In the Scottish advertising world, everybody knows your name. It is
a close-knit community where a combination of friendly rivalry and
cut-throat competition means that the ad fraternity is under constant
A mere ripple can swell into a tidal wave, so imagine the commotion
when, five years ago, 1576 became the first breakaway for a generation.
Eighteen months later, the Union caused a similar stir. Only this year
have people started to talk about ’Scotland’s big four agencies’ when
referring to the two newcomers and the more famous agencies from which
they were spawned - Faulds Advertising and the Leith Agency.
1576 went through some serious rites of passage this year. After what
seemed like a charmed relationship, the agency split up with Direct
Line, the lucrative mainstream account that had given it the freedom to
build its creative profile on less profitable accounts. ’It was a
watershed,’ Mark Gorman, one of the three founding partners, says.
’Direct Line was a significant piece of business but the relationship
wasn’t working any more. We resigned it because we put a lot of thought
into our culture. We want to differentiate ourselves from other agencies
by the way we work with our clients.’
The gossips at rival agencies were having a field day, predicting
redundancies and a fall from grace. ’There was a lot of sniping but we
weathered the storm. There are ups and downs in this business,’ adds
Gorman. The agency’s client list now includes The Scotsman, Citilink,
Glen Moray and Glenmorangie, Direct Holidays, Lyons Coffee and the
Scottish Media Group.
Meanwhile, the Union’s drama occurred at the time of its launch. Two of
its founders, Simon Scott and Andrew Lindsay, were the joint creative
directors of Faulds Advertising when the agency won a pencil at D&AD for
its work on BBC Radio Scotland. The accolade looked like it could free
Faulds at last from its ’business-like’ epithet and bring the agency a
creative reputation to match its financial success.
News about the Faulds breakaway was everyone’s favourite topic of
conversation during the first few weeks of 1996. But once the agency was
up and running, the Scottish stars found the marketplace tougher than
they had thought.
’I was surprised locally by how much people wanted us to fail,’ says Ian
McAteer, the Union’s third partner.
There are plenty of other agencies in Scotland which are doing fine but
make few headlines in Campaign. Smarts, Barkers, Strathearn, Marr
Associates, are just a few examples. But of the smaller agencies, it is
1576 and the Union which have raised expectations for an expansion of
Scotland’s Advertising muscle. The Union now has a solid client list
that includes Baxters (which the agency won after a pitch against Bartle
Bogle Hegarty, Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO and the Leith Agency), Standard
Life Bank, the Labour Party, ScotRail, the Scottish Daily Mail and
From the outside, though, it looks like the newcomers have a long way to
go before they reach the UK stature of Faulds and, in particular, the
Leith Agency, which is undoubtedly the standard bearer for Scottish
advertising in the rest of the UK. Despite winning a pan-European launch
for Honda last year, the Leith’s managing director, John Rowley, is
still dissatisfied with the agency’s progress. ’We would like to be more
of a trailblazer,’ he admits. ’We need to demonstrate that Honda was not
just a flash in the pan.’ Predictably, Rowley wants to win business from
or against London agencies and Faulds’ marketing director, Ian Wright,
is just as passionate about the need to play on a larger stage.
’We shouldn’t forget about Scotland but let’s be more ambitious,’ he
says. ’We want to pitch against good agencies regardless of
Part of the momentum for this raid across the border is provided by a
contracting Scottish market. One of the biggest problems faced by
agencies is the loss of clients or potential clients due to an
unprecedented spate of mergers and acquisitions.
Faulds lost the Macallan to Mother in July. Drambuie went to Court
Burkitt & Company after the client decided to go with a global approach
to advertising. Scottish Power’s corporate account, which should surely
be a classic piece of business for any agency north of the border, is
now spending millions on television through Bartle Bogle Hegarty.
Stakis Hotels, a coveted client, was taken over by the Hilton group and
moved its marketing department from Glasgow to Watford. Although the
Stakis staff got the top jobs and the advertising is still handled by
the Morgan Partnership, there is inevitably speculation about how long a
Scottish agency will hold on to the account. Then there’s DX
Communications, a Scottish mobile phone retailer which was recently
taken over by BT. Although the advertising is handled by Coltas in
Leeds, it is yet another example of Scottish marketing muscle beating a
And for that matter, the takeover by Ford of KwikFit, traditionally
Scotland’s biggest account, also leaves a long-term question mark over
the advertising business, which Faulds won this year. If the Bank of
Scotland succeeds in its takeover bid for NatWest, how long before such
a giant piece of business moves south? It’s not just England that is
swiping business from the Scots. Goretex, formerly a Faulds client, went
to McCann-Erickson in Sweden when the company launched a pan-European
’We are already targeting aggressively down south because the market up
here is shrinking,’ McAteer says. ’Our aim is to build a profile up here
and then take that to clients outside Scotland. The Leith has got it
’The Scottish market is not growing,’ Rowley agrees. ’There are no big
spanking new ad budgets. On the whole companies seem to be disappearing
or at least developing greater potential to disappear.’
Three years ago, when the Union and 1576 were starting to blossom, this
problem was not an issue. Business from down south was little more than
a lucky bonus. There was always a ceiling to the Scottish market, but
that only ever affected the outrageously ambitious. ’People said we were
too big for our boots a few years ago,’ Rowley says. ’They all thought,
’What’s wrong with Scotland?’’
But this parochial mentality no longer washes. For 1576, clients like
the Scottish Tourist Board and Glenmorangie, which advertise on both
sides of the border, are the only way to gain respect, while the Union
parades Baxters as its seal of approval. Scottish agencies are
constantly comparing themselves to their southern counterparts. ’It’s
like the Premier League and the First Division,’ McAteer says. ’You have
to have ability in planning and account management as well as creative.
Unless you hire from the best and have worked with the best it is
difficult to become the best. Some Scottish agencies lack
Although 1576 and the Union have convinced competitors that they are
here to stay, they have so far failed to dent the supremacy of Faulds
and the Leith Agency. Of course, the big two have had 15 years to build
their businesses, and neither had dramatic success early on, but the
fact remains that the newcomers have only managed to encroach on the
Just over a year ago, Williams Atkinson Mills, a six-year-old Edinburgh
agency with a respectable track record, went into liquidation and did a
deal with McCann-Erickson in Scotland. Neither agency had been able to
grow at a satisfactory rate. Another agency that is struggling to
maintain its position is the Morgan Partnership, which lost its lynchpin
account, KwikFit, to Faulds in April. ’The market can’t sustain too many
agencies and the one-man-and-his-dog shops are the ones that fall away,’
Adrian Jeffrey, a creative partner at 1576, says.
The problem for all Scottish agencies, with the exception of the Leith,
is a failure to establish a significant creative profile that will
attract the cream of the clients. Both the Union and 1576 were set up by
creatives with strong reputations in Scotland, but both have yet to
produce work that makes a significant impact across the UK.
Faulds, acutely aware of its perceived weakness in the creative
department, hired Billy Mawhinney from Euro RSCG Wnek Gosper at the
start of this year and restructured into five groups which, despite
initial sniggering from local rivals, has resulted in it strengthening
its appeal to potential and existing clients.
But apart from a freshening up of the KwikFit Fitters campaign,
Mawhinney has not yet turned around the agency’s reputation. Rivals
claim that Faulds squandered the creative opportunity offered by the
launch of the Ultimo bra. Although the Ultimo got a lot of press, the
advertising - based on the idea that the Ultimo would put plastic
surgeons out of business - was less high profile despite appearing in
national newspapers and magazines.
The Leith Agency is still bringing home most of the awards for Scotland
and its rival agencies north of the border are envious of this
consistent creative success. ’The Leith stands out,’ Mc-Ateer says. ’It
has maintained an extremely strong creative brand. It is healthy and
enviable.’ 1576, meanwhile, is keen to be compared to the Leith. ’We see
ourselves as a baby Leith while the Union is a baby Faulds,’ Jeffrey
The ’chip shop’ mentality is frustrating everyone. All the agencies are
critical of the predominance of smaller clients at local awards
’If we want to be taken seriously we have to be seen to do work for
proper clients,’ Wright says.
At the Scottish Advertising Awards, held at the end of October, many of
the big awards went to some of those chip shop clients, including a
Chinese laundry, a joke shop, Seafield Coachworks and City Couriers. To
be fair, Scottish Widows, Highland Spring and the Health Education Board
of Scotland also made appearances on the winners’ rostrum. Irn-Bru was
also represented, but how long can one soft drink campaign fly the flag
for Scottish creativity?
The Bridge’s campaign for HEBS has been another big creative winner
north of the border. The agency, which bought itself out from the Lopex
group in 1997, has been gaining respect among its peers but is not yet
worrying about the limitations of the market. ’The more awards we win
the more lists we get on,’ its managing director, Brian Crook, says
simply. The agency is working extensively with the Daily Express and the
Daily Star, both based in London, and claims that geographical distance
is no barrier to creating the fast turnaround work that newspapers
require. ’We had a brief on Monday and the ad was on air by Friday. We
have made over 50 ads this year,’ Crook says.
Despite the relative success stories of 1576, the Union and the Bridge,
Scotland is in constant danger of saturation. The Newcastle-based
agency, Yellow M, has opened in Edinburgh with some success, but there
is always a danger that a newcomer will only succeed at the expense of
an old timer.
For the most part, 1999 has been a quiet year in Scotland, with few
dramatic account moves. As if to prove the point, people are still
talking about Leith’s Honda win of last year and even Faulds’ British
Midland win of 1995 is still galvanising the Scots into hoping they can
succeed on the UK stage.
Gorman, however, is fed up with the ’London-centric’ attitude. ’If you
do a good job you win business,’ he says emphatically.