Andrew Dunn of Maxus: why Scotland and its agencies can have a bright post-Brexit future

Scotland’s media market, like all others globally, has been going through a period of massive transformation. The differences are strikingly clear to me now as I return after a seven-year hiatus spent working in Ireland.

Digital, as we all know, is the key driver of this change, having fundamentally altered how businesses market themselves and their products. The shift to digital and mobile has affected all parts of all media, with data enabling us to plan and approach our work in a very different manner.

Despite the opportunities and cost efficiencies of a flexible approach to media investment underpinned by data and technology, not a single media agency network has set up shop in Scotland for over a decade. Several media agencies have expanded their UK regional network, growing their presence outside London, but without offering a distinct Scottish proposition.

It is fair to say that media agency presence in Scotland is still fairly low, especially when compared to Ireland, which is serviced by ten network media agencies, local operators and the four main buying/trading groups.

Media also has a tendency (and not just in Scotland!) to try and dominate the whole process with all-encompassing full service solutions.

Collaboration between media and creative agencies is no longer a nice to have, but an absolute necessity. Brands need strong creative and content to win attention, but it won’t succeed unless underpinned by intelligent data-driven planning and continually measured and monitored for effectiveness.

The successful growth of strong independent creative agencies in Scotland – Whitespace, Equator and Dog Digital to name three – shows the potential for agencies that are willing to embrace a collaborative way of working.

A vibrant, buoyant market

While Scotland’s media market hasn’t seen a new entrant for some time the thriving, vibrant businesses it exists to service continue to develop.

Edinburgh in particular has become an important tech hub with ongoing development and investment in this area – part of the reason Maxus Scotland has chosen to headquarter itself here.

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Scotland has a distinctive four-year higher education system focused heavily on science and technology, and its capital is home to data-centric businesses such as travel search specialist Skyscanner, fantasy sports app Fanduel and major electronic games operators such as Northstar.

Edinburgh also hosts the international Turing Festival, which has staked its place firmly on the digital industry calendar.

Glass half full

These are still very early and uncertain days in the aftermath of June’s EU Referendum and Scottish business has expressed its concerns around the impact of a Brexit on their trade (source: Fraser of Allande). But positively, Brexit has put the business focus squarely on internal investment and the strength of the Scottish economy. Also, the silver lining of a UK exit from Europe for Scotland is that we have a Plan B.

The promise of an alternative to leaving Europe, whether that entails full independence or otherwise is an alluring prospect for many clients, particularly financial businesses, and for marketing and media talent considering a return to their heartland.

In fact, the traditional drain of clients, resource and talent southwards is already showing some signs of reversing. One local recruitment agency I am in contact with has noticed increased interest from London-based marketing talent in positions in Scotland since the Brexit result, something I have noticed in personal discussions also.

Media servicing for a new era

Scotland has its own distinct consumer and a separate media market, which I firmly believe requires a distinct style of servicing and expertise.

Nationwide agencies operating in Scotland compete across the UK and are looking to win business wherever it is, as a necessity. The danger for smaller clients is that they may get lost in the mix – a risk that disappears when serviced effectively by senior management and local specialists on the ground.

Marketers urgently need a new type of agency that is flexible and designed for a landscape that has changed irrevocably. Change calls for an accurate, technology-centred, data-driven approach that shares insights across channels while remaining grounded in simple, straightforward client solutions. This is a new dawn for business in Scotland and that future should be exceedingly bright.

unnamed-1Andew Dunn is managing director of Maxus Scotland.

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