Is Scotland unable to support networked agencies?

The Drum speaks to a cross-section of agencies north of the border to find out their views on Scotland’s creative landscape

John Denholm, managing director, Denholm Associates

The big networks have life too easy. They feed largely on globally aligned clients, which means that they can deliver terrible service from many of their smaller offices without getting fired. This breeds a culture of complacency and mediocrity, which allows them to believe they can treat a small market like Scotland in an arrogantly off-hand manner. So they parachute some network guy in “to run Scotland”. Inevitably they spend a year talking about having a Scottish granny and generally patronising the locals, failing to understand the culture, and slowly realising that this is a tough market to crack. After a year or so the tents are quietly folded, and they’re off to try their luck on another remote outpost.

Ian Ord, business development director, Fifth Ring

I don’t think that companies of that scale and size do many things wrong, however, there has to be a recognition that the market has moved. There is an ever decreasing number of large Scottish based accounts and there is already a number of agencies in Scotland well placed to service them, so the arrival of the multinationals simply increases the competition and drives the whole sector into a red ocean price battle.

Steve Mills, managing director, Redhouse Lane Communications

Having worked for a couple, including McCann’s, I'm not convinced there's an easy answer. In my experience the operating model can be difficult to fund and sustain. Group services and charges add a burden that can adversely affect the management cost gearing compared with more streamlined independent companies. I'm sure this is seen as a possible negative factor by smaller to medium sized clients; that a bigger name indicates bigger bills. There's sometimes a lack of empathy with local cultures and there's also conflict of interest between what are viewed as 'local' or truly national accounts and where the income generated by such business lies. For many larger pieces of business there is still the attraction of taking work to London and an argument over why you would deal with the local offshoot when you can work with the larger national team. Where it does occasionally work well is where a network has the courage to allow a genuinely local culture and creative identity to flourish without the attendant micromanagement.

Aaron Harper, creative director, Weather Digital And Print Communications

Perhaps it is the case that clients, particularly smaller companies, don't feel comfortable going with larger networked agencies as they feel like they will be a small fish compared to some of the other clients the agency works with.

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