School Reports 2015: Leith

Glasgow 2014
Glasgow 2014

Score: 6  Last year: 6

At a time when the debate rages about whether or not agencies can do without an overall creative chief, Leith last year became the first shop of any size to grasp the nettle, precipitating the exit of its long-serving creative director, Gerry Farrell.

Dispensing with such a figurehead, who quit to "pursue his own interests" after 27 years at the agency, will have taken some by surprise. Farrell is, after all, one of Scotland’s most notable creatives of recent times and a man of forthright opinions.

He was also one of the few creatives north of the border not to fence-sit about the independence referendum, calling publicly for a "yes" vote.

And there was no self-effacement in his parting comment: "Leith has been good to me over the years and I’ve been good to Leith."

For the agency, Farrell’s departure is more a reflection of changing times and of the need to overhaul the structure of its creative department to provide a more integrated range of services.

As a result, the agency’s senior creative teams are taking direct responsibility for their clients, giving them what Leith said would be real ownership of the creative product while making the agency quicker and more effective.

It may be a bit too early to judge the success of this strategy, but the signs are promising. The agency is getting to pitch for more work beyond Scotland but is realistic enough to recognise that it will need to up its game to match the London opposition.

Nevertheless, Leith continues to be well-regarded in its own manor, picking up the prestigious assignment to promote ticket sales for Glasgow 2014 and being named Agency of the Year at the Marketing Society Scotland awards.

Whether it can persuade more southern-based advertisers to take a look at it – and persuade more local ones not to head south – remains to be seen.

How the agency scores itself: 7

How the agency rates itself: Busy. Good busy. Helped make Glasgow 2014 the best Commonwealth Games ever. Broke Games records for volunteer applications and ticket sales. Reversed losses caused by storms and flooding for First Great Western. Produced award-winning work for bowel cancer. Sent Irn-Bru to the top of the FMCG Social Brands list. Took home Agency of the Year for the second year running at the Marketing Society Scotland awards. And gave a bonus to each of our 193 Leithers.

Type of agency Integrated
Company ownership Cello
Nielsen billings 2014 £18m
Nielsen billings 2013 £20m
Declared income £10.7m
Total accounts at year end 110
Accounts won 37 (biggest: Magners)
Accounts lost 3 (biggest: n/s)
Number of staff 193 (+18%)
Key personnel Richard Marsham group managing director
Pete Burns head of Blonde Digital
Juliet Simpson head of Stripe PR
Ed Brooke head of Leith

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.