In My Opinion: Brian Coane: Creative for Scotland

THESE are important times for the advertising industry in Scotland. Truly tectonic forces are altering the way we work.

Economically, the business model of our industry is evolving.

The technological pace of change shows no sign of slowing down.

And politically. Well, you really don’t need me to tell you about that.

What have these changes meant for our industry?

There are those that say that advertising is no longer the force that it once was in Scotland.

Reading the Creative Scotland strategy for the Creative Industries, published last year, that’s a conclusion that you might come to. It mentions the word, ‘advertising’, just once.

That’s not a point of view that we should be prepared to accept.

We know advertising can be a powerful force for society.

Scotland was the first place in the UK to introduce a ban on smoking in public places. At the time, research questioned whether it would be a success, suggesting the ban would be flouted. Advertising explained that passive smoking was a killer, not a nuisance, and built confidence that the ban would work. Today, the premature birth rate is lower and fewer children are being admitted to hospital with asthma.

We also know advertising can be a powerful force for our commercial clients.

This is the only country in the world where Coca-Cola is not the undisputed number one soft drink.

Advertising has played a phenomenal part, over many years, in making IRN-BRU Scotland’s best-loved brand.

Successful brands, like IRN-BRU, have a clear sense of what they stand for.

The agenda that I am proposing will give the Institute of Practitioners in Advertising (IPA) for Scotland a similar sense of purpose.

In preparing for this role, I’ve been speaking to people across the industry.

Their feedback has echoed my view that we need to bring a sharper focus to what the IPA for Scotland stands for.

To create an agenda that elevates the status of advertising in Scotland.

To re-assert the value and values of advertising.

We can achieve that by focusing on what makes us stand out.

As an industry, we are driven by our creativity.

Powerful, inspiring, memorable creativity that solves problems, builds connections, shapes brands.

That’s what brings people to this industry. Gets us up in the morning. Sometimes keeps us awake at night.

Scotland is world-renowned for its creativity.

The IPA can harness that creativity for the good of Scotland.

The agenda that I’m proposing is that the IPA is Creative for Scotland.

To make the IPA Creative for Scotland, there are three commitments we are making:

1. To champion advertising’s contribution to the creative industries

2. To spark imagination and innovation amongst our people

3. To attract the next generation of talent.

What do we plan to do to achieve these?

The first commitment is to champion advertising’s contribution to the creative industries in Scotland.

The creative industries sector is recognised as the fastest-growing sector in the UK economy. It contributes an estimated £5.8 billion to the Scottish economy. In Scotland, it employs an estimated 68,000 people. That’s more people than work in the oil industry.

Advertising is a vital driver. We provide the strategic and creative thinking that builds brands and changes behaviour. We are also the industry that commissions the production and distribution of those strategies and ideas. The apps on our phones, the websites we browse, the news and views we read.

Illustrators, photographers, filmmakers; they all benefit directly from advertising.

And the beauty of it is that, unlike oil, our imagination is not a finite resource.

Yet this is a story that is not well told. We must tell it. We must articulate the value we bring. To the Scottish Government, Scottish Enterprise and Creative Scotland.

We must grow our presence amongst the business audience and increase understanding of the contribution of our industry.

To help do that we are going to host an event to coincide with the Turner Prize coming to Glasgow this year. An event to showcase the creativity of the Scottish advertising industry. The creative eyes of the world will be on Glasgow. A city that is rightly proud of its creative reputation. Over the last 20 years, seven winners of the Turner Prize have been from or worked in Glasgow.

While advertising is not art, there is a great deal of overlap.

Just as advertising benefits from cultural creativity, commercial creativity supports many cultural projects.

We will take advantage of this opportunity to raise awareness of advertising being good for Scotland’s economy and for our society.

The second commitment of the agenda to make the IPA Creative for Scotland is to spark imaginations and nurture innovation amongst our people.

It’s important to be clear that, standing here as a ‘suit from an ad agency’, when I say, ‘creativity’, I don’t just mean art direction or copy writing.

I’ve worked with many great strategists, account handlers, buyers and producers.

But I’m very aware that without the creative department our industry wouldn’t be what it is.

As an industry body, we need to build stronger connections with our creative people.

We must increase their involvement with the IPA.

I’ve invited creatives from all agencies to get together on 28th May as a first step to strengthening the creative community within the IPA for Scotland.

And by unleashing some of their creative thinking on the challenges we face, we’ll have a far greater chance of being successful.

Creativity is often stimulated by the meeting of different minds.

When [the late boss of Apple] Steve Jobs designed new headquarters for Pixar, it is said he was very particular about where the toilets were located because he wanted, and I quote, “serendipitous personal encounters”.

Now, I feel that a serendipitous personal encounter around the toilets may mean different things to different people. So, just to avoid any doubt, the point he was making was that bringing together people from different disciplines makes them more collaborative and innovative.

Learning from that example, we are working with Interactive Scotland on CreativeTech events, bringing technical innovators together with creative thinkers to stimulate innovation.

As an industry, we should be boldly collaborative and look to forge links with all the great creativity going on around us.

The third commitment of the agenda to make the IPA Creative for Scotland is to attract the next generation of talent.

Speaking to an art director recently, he told me that when he left school he had two interviews lined up.

One to become an electrician. One to go to art college. The trouble was they were both on the same day at exactly the same time. So he had to choose. He chose to go to art college.

When he was there, he found out that he could get paid for coming up with ideas and making things look pretty because someone from an agency came in to give a talk.

Twenty years ago, I completed an MSc Marketing at Strathclyde University.

Advertising was a competitive but desirable industry to get into, then.

I went back a couple of weeks ago to find out what this year’s graduates thought of working in advertising in Scotland. I was pleased to hear that advertising is still a desirable industry to work in. It chimes with Millennials’ desire to work in a creative environment.

But the power of telling our story was highlighted again when one student told me that they hadn’t considered applying to any Scottish agencies until [my predecessor] Claire Wood inspired her with a presentation on the opportunities there are.

Scotland is home to first-rate academia. We have a number of fantastic art colleges and universities: Glasgow School of Art, Duncan of Jordanstone, Heriot-Watt and Edinburgh are all ranked in the top 20 in the UK.

Next year marks ten years of the MsC in Creative Advertising at Edinburgh Napier University, which the IPA has supported since it was established.

We are going to strengthen those links.

We’re creating a new IPA prize for students studying in Scotland, with categories for marketing, technology and creative.

Attracting more people to start their careers in advertising in Scotland will also help in bringing more business to Scotland over the longer-term.

Knowledge, talent and skills can move across borders more easily than ever before.

The more people who can talk positively about the talent in Scotland, the better.

The more people who say that they got bloody good at what they do by starting here the better the reputation of our industry will be.

As an industry in Scotland, we shouldn’t doubt what we can achieve.

Our advertising around the globe for Scottish Development International helped drive foreign investment into Scotland to its highest level for 16 years in 2014.

First Great Western, the winner of this year’s CIM campaign of the year, was made in Edinburgh. Trivago, one of the world’s leading hotel aggregators, chose to grow in UK from here.

The results were so strong for DeAgostini, the Milan-based partwork publisher, that our media strategy was implemented in Germany, Italy and the USA. The SSE Hydro has just become the second-most popular venue in the world (it was number three, but we recently bumped Madison Square Garden).

The successful global launch of Formula E, the new, eco motor racing formula, was planned from here. We’re raising funds for a worldwide cancer charity that is currently delivering 165 live projects into over 20 different types of cancer, at 109 institutions across the globe.

And if those don’t feel like ‘shooting for the moon’ how about this? We’re working with the Royal Horticultural Society and the UK Space Agency on a top-secret project putting seeds into space.

These inspiring examples are what makes this a great industry to work in.

In becoming chair of the IPA for Scotland I bring two things to the role: a passionate belief in the creative thinking of the people in this industry, but also a sense of realism.

Advertising in Scotland has evolved and has to continue to evolve.

Next year will mark 50 years since the IPA Scotland ‘branch’, as it was called then, was established. Change was the order of the day then as well. There had been a political landslide. Scotland had gone from a majority of people voting Conservative in the 1950s to being ruled by Harold Wilson’s Labour party that received 58 per cent of the vote in the 1965 General Election.

Looking back to the early minutes of meetings, there was a ‘strong recommendation for the branch to be represented at the Computer Feasibility Study Working Party’ (at the Café Royal, in Edinburgh).

And the first meeting concluded with a talk entitled, ‘Out of breath from so much squeezing’, on the ‘general economic climate and on government actions as they affected agencies’.

Political, technological, economic threats faced the industry in 1966. At that time, the IPA established a dedicated presence in Scotland to help respond to those challenges.

The agenda I’m proposing, making the IPA Creative for Scotland, will help equip us for the future.

The three commitments that we will deliver to achieve this agenda are:

1. Championing advertising’s contribution to the creative industries

2. Sparking imagination and innovation amongst our people

3. Attracting the next generation of talent.

By fulfilling these commitments, we will help ensure the long-term health of advertising in Scotland as an industry that is here for good.

Finally, a few thanks.

To [my predecessor] Claire Wood, for her commitment to the IPA over the last two years and her guidance in helping to shape the next two.

The Chairman’s Group in Scotland – Murray Calder, Graham Milne, Stuart Bell, David Isaac and Sera Miller – who I’m very happy to say has agreed to be deputy chair over the next two years.

Sara Robertson and Sonja McLean [at IPA] , who do such a great job, here in Scotland, and have had to put up with my many questions.

Tom Knox [IPA president], Paul Bainsfair [IPA director-general] and the team at the IPA in London for welcoming me into the post and their enthusiastic support.

What a great moment to be taking over from Claire.

Brian Coane – a partner at The Leith Agency – was unveiled last night, May 13 2015, as the new chair of IPA Scotland, succeeding Claire Wood, whose two-year tenure has come to an end. This is a slightly amended version of his inaugural speech.