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Creative The Drum Awards Brexit

'Change forces people to think differently': Scottish agencies weigh in on what Brexit means for them


By Gillian West, Social media manager

August 8, 2016 | 6 min read

Since June’s Brexit vote we’ve witnessed London mayor Sadiq Khan profess 'London is Open', European cities make power plays for the UK’s startup scene and vocal Remain supporter Ryanair start to scale back from the UK.

It’s certainly been an interesting few months.

On the day of the result, The Drum reported the decision had pushed the UK’s advertising industry into unchartered territory which – to this day – it’s still figuring out.

But what of the Scottish advertising and creative industries?

Overwhelmingly voting to Remain, Scotland’s position on Brexit was clear, but as the dust settles are Scottish creatives optimistic or pessimistic about how the next few years are shaping up? As the deadline for this year’s Scottish Creative Awards looms – we thought it was time to find out.

Michael Hart, creative director, The Union

I don’t think any of us know for sure how the Brexit vote will impact Scottish agencies. There may be another independence referendum on the horizon, there might not be. The only certainty is more uncertainty. Europe knows we still want to be friends and chemistry is very important in this business. London has always been a magnet for business and the fact that it also voted to remain reinforces that view and might, perversely, make it even more attractive to business. Perhaps the fallout from the vote might occur in the Midlands, the North and elsewhere.

The Union

Scottish agencies should be looking to attract business from outside London and inside Europe. Actually, they should be looking everywhere as vision, not politics should be guiding new business strategy. I can’t say Scottish agencies are any better than what you’d find elsewhere in the UK, but I can say we’re just as good.

There’s one thing that might make clients sit up and take notice of us and that’s the environment in which we operate. It could be argued that following Scotland’s overwhelming vote to remain our politics are more inclusive and more progressive than anywhere else in the UK. Maybe, just maybe, our creativity might be too.

Malcolm Stewart, creative director, Tayburn

The impact of the Brexit vote, primarily means increased uncertainty for Scottish agencies and that’s rarely a good thing – decisions get delayed, larger scale projects perhaps get put on hold and there may be added scrutiny over budgets.

But equally, it’s very likely to depend on who your clients are – for some it will be business as usual, for others – we have a client who’s directly affected by the changes to the exchange rate following Brexit for instance – it’s more likely to influence spend. On the upside, it’s change – not always loved by everyone – but change forces people to think differently and reappraise things.


I can’t see many reasons why the Brexit vote would result in clients in London immediately looking for agencies further afield – London has a wealth of talent and is effectively and economy within an economy – if agencies in Scotland want to work with clients in London (and why wouldn’t they?), they need to give those clients compelling reasons to do so – but Brexit isn’t one of them.

Stuart Gilmour, creative director, Stand

How will the Brexit vote impact Scottish creative industries and agencies? Probably badly as a result of the negative impact on the British economy, and the predicted proportionately greater negative impact on the Scottish economy.


There’s no logic in thinking that Brexit will encourage clients to look out with London for creative agencies as Brexit will affect the whole of the UK probably negatively in the short/medium term.

I can’t see why a shrinking economy would encourage clients to look outside of the capital for creative services. However, Scottish agencies can offer clients local knowledge, insight and cultural understanding, as well as value for money.

Brian Coane, partner, Leith Agency

The uncertainty created by the Brexit vote is not good for the Scottish creative industries and Scottish agencies. Advertiser confidence can be fragile and even before the result there was already evidence of spending commitments being impacted. In Scotland we’ve the added uncertainty of a potential second referendum on independence.

Advertiser confidence was negatively affected before the 2014 referendum so it’s important to get political stability across the UK as quickly as possible. Scottish agencies already work with clients on international business and are already providing an alternative way to access Europe, but it’s too early to tell how this trend will be affected.


For Scotland to have an advantage in attracting clients over London agencies there would probably need to be a different agreement between the EU and Scotland than what there is with the EU and the rest of the UK and although that has been mentioned it seems a long way from being agreed. Scottish agencies offer clients powerful, inspiring, memorable creativity that solves problems, builds connections and shapes brands. The best evidence of that is the part that advertising has played in making this the only country in the world where Coca-Cola is not the undisputed number one soft drink.

Entries for this year’s Scottish Creative Awards are being accepted until 12pm on Thursday 11 August. For more information on the awards, categories and this year’s ceremony visit the Scottish Creative Awards website.

Creative The Drum Awards Brexit

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