GERRY FARRELL - Creative director, the Leith Agency
’We want to create ads that throw a brick through your window,’ Gerry
Farrell says. It sounds like the hyperbole of a kilt-wearing Celt, but
Farrell has - unlike many of his peers - an impressive array of examples
to prove it.
Irn-Bru, for example, which took the Sassenachs by storm with an
irreverent series of posters featuring quirky shots of dogs, women, boys
- in fact, anything except the drink.
Then there’s Standard Life’s love-them-or-hate-them commercials starring
a talking baby and, more importantly for his Scottish fans, Farrell’s
decidedly off-centre ads for Tennent’s, which have achieved near-cult
status in his homeland.
Farrell has been a leading light on the Scottish ad scene and part of
the Leith’s creative success story since the agency’s early days in the
80s, but advertising was not his first career choice. He started out in
media, with the Scotsman, from where he was unceremoniously fired, as he
tells it, for being ’the worst salesman ever’.
Things improved when he switched to copywriting with the local agency,
Grant Forrest, and began to really take off when he was lured to Hall
Advertising in Edinburgh.
He left to joined the Leith when it was just two years old and still had
the atmosphere of a start-up.
Farrell has a strong reputation both north and south of the border.
’It’s such a nice, relaxing lifestyle here. In London the creatives tend
to be kept away from the clients,’ he says. He’s very unlikely to ever
be tempted away from the peculiar comforts of working in Scotland.
JIM FAULDS - Chairman, Faulds Advertising
Jim Faulds is not one to flash about town. A consummate account man, he
has achieved his success quietly, with an understated business-like
approach that year after year continues to keep his empire at the top of
league tables in Scotland.
Variously described as likeable, a control-freak and bad at golf, Faulds
has been a force in Scottish advertising since 1985. Although his
beginnings were humble enough - as a junior adman back in the 60s - he
took to account management so swiftly that by the age of 24 he was
managing an entire agency - the London-based Harrison Cowley.
It was an early taste of power that would change his life. For when the
agency was bought out six years later, Faulds couldn’t face not being
the boss, and went back north of the border to start a business of his
Eighteen years later, Faulds is the biggest agency in Scotland, with
reported billings of #34 million last year and profits in excess of #1
million. This year it has been restructured into five divisions and
Faulds has stepped back to become agency chairman and chief executive of
Randotte, the agency’s parent marketing communications group.
Despite a couple of recent account losses, notably Standard Life and the
Scottish Tourist Board, the agency still manages a financial performance
which astounds its rivals.
Some prophets of doom take a peek at the Scottish advertising scene and
see a dangerously competitive new breed of agencies snapping at Faulds’
heels. Some of which, like 1576, are breakaways from Faulds itself.
What they all persistently underestimate, however, is Faulds’ own
particular genius, which is for running an agency for just what it is -
GUS MACDONALD - Minister for Business and Industry and the Scottish
No round-up of Scotland would be complete without a word on Gus
Macdonald, the TV magnate, philanthropist and trade
Macdonald is the very embodiment of the Glasgow boy made good. Now,
however, as the last Scottish business and industry minister before the
new Parliament next year, he has been obliged to relinquish all ties to
the media empire that he led to success.
He began working life as a marine engineer and became a trade
His media career started as a circulation manager of the Labour weekly,
Tribune. Later, he moved from reporter on the Scotsman to Granada
Television, rising to become editor of World in Action, before returning
to Scottish TV in 1986. By 1997, STV had evolved into the Scottish Media
Group with Macdonald as the group’s non-executive chairman.
If resigning as chairman of STV and selling his shares were not enough,
Macdonald has also had to face accusations of cronyism following his
appointment to the Scottish Office, since he was not elected to the
But he is dedicated to the task ahead, which he sees as encouraging his
homeland to become a pool of highly-skilled labour for the business
A surprising role, perhaps, for the man who started as a Trotskyist
But time has mellowed Macdonald’s outlook and he is now able to fulfill
a dream - to get back into politics.
SIR TOM FARMER - Chairman and chief executive, Kwik-Fit
It is no mean feat that Sir Tom Farmer won his knighthood for services
to the automotive industry, an area better known for bald tyres and
dodgy deals than accolades from the Queen.
But Farmer has done more than most to try and shake off the motor
industry’s shady image. His company, Kwik-Fit, has become the largest
automotive parts and repair specialist in Europe, and it has done so
based on two of the rarest tenets in the world of car repair - customer
service and staff development.
These twin obsessions have worked well for Farmer, who now presides over
one of the largest advertising accounts in Scotland, estimated to be
worth #10 million, as well as a private fortune estimated at some #25
The size and importance of the account cannot be underestimated. The
loss of it played a significant part in the closure of the leading
Edinburgh agency, Halls. And the business has remained in Scotland,
along with Farmer, for decades.
An energetic 57-year-old, Farmer is not only one of the country’s
best-known entrepreneurs, he’s also one of its biggest social
Strong Catholic convictions help drive him in this direction, as did his
childhood in Leith, one of Edinburgh’s toughest areas.
Today, the port has one of the worst heroin problems in Britain, and it
is no accident that Farmer chairs an organisation dedicated to fighting
this: Scotland Against Drugs.
He is also a trustee of the Duke of Edinburgh scheme. As a man who
opened his first business venture at the tender age of 23, Farmer knows
the value of a lucky break - and as the boss of an empire now worth #700
million, he feels able to pass some of those lucky breaks on.