SCOTLAND: Loyal Scots - Karen Yates profiles four leading lights in Scotland’s media landscape and discovers how they reached the top of their professions

GERRY FARRELL - Creative director, the Leith Agency

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 -

a business.

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.


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