Thought Leadership

Focus on Edinburgh – Charlotte Bell, Managing Director of Carat Edinburgh

Tom Holmes

Founder & Chairman


Following our recent feature City Brand Leaders – Edinburgh, we interviewed a select group of leaders from Edinburgh’s top agencies to help focus on the Edinburgh brand and consider their own agency vision.

Creativebrief Founder & Chairman Tom Holmes talks to Charlotte Bell, Managing Director of Carat Edinburgh

Charlotte Bell, Carat Edinburgh

TH: What does the Edinburgh brand stand for?

CB: The Edinburgh brand is ‘Inspiring Capital’. It represents the invention and creativity that has a long tradition here, the diversity and beauty.  It’s a small place that punches well above its weight on the international stage.  These elements are very much a true reflection of what Edinburgh really is but a few of the city’s brand values are still work in progress I would say.  ‘Understated elegance’ for example, whilst it is to some extent this is a hard one to believe when you walk along Princes Street to the tune of the bagpipes coming from the plethora of ‘Scottish shops’ that have cropped up selling nothing but tat!  Head to the New Town to experience Edinburgh’s true understated elegance.  Or take another key value ‘sincere warmth’, it’s absolutely true that you’ll get a much warmer welcome in Edinburgh than you will in any city south of Manchester but it can be a little snobby – perhaps we should take some lessons in warmth from our Glasgow neighbours.

TH: How do you think Edinburgh should position itself?

CB: I think Edinburgh has got it pretty much right except it should drop the ‘sincere warmth’ as it doesn’t need it and the rest of Scotland does that better.  It is steeped in history which makes it what it is but we have to be careful that this doesn’t come across as old fashioned because it is far from that. ‘Anchored in the past but inventing the future’ is perhaps a more appropriate description.

TH: Are the city’s brand values reflected in your own agency culture?

CB:To some extent yes.  We have a long and pioneering tradition launching in 1991 as Feather Brooksbank and rapidly becoming the largest and leading media agency in Scotland.  That heritage is still here but we are now embracing and creating the future as Carat.  Only a quarter of our people are actually from Edinburgh, which is fairly reflective of the Edinburgh population, they’re here because they want to be, because Edinburgh is a fantastic place to live and Carat is a fantastic place to work.  This gives us a great diversity, many different personalities with diverse yet complimentary skills.  Perhaps the main characteristic of Carat Edinburgh which you won’t see in the city’s brand values is our steely grit and determination – the type that you see in the UK’s more industrial cities.

TH: Does being based in Edinburgh influence your creative output? If so, how?

CB:There’s no doubt that the city has a history of innovation and creativity, it hosts the most famous arts festival in the world, the telephone was invented by an Edinburgh man and Harry Potter was written here, so there must be something in this.  Perhaps the quality of life also makes a difference; the city has consistently been voted one of the best places to live in the numerous surveys.  We have the medieval history of the old town and the Georgian splendour of the new town to inspire us, yet drive just a few miles one way and we have stunning beeches and a few miles in the other direction are the wilds of the Pentland Hills.  However, the main driver of our creativity is the quality of our people, the fact that we’re a global network helps us to attract the highest calibre of talent and the fact that we are from diverse backgrounds drives even greater creativity.  Being in Edinburgh doesn’t make people more creative but being here does play a helping hand in attracting creative talent.

TH: What makes your agency offer different?

CB:I like to call it ‘best of both worlds’.  We’re part of a major global network bringing the benefits of scale (buying, tools, research, access to global planning), whilst at the same time delivering exceptional client service with an experienced and senior team who have a real passion for media and for the brands with which they work.  We have a small agency culture which is creative, passionate and nimble with the resource and buying power of a large agency network.

TH: Why should clients consider sourcing work from Edinburgh agencies?

CB: Clients shouldn’t consider sourcing work from Edinburgh just because it’s Edinburgh. 

Clients should source work from agencies who best meet their needs wherever they are based.  For those clients based outside of Scotland, I’d encourage you to take a look at what Edinburgh has to offer, we do have some extraordinary talent.  Geographic distance should never be a barrier; in fact some of our most successful relationships have been with clients based not only outside Scotland but outside of the UK.

Charlotte Bell, Carat Edinburgh

TH: What sort of clients do you want to attract?

CB: Brave ones, clients who aren’t afraid to take a few risks, to try new things.  Our world is changing beyond all recognition and at a faster pace than ever so if you wait for things to be tried and tested you will miss the boat.

TH: What work have you done recently makes you really proud?

CB:The work that makes me proudest falls into two categories: campaigns that deliver beyond all expectations and work we do that really pushes beyond the limits of traditional media planning and buying – at Carat we call this ‘Redefining Media’. In the former category for example is our work with Peoples Postcode Lottery where a new TV strategy helped increase ticket sales by 38% and at the same time halved cost per acquisition.  Also our work with Safer Scotland to reduce accidents on country roads using a multimedia campaign including live cinema ads to target young men is estimated to have saved the Scottish Economy £5million in dealing with fatalities, a return on investment of £15.11 for every pound spent.  In the ‘Redefining Media’ category we have just done a blogger outreach campaign for partworks client DeAgostini for a very specialist model building target audience.  We now have bloggers waxing lyrical about the Sovereign of the Seas product as they build the ship.  For the Scottish Government we have delivered return on investment models for 11 different campaigns cutting through the complexities of evaluating behaviour change marketing to estimate the numbers of individuals changing their behaviour as a result of the campaign and the financial value of this to the Scottish economy.

TH: What Scottish brands do you most admire and why? 

CB:  Too many Scottish brands haven’t succeeded outside of Scotland. The ones I admire the most have gone global.  Take Scotch whisky for example, whilst not technically a brand, its world renowned.  It’s a premium product that has grown significantly in a global downturn and at the same time the value of each bottle exported has risen by 42%. They’ve done this by focusing on the high growth economies of the world and in doing so have brought over £4billion to the Scottish economy.

TH: Are there any local marketers who have inspired you?

CB:I’m not the type of person who is inspired by other marketers (or at least who admits to it or names names), we have some amazing local talent whose work I respect and admire.

TH: What business would you most like to win?

CB:I’m also not in the business of broadcasting our new business prospect list. However, I think Scottish agencies can learn a lot from the Scotch whisky story; they need to stop complaining about big Scottish brands looking outside of Scotland for agencies and think bigger and bring new national and international business to Scotland – that’s certainly my goal, as well as supporting entrepreneurial growth businesses in Scotland.

TH: Thanks Charlotte.

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