THE LEITH AGENCY spend junk-food giants by spoofing their big-dollar lines. An anti-smoking campaign for the same client provoked 140,000 people to cali a helpline provided for ihe purpose. All along, Denholm has sought to nurture, protect, and extend the agency's creative reputation. He knows the busi ness is built on the ability of its creative department-current- ly twelve strong—and of its creative directorship. That post is lilled and indeed overllows with the enthusiasm, skills, and experience of Jim Downie—held by many to be one of the top art directors in Britain—and described by Campaign when he moved to Leith's in 1989, as "the creative colossus of the Scottish advertising scene." At the breakaway shop at the time, Rodger Slanier-creative director lor a season yet—had heen amused by the irony of hiring his oíd boss. Yet Downie had made that inevitable move reluctantly. Just as he had always resisted the lure of London, for the stability of his wife and two daughlers. As creative director of Hall Advertising, he was clearly pre- pared to go down with an overburdened ship. He and every- one else knew how strongly he had become identified, not to say intertwined, with the success of what had become a leg- end in the annals of British advertising. Founded in 1962 by Bill Hall (llave you noticed how great admen are often called Bill?), it was bought írom his widow in 1969 by three men who later sold out to two brothers called Saatchi Saatchi. Downie joined in 1972 when it was billing £180,000. With his talents and his magic markers, he helped to take it to where it was billing tens of millions sterling as Scotland's largest agency. He took it proudly onto the podium at the Designers Art Directors' awards ceremonies, then the only agency oul- side London to win Lou Klein's yellow pencils. He took it badly when daily he watched the legend trashed by the voracious greed of the 1980's, by "restructuring," and remote-control management. Understandable when you count the 17 years he gave to huild that greatest provincial agency ever, which sadly is no more. He takes pride still when he recounts the many people in British advertising who spent time with him atthe hallowed Hall's. Yet the "colossus" started out very humbly as a litho-artist's apprentice with the printers' Waddie's. "The íirst year," Downie can recall, "all 1 did was make the tea, and change people's water-jars...and get them sandwiches, and keep the place tidy...and lile artwork." rhe lifth and linal year he spent studying graphic design at Edinhurgh College ol Art on an Andrew Grant scholarship. "What you were doing was 'freeing-up' after you had learnt all the rules." He worked as a designer in the print industry before quitling to join McCallum Advertising (then the best place creatively) as an art director in 1969. His beginning in the advertising business was strange and auspicious. He remembers he went for the interview on a Friday afternoon with McCallum's creative director Archie Sinclair, who telephoned .lim's mum before Jim got home, telling her to tell him he'd got the job. Yet that night, before he got home himself, Sinclair, coming back through fog from a gig playing jazz, was killed in an accident. "When l read about it in the newspaper the next day I was devastat- ed,Downie was quoted in a 1992 prolile in Tlie Scotsman. He confessed to me, "I would never have been in advertis ing if it hadn't been for him." What would Archie Sinclair make of his young discovery, and the enterprise that is The Leith Agency? Since Downie carne on board, exciting developments have taken place. Denholm, his fellow-directors, and non-executive chairman Roger Newton have placed The Leith Agency under the umbrella of the Silvermills Group, which consists of lour companies, each of them with their own offices, their own leadership, and the expeclation that they will generale their own business, while being able to pool talent and resources to service clients held in common. Administration is centralized under a financial director, Campbell Shirlaw. (Left) Pete Mili, Founding Partner and Sénior Copywrlter. (Right) John Denholm, Founding Partner and Managing Director. This allows typographer Steve Ford, who runs artwork service Department S, to keep abreast of new technology, which instead of being threatening, he finds thrilling. it enables Gary Smith and Jan Young, whose direct-marketing company One-to-One joined the group in 1990, to cut a bigger slice of the reputed £17 million Scottish direct-response market. And it suits graphic designer Ian Mcllroy, who in 1992 left his cumbersome design consultancy Mcllroy Coates to return to creating work in the quiet, intimate context of EH6, named after the zip-code. "There are eight people here," Mcllroy tells me, "of which five are designers." What attract- ed him? "The whole philosophy," he answers, "with The Leith Agency fiercely maintaining its independence. Also the way they thought about the work—the quality of the work— that was what allracted me. And Jim Downie." Creative director Downie is currently involved in putting Leith on the global Communications rnap, having sought to network with a number of agencies worldwide. Meanwhile, managing director Denholm will be returning to Harvard to further expand his horizons: "Until the Harvard course, we'd been afraid that a lot of our success might have been a combination of luck and 'muddling-through'," admits Denholm in his rnodest office, "but in fact I discovered we were doing a few things right in Edinhurgh, after all." 16 h

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