By HARRIET MARSH, campaignlive.co.uk, Friday, 24 November 2000 12:00AM
While the epicentre of England's adland is London's Soho, Scotland's advertising heartland is widely believed to be a small plot in Edinburgh.
Scotland's capital may be rather conservative compared with Glasgow, its west-coast rival, but Edinburgh is home to Scotland's biggest advertising agencies, the Leith Agency and Faulds Advertising, and it has gained a reputation as the centre of Scottish advertising creativity.
It's a cosy set-up. Based in the Georgian splendour of Edinburgh's New Town, the Leith Agency is certainly in a prime spot to keep an eye on its rivals. It is a mere 300 yards to its closest competitor Faulds Advertising, while the Union, which formed after a breakaway from Faulds, is little more than a stone's throw away. 1576, which is based in the West End, is also within walking distance.
As a result, if you want to catch up on the latest gossip about Scotland's adland, a table at the Tapas Ole bar in Eyre Street is a prime location.
'On any given day you'll find people from both Faulds and the Leith and often the Union as well,' Andrew Lindsay, the joint creative director at the Union, admits. 'It is not the place to discuss a secret.'
The handful of agencies, including most notably The Bridge and Morgans, formerly known as the Morgan Partnership, which are based in Glasgow still battle to shake off the idea that west-coast agencies primarily work for retail clients rather than big brands.
Those working in Glasgow agencies remain loyal to the city. 'Glasgow has more of a can-do attitude,' says Jonathan d'Aquilar, creative director at The Bridge with a client list that includes Brooke Bond and Express Newspapers. 'In Edinburgh people save money, in Glasgow people spend it There is a greater entrepreneurial spirit here and the city has a younger profile.'
However, as Angus Walker, the creative director at Morgans, admits: 'Either you love Glasgow or you don't. In the main, people who move up here from England tend to opt for Edinburgh.'
Glasgow is the retail and industrial centre of Scotland while Edinburgh is the country's financial capital. It is this which has traditionally driven the region's top companies to make their base in Edinburgh and as a result the advertising industry has, in the main, followed.
And Edinburgh's a friendly size. 'You can get around on foot and you are always bumping into people,' says Phil Adams, the managing director of the Leith, who used to work in London. 'It is more incestuous than London and keeping secrets is harder.'
Yet if the community is insular and the fishbowl can sometimes seem a little small, those who work in Scotland stress that life is also friendlier and that the agencies have a good sense of community spirit. There are regional awards in the shape of the Scottish Advertising Awards and the Roses and The Drum magazine provides coverage of the Scottish advertising scene.
'It is a close-knit community and people tend to help each other out,' Ian Wright, managing director at Yellow M, says. There is also a belief that Scottish adland retains its sense of perspective to a greater degree than London. 'We set out to produce genuinely good advertising,' Wright says, 'and we want to make money. But we don't take ourselves too seriously and we do try and have fun.'
Not only that, but mention the word 'lifestyle' and, especially among those who have moved north from London, the tributes pour forth.
'The lifestyle up here is light years ahead,' Adams admits. 'If culture is what you're about and you really make the effort to go out, then Edinburgh can't compete with London. But the social life is great, there are plenty of bars and restaurants and many of the people who work here have journey times to work of five or ten minutes.'
It is perhaps not surprising, given this description of life in Scotland, that the demographic within the advertising industry favours those with more of life's experiences already under their belts. 'We tend to lose the twentysomethings down south in search of a good time,' Dennis Chester, the managing director of Faulds, admits. 'But those who've had a family and want the lifestyle as well as a good job will look towards Scotland.'
And it is not merely homesick Scots, worn out by the south, who eye the north with enthusiasm. Given the general refusal among those up north to talk on the record about the figures involved, the number of English ad people currently working in Scotland seems to be a rather touchy subject.
Estimates vary but 'close to 50/50' is one non-attributable estimate of the English/Scottish division. Another source suggests that, in fact, only about a third of people in Scottish agencies come, originally, from Scotland.
Among the southerners who have journeyed up the A1 are Carol Ashby, the Leith's group planning director who joined from M&C Saatchi, Ruth Lees, a planning director at 1576 who was formerly a partner at HHCL & Partners, and Billy Mawhinney, the creative director at Faulds who joined from Euro RSCG Wnek Gosper.
Yet it is not only the lure of the good life that brings southerners to Scotland. As Scottish agencies seek to reinforce their reputations and compete on the UK and European stage, they are increasingly looking beyond the local community for new talent.
Mawhinney joined Faulds at a time of creative crisis several years ago.
Now the agency is widely considered to be getting back on the creative track although it continues to be overshadowed by the Leith and the Union.
Scottish agencies continue to push to shed the regional tag that has dogged them for so long and put greater store by national than regional advertising awards. 'It's nice to win awards in your own market,' one agency source says. 'But the ones that really matter are the awards down in London or in Cannes.'
A BEGINNER''S GUIDE TO SCOTTISH ADLAND
Top creative agency: The Leith Agency
Hot topics of the moment: The unreliability of dotcom
Hottest creative talent: Dougall Wilson and Gareth Howells
at the Leith Agency (credits
include Tennents and Irn-Bru)
Hottest director of the moment: Martin Wedderburn at MTV (credits
include Beat 106, HEBS, Scottish
Hippest bars: Edinburgh: The Outhouse in Broughton
Lane and Ricks in Frederick Street
Glasgow: the Groucho Club and The Art
House, both in Bath Street
Stylish restaurants: Edinburgh: The Atrium on Cambridge
Street or The Tower above the
National Gallery of Scotland;
Glasgow: Eurasia on St Vincent
Street and the Corinthian on Bath
Members-only clubs: Edinburgh: The Bubble Club, which
meets in the Balmoral Hotel on
Glasgow: Glaswegians are not
interested in private clubs
To be seen doing: Having a life outside work
Not to be seen doing: Travelling to work on a razor scooter
(too many hills)
This article was first published on campaignlive.co.uk