we want to do eventually through Fusible Front, including book and music publishing, and an online magazine. We want to work more with artists to allow more exposure through design – but the moment we are concentrating on keeping the momentum going in order to allow us to take on more employees.
The agency was formed by Adrian Jeffery, Brian McGregor and Tamsin Ansdell, who met and worked at 1576. Jeffery founded 1576 and McGregor was deputy creative director, while Ansdell was an account handler.
Number of staff: Three – that’s the whole point for us.
Established: October 2007
Key clients: SNH, Fettes college, Murray international, Valtti specialist coatings, Jewel and Esk.
Why did we launch? Because we believed that sticking to what you’re good at is the way to produce the best work. And we believed that we could forge relationships with other companies who specialised in what they’re good at.
Has it been everything you thought it would be? Yes. But we believe this model has a lot of potential still to be tapped, Agencies in London are now launching with similar positionings to mightysmall.
What are the pros and cons of launching a business in the current climate? The credit crunch will give clients the opportunity to look closely at how much they’re spending on their marketing and what they’re actually getting for their money. Surely there can’t be a better time to have an agency on hand that can offer a client strong strategy and creative thinking, for the price of three people not 30.
Big Red Creative
David Rae, formerly account director with Lawrence Creative – having also previously worked with The Morgan Partnership and Ogilvy and Mather – is a 50 percent share holder in the agency alongside Alan Georgeson, founder of the Georgeson Group.
Number of staff: Seven
Established: June 2007
Key clients: Scottish Care at Home, Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework, The Georgeson Group (UK and US), The Constructive Group.
Why did you launch the agency? After 10 years with the same agency, I needed a challenge and knew that the Big Red business model would appeal to the market.
Has it been everything you thought it would be? Much harder but more rewarding (maybe not financially).
What are the pros and cons of launching a business in the current climate? Marketing budgets are, in general, being cut and too few decision makers (much to the frustration of the marketing teams) are realising that when your competitors reduce their marketing spend, you should increase yours!
What is your long term strategy? Now that Big Red UK is up and running and has some great clients, our long term strategy is to establish Big Red abroad (US and Middle East) as a creative and marketing resource. Our aim is to constantly improve our business and never stop learning as any agency who thinks they can’t get any better won’t!
Graeme McGowan was formerly head of advertising and design at DADA, account director at Oceanseventy and marketing manager at Stevenson Sharpe, while Craig Laverty was a creative at technology firm Etellect.
Number of staff: Two
Established: January 2008
Key clients: X-leisure, Xscape, Ocean Terminal, Paradise Island Adventure Golf, DF Concerts
Why did you launch the agency? The chance to work with clients we love, do things the way we wanted, challenge ourselves, grow a business and the chance for two mates to work together as a creative team.
Has it been everything you thought it would be? It hasn’t been easy, but the first six months have surpassed our expectations. We’ve managed to get to grips with running a business, winning some great clients and having a great time working with them.
What are the pros and cons of launching a business in the current climate? I think launching a creative business in any climate is always tricky. There are so many agencies and small teams competing in Scotland. Obviously the current economic climate is worrying for anyone starting or running a business. Having said that, we believe that there is a growing market for smaller companies with a creative and strategic approach who operate in a relaxed but professional way so all is not doom and gloom.
What is you long term strategy? Above all, ensuring we enjoy what we’re doing and that our clients enjoy working with us. If we lost either or both of those there would be no point to us being in business. Beyond that, we’ve got ambitions to add to the team and expand our skill set and bring on some more of the clients that we would love to work with.
Following time at Graven Images Paul Gray was a founding partner of Tank Design, working alongside Stand’s Stuart Gilmour at the agency before moving to London to head BD-Network’s creative team.
Number of staff: One at the minute. More as and when the business develops.
Established: In earnest, last July when I took premises in Candleriggs.
Key clients: All clients are key clients in my view. We’d be a sorry profession without them.
Why did you launch the agency? To produce good work that I can control and take pride in. I also really enjoy the personal client contact.
Has it been everything you thought it would be? Absolutely. Hard work but very rewarding and (corny as it sounds) I’m alive and living it everyday.
What are the pros and cons of launching a business in the current climate? Financial pressure. Everbody’s starting to drip feed budgets. Competition is everywhere now... good for the industry but its getting harder to cut through.
What is you long term strategy? Developing strategic alliances and partnerships with other agencies and individuals. Putting different skill sets together to create more effective work. There are some very interesting discussions going on at the minute.
Gavin Mcluskie heads up Integrity’s recently opened Glasgow office. He joined the group in 2006. He was previously design director of Campbell and Co in Edinburgh and, more recently, design and creative director at MICE Kraftwork in Dubai.
Number of staff: Three in Glasgow (35 in the UK)
Established: Jan 07 in Glasgow
Key clients: Virgin Media, Tesco, Volkswagen, Waitrose, Royal Mail
Why did you launch the agency? Opening an office in Scotland is a great opportunity to bring some of the work we having been doing in England to Scotland. Scotland is a key market for us and we realise the importance of having a Scottish base that employs home-grown talent and services Scottish companies and organisations rather than expecting this to be done from England. We also want to use the office as a test bed to develop and explore new markets.
Has it been everything you thought it would be? We knew it would be a long slow slog. As Brand Programming is such a new management discipline we were unsure about how clearly potential clients would see its relevance and value to their business. We have been encouraged by the response we’ve received from so many of Scotland big brand’s to our initial approaches.
What are the pros and cons of launching a business in the current climate? We all know its a complicated time for the business world with budgets tightening in many areas and investors becoming much more cautious. This however provides Integrity with a great opportunity to showcase just how well Brand Programming can be used to manage projects to maximise the investment in design in this difficult climate.
What is you long term strategy? Our long term strategy for Scotland is to expand into new markets and to use these experiences to develop Brand Programming as a project management discipline. Ultimately the Integrity Glasgow office will form a part of a global network of offices providing Integrity with capacity and local knowledge to service our clients on a global basis.
Gary Smith, Ian White and Niall Fogarty are the three founding directors, with creative partner Paul Sweeting. Smith previously launched One-to-One and Carlina Responsive Advertising, before joining 1576 as a partner. White was laterly The Leith Agency’s head of direct and Fogarty was finance director at DraftWorldwide. Sweeting was creative director at Arc before a move to 1576.
Number of staff: Started with four
Established: February 2008
Key clients: Enough to be keeping us busy and looking to recruit new account and creative teams.
Why did you launch the agency? Marketing belts are tightening everywhere so it’s a great time to launch an agency that focuses on effectiveness by cutting through the clutter and noise to engage with consumers.
Has it been everything you thought it would be? Yes, but with more burgers from the Cambridge Bar.
What are the pros and cons of launching a business in the current climate? Pros are that clients are receptive to people with a track record, a genuine service ethos and, crucially, a culture focussed on results. Cons are that the banks are trying to drive harder deals for start up funding although LTSB have been very good to us.
What is your long term strategy? To carry on enjoying what we do, maintaining our belief in our approach and ultimately to make the world HUSH and listen to us.
Graham Jones, former managing director of Civic, launched the new agency with Stewart Kirkpatrick, formerly online communications director at Civic and editor of Scotsman.com, and Tony Purcell, ex-strategy and business development director at Civic.
Number of staff: Three
Established: March 2008
Key clients: Scottish Government, financial sector.
Why did you launch the agency? The marketing and digital landscape is changing. The days of charging tens of thousands of pounds to build a website and then walking away are over. Also, the barriers between advertising, PR and marketing are coming down. In the end, there is only content. We see an opportunity around delivering value to the client by using targeted quality content to build lasting relationships with target audiences. In short, we use optimised content to turbocharge clients’ messages. This is the essence of content marketing.
Has it been everything you thought it would be? We are Scotland’s first content marketing agency. And because content marketing is a newly emerging trend we were concerned that we would spend a lot of time education potential clients. But we’ve been very pleased to find that clients really get it.
What are the pros and cons of launching a business in the current climate? On the upside, marketing spend is moving increasingly towards online. The current tightening of belts means that we emphasise the measurable return on investment our services offer.
What is your long term strategy? Our ambition is to grow the business and be nimble enough to guide clients through the ever-changing online landscape.
Family and Storm ID joined forces in March to launch a joint venture in the form of digital marketing company, Perfect Storm. The new business is headed up by managing director Vivienne MacLaren. She previously worked at Scotland On Line and DC Interactive and also launched 1576’s online division.
Number of staff: Four
Established: March 2008
Key clients: ICS Learning , Macfarlan Smith, Carnegie College,BBC scotland, Scottish Ballet, Young Scot, Scottish Investment Operations.
Why did you launch the agency? I wanted to focus on digital marketing and strategy, offering some real experience of clients and, importantly, results. I have
been lucky to work for some great organisations and learned from the best; My time at DC Interact really shaped my thinking and got me working on some great clients including my first employers, ScottishPower. It was a great feat helping to establish their online acquisition marketing and see the sales come in from our campaigns. I wanted to develop that, with one agency focusing on one thing.
Has it been everything you thought it would be? So far it has been great though maybe a tad busier than I thought at first but I’m not complaining!
What are the pros and cons of launching a business in the current climate? On the plus side there are still so many organisations out there unaware of more than one online marketing channel and even then don’t understand how much a good, well planned and managed digital strategy can benefit a business. Cons! Not really a con but we have to work hard to educate. That’s an area we will be growing. Another con is the challenge to find staff who really know their stuff. But we have some great guys in place now.
What is your long term strategy? This industry changes every week so we will continue to keep ourselves up to speed with the very latest digital thinking and keep applying that to our client work so that we can get the best possible results for all of them.
Founder Fraser Ritchie has over 20 years experience with Leo Burnett, Yellowhammer and DMB&B. He moved his family back to Scotland in 2005 to work for Avian in Dundee before opening the Tayside office of NXO.
Number of staff: Two
Established: April 2007
Key clients: Heuga Flooring, TenBu Technologies
Why did you launch the agency? To prove that clients buy ability and that today’s technology means they don’t have to buy expensive infrastructures. I appreciate being in the position to choose my own direction and future.
Has it been everything you thought it would be? I spent a long time developing the business model, checking and refining it with as many people as would listen, but of course we still tripped over some IT issues, under estimated the admin, etc but overall the last year has been fantastic.
What are the pros and cons of launching a business in the current climate? I read somewhere that now is always the right time to launch a business, what matters is your current climate! That’s certainly been the case with NXO; we had done our market homework but what made the difference was the encouragement from the network that we were ready.
What is you long term strategy? The NXO network has grown by two thirds since I launched NXO Tayside just over 12 months ago. We are now 15 marketers located throughout the UK, with a 10 strong creative, support and implementational Hub in Preston. You can liken NXO to a traditional full service marketing agency except there’s no shiny office, serving local, national and international markets and there are no junior marketers. Someone said recently that within the network there are 15 big brains that can be employed in any combination from 1 to 15! The nxo strategy is the ‘power of many’ and with an objective of 30 offices by the end of 2009, clients will increasingly see the benefits of our bespoke, flexible solutions on their bottom lines.
Angus MacIntyre, creative director and Claire MacIntyre, managing director, met at Redhouse Lane in Glasgow. Before creating Taste, they worked for clients such as RBS, British Council, Scottish & Newcastle, Barclays, The Scottish Government, Scottish Water and Edinburgh Festival Fringe.
Number of staff: Two (soon to be three) and hopefully four by the end of the year.
Established: February 2007
Key clients: NHS, Edinburgh International Conference Centre, Mortimer Estate Agents and Indigo Lighthouse Group.
Why did you launch the agency? Claire and I have worked in the industry for a combined 20 years, but I always knew at some point I would set up my own agency. I was Tictoc’s first employee all those year’s ago, so I was aware of the process and difficulties start-up businesses were faced with. I was the sole designer that helped establish London-based Redhouse Lane’s office in Glasgow – that is where Claire and I met. There was a gap in the market for a smaller agency that is not dictated by account managers and where clients have direct contact with the designers and the same people remain on the same clients work; where the design and processes are the key to the success for everyone.
Has it been everything you thought it would be?
And more. We have great clients, we’re recruiting for more staff and producing some very creative work.
What are the pro’s and con’s of launching a business in the current climate?
It’s all good really and certainly the best thing I have ever done. Obviously you always have to take the rough with the smooth, however, if you are confident enough and you have the skills nothing should really get in your way.
What is you long term strategy?
Create. Connect. Inspire. We feel that as long as we are creating, connecting and inspiring, our business will grow, secure new accounts and staff, and create the branding agency we dreamed of all those moons ago.