School Reports 2014: Leith

Glasgow 2014
Glasgow 2014

Score: 6  Last year: 7

The fact that Leith has survived to celebrate its 30th birthday is no mean achievement in itself given the generally grim state of the ad industry in Scotland. That it should not only be alive but also kicking – with some feisty creative work to prove it – might be termed a miracle.

The recession has turned Scotland into something of an agency graveyard. Indeed, Leith itself had to play the white knight last year, riding to the rescue of its beleaguered Edinburgh rival Newhaven Communications, which it acquired for a nominal sum.

Newhaven’s plight was another sad example of the toll the harsh economic climate has exacted on Scotland’s agencies. Not only are they heavily dependent on the public sector, where budgets have been slashed, but they find it hard to lock in the talent to stop large Scotland-based advertisers going to agencies south of the border. Leith knows this only too well, having last year seen the account of the Perth-based SSE, Britain’s second-largest energy supplier, which it shared with The Gate, move to Adam & Eve/DDB.

Remarkably, though, Leith continues to defy the odds. Its breast cancer campaign for the Scottish Government, which last year named the agency its lead creative shop for the following three years, won global recognition. It also worked on activity for the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games.

And Leith proved it hasn’t lost the capacity for provocative and funny creative work. Not least with a TV spot for Irn-Bru featuring a teenager’s embarrassment as his mates leer at his mum’s push-up bra. The Advertising Standards Authority dismissed the 170-plus complaints against it.

With more bold work – and a bit of luck – Leith could deliver another odds-defying performance this year.

How Leith rates itself: 8

Leith's year in a Tweet: 2013 was like a 29th birthday year should be: one foot in carefree creative abandon, the other in a bright, grown-up future.

Type of agency Integrated
Company ownership Cello
Key personnel Richard Marsham group managing partner
Pete Burns head of Blonde
Juliet Simpson head of Stripe Communications
Ed Brooke head of Leith
Gerry Farrell creative director
Nielsen billings 2013 £20m
Nielsen billings 2012 £23m
Declared income £10.3m
Total accounts at year end 82
Accounts won 21 (biggest: BASF)
Accounts lost 20 (biggest: SSE)
Number of staff 163 (+22%)

Score key: 9 Outstanding  8 Excellent  7 Good  6 Satisfactory  5 Adequate  4 Below average  3 Poor  2 A year to forget  1 Survival in question

Footnote: *indicates where agencies claim the corporate governance constraints of the Sarbanes-Oxley legislation.