LIVE ISSUE/THE SCOTTISH OPPORTUNITY: McCanns battles to succeed north of the border - Emma Hall reports on why the network is so keen to make a mark in Scotland

McCann-Erickson is not going to bow out of Scotland gracefully.

McCann-Erickson is not going to bow out of Scotland gracefully.



The network is clinging on north of the border and, unlike the defeated

Ogilvy & Mather and Saatchi & Saatchi, McCanns refuses to cut its losses

and leave.



McCanns is looking for a deal that will secure its future in Scotland -

and the Leith Agency has been named as the front-runner (Campaign, last

week). McCanns has been at such pains to keep the discussions quiet that

it has deliberately used Faulds Advertising as a smokescreen to keep the

press off its scent.



But now its motives have been discovered, employees at the Leith are

said to be in revolt. Why would employees of a creative hotshop want to

become part of the impersonal McCann-Erickson network? Apart from a

couple of shareholders in the agency, who would benefit from a deal?



And what about the clients?



The Leith’s acclaimed Irn-Bru relationship could be elbowed out by

McCanns’ Coca-Cola business - a possible repeat of what happened between

the same clients at Bartle Bogle Hegarty a few years ago. The

Dunfermline Building Society would, equally, not fit with the Bank of

Scotland.



Financially, of course, there could be benefits for the Edinburgh shop

which, despite a good creative reputation, has never been as financially

sound as its arch-rival, Faulds.



If McCanns bought out 3i’s 45 per cent share in the Leith business, that

stake would then be owned by people prepared to keep ploughing money

into the agency rather than by a venture capitalist looking for a return

on his investment.



Why is McCanns so determined to stay on? Despite high-profile client

losses - a prized place on the Scottish Courage roster was lost with the

pounds 2 million Theakston’s account in June - McCanns Scotland still

has a handful of clients worth hanging on to - particularly Highland

Spring and Wimpey Homes.



There is also the network’s policy of having an office in every major

region. Following devolution, Scotland is even more likely to be seen as

a country in its own right, especially from as far away as McCanns’ New

York headquarters.



No-one at McCanns returned Campaign’s calls, but other Scottish agency

bosses are prepared to voice their opinions. ’It is to McCanns’ credit

that it sees Scotland as such an important market,’ Jim Faulds, the

chairman of Faulds Advertising, says. ’It definitely needs to do

something, but I would say it is 50/50 whether this particular deal

comes off.’



McCanns Scotland’s existing clients must be looking for some reassurance

that the agency will thrive, and news that a deal may be forthcoming is

likely to keep them happy. Ian McAteer, the managing director of the

Union, says: ’A new managing director would take five years to turn it

around, but McCanns hasn’t got that much time to resurrect the agency,

so it needs a merger.’



Aubrey Malden, McCanns Scotland’s managing director, was asked to leave

the agency in June, but is still caretaking until a replacement is

found.



Malden has a creative background, and has found it difficult to assemble

a top team to run the agency. Consequently, the stronger branches of

McCanns outside London - in Manchester and Birmingham - have had a hand

in the running of the Edinburgh shop and in taking decisions on its

future, despite having little direct experience of the Scottish

market.



’The instincts and ways of operating are different in Scotland,’ McAteer

asserts. ’It is a lot less flashy and more down to earth and it’s a tiny

village compared with London. Relationships are closely knit among both

agencies and the client community.’ Creativity is also at more of a

premium than in Manchester and Birmingham, where most prized accounts

are in the high-turnover retail sector.



It is generally thought devolution will have a distant but positive

effect on the Scottish advertising industry. ’In rational ways it won’t

make a difference, but it will give a greater sense of ’Scottishness’

and may subconsciously strengthen the feeling that things should remain

in Scotland,’ McAteer says. ’As long as we can provide the quality,

Scottish clients may be more inclined to stick with local agencies.’



And Scotland is far from stagnating, despite its limited size. Faulds

managed to triple its business from pounds 10 million to pounds 30

million in billings between 1992 and 1995. Start-ups, particularly the

Union and 1576, have done very well in the past couple of years. The

Union is working with Scottish Courage and recently won the pounds 3

million launch of Standard Life Bank; while 1576 has Direct Line

Financial Services and has won a place on the rosters of IDV and British

Bakeries.



As with any market, the key to success is a strong management team but,

in Scotland, local roots seem almost equally important. The Saatchi

network owns what was the most flourishing Scottish outpost, Hall

Advertising, which grew up as a local agency with a thoroughly Scottish

identity before being bought, and has been the training ground for many

of the region’s current big players.



McCanns is still trying to overcome a period of instability. As an

indifferent agency with some decent clients and the might of the

Interpublic Group behind it, we can be certain that whether or not the

Leith deal comes off, McCanns will try everything possible to save face

and maintain a presence in Scotland.



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