Edinburgh’s marketing and communications industry has undergone a step change in recent years.
Acquisitions, mergers and joint projects have altered the shape of the industry skyline. While towering independent groups have invested in the market to complement the sprawl of detached agencies, the level of investment in an an Edinburgh pied-à-terre by international networks has perhaps dropped. A number of new builds are also adding to the the marketplace, adding their fresh perspective to the cityscape.
PR, digital and below-the-line disciplines continue to boom in the city, while the traditional above-the-line advertising agencies are forced to commit to new disciplines in order to retain and attract business. Step back in time just three or four years and the landscape of Edinburgh’s marketing would be barely recognisable.
1576? No more. In its place are Hush and Mightysmall. Arc Worldwide? Withdrawn from the Scottish capital. Citigate Smarts? Well, it changed to IAS Smarts. Actually, wait a minute, it’s now split into IAS, Smarts and The Gate Worldwide. What was Navigator is now Tangible. And Story has been snapped up by the The Mission Group. Which also brought on board the RLA group... which subsequently pulled its Edinburgh presence. Phew. Deep breath. And that’s only scratching the surface of the changes the Edinburgh marketing landscape has been through in the last 12 months.
These are changed days indeed – in a very short space of time too. Yet each marketing discipline continues to be represented by high quality agencies within the city’s boundaries.
Angela Casey, managing director of Porter Novelli’s Edinburgh office likens the industry in the city as similar to a “lava lamp” with new small firms forming, joining up with others and then breaking away again.
“There is constant movement within the sector,” continues Casey, “this must indicate a strength, although it is sometimes hard to keep up to speed. There is a particular strength in the creative businesses which continues to congregate in the Leith area, which is definitely the place to be for advertising and design. Edinburgh is the ultimate networking business centre, so many people work with people they know and we are seeing more tie-ups all the time, whether official or informal.”
According to Ian Kirby, design director at Lewis Creative Consultants, one of Edinburgh’s longest running marketing agencies, each marketing discipline within the city remains as strong as ever, with only the tools at a marketers disposal having changed in recent times.
“The design and thinking is still just as important and the creativity in many cases even more so; it is only the tools at the marketeers’ disposal that are different. Outside the B2B environment, the same need to react quickly and the ability to talk to customers out with the usual working hours is just as common and to do so in a one-to-one manner is totally evident.” Integration has been a trend that most of the agencies have attempted to introduce in recent years, bringing in employees with varying backgrounds, so much so that many marketing companies have been reluctant to be pigeonholed as specilialising in one specific sector. It is no longer easy to find a pure advertising agency, or an agency willing to describe itself as one.
“The shift to integrated one-stop-shop services seems to be going through the cycle at the moment, mainly in response to market demand,” says Nora Senior, managing director of Weber Shandwick. “Clients are looking for value for money integrated campaigns, particularly in the public sector. More web-based campaigns are being covered in marketing programmes for clients but I do not believe this is Edinburgh’s core strength. Advertising and media planning are strong. Good design agencies and creative marketing agencies such as Story are making a real mark.”
Senior continues: “In terms of PR, there is some consolidation in the industry. While there was an influx of UK PR consultancy names heading north of the border two years ago, this has petered out. There remains a concentration of advertising agencies with some of these expanding to cover other marketing disciplines such as PR and design.”
But that is true across the world, not simply in Edinburgh alone. Helen Hourston, managing director of The Gate, Edinburgh certainly believes this, and says that Edinburgh continues to be an attractive city in which to live and work.
“Edinburgh offers variety, it offers an opportunity to work on some major brands with some interesting clients. Obviously there is a cultural side of it where generally people in the agencies, on the whole, get along, and there is more of a family feel to it.
“Socially that has an impact too. It’s a smaller city, and lifestyle-wise Edinburgh is always highly ranked in these surveys, as is Glasgow. As a place to live, it’s great,” says Hourston who also claims that the CV’s she has received in recent months have risen in terms of quality of candidate.
Alongside high standards in marketing, Graham Atha, director of The Marketing Society, Scotland believes that international businesses can utilise and be attracted to the cities through the conference facilities it is home to.
“Edinburgh has become a centre of excellence for world class events and conferences,” states Atha. “The Festival and Hogmanay are two obvious examples. And there is greater expertise in event marketing being built around this. I also think those cottage industry marketing services disciplines where you can operate from home such as copywriting and web design thrive in cities where people love to live.”
Meanwhile, the Scottish Government, based in Edinburgh, has become all the more important to the industry, not simply because it is now one of the largest pieces of business, open to all to apply to get on its roster, but also potentially in investing finance into the development of business.
Mark Gorman launched a campaign through the Scottish Marketing Communications Action Group in order to grow the marketing community into a stronger industry to attract bigger and better clients to the city and Scotland as a whole.
The group has already lobbied the Parliament in Edinburgh.
“We are trying to get the Government to see that this is an industry that needs its investment and support. That needs to be a competitive and focused effort. We will plough our own furrow regardless and we will have good years and bad years, good weeks and bad weeks and good days and bad days. But we would like to see the Government recognise that this industry has real potential and is worthy of investment, like is done in Copenhagen, for example, which has become a real world leader in marketing services,” explains Gorman.
Such investment would surely only boost Edinburgh’s claim to be the UK’s creative capital outside of London, something it could easily argue only a few years ago.
“It could claim that if we had more confidence within ourselves,” admits Hourston. “I’d say that ten years ago we were the second creative capital in the UK but I think that we’ve left a little bit of that behind. I genuinely believe that it is starting to build back up again and we are working our way back towards that position across several disciplines.”
Grant Macintosh, promotions director, Brand Revelation, agrees: “In our own office we have noticed a discernable shift with London-based consultancies and brands being much more at ease with campaigns being run from Edinburgh. Personally speaking, we see this not only being attributed to our service provision but also to Edinburgh being clearly seen as the UK’s creative capital outside of London.
“Edinburgh’s thriving and innovative Arts centres, Festivals and the creative hotchpotch of talent also encourages a stronger desire for brands and services to be based and promoted within Edinburgh.”
Investment in marketing the industry internationally is joined by the development of a marketing bureau for Edinburgh, similar to what has been created in Glasgow – which has enjoyed the successes of Glasgow: Scotland with Style.
Councillor Tom Buchannan, economic development leader for Edinburgh City Council, has led the way in developing the bureau since his election last year, with a report having already been completed.
It now indeed seems as though he will be successful in launching the bureau in the near future and will no doubt need the marketing community within the city to advise and maintain close links in order that it become a success.
With this rate of change, who knows what the next few years will bring for the city’s marketing community. But with the Government roster announcement at the end of the year expected to make significant impact on the future of agencies, things will continue to change a pace. And the city will, no doubt, continue to build its already strong creative reputation