The green argument

Pete, Helen and I (Blonde MD & Blonde Group AD) were down in Stratford-upon-Avon recently and in trying to make conversation with our grumpy taxi driver, we established that he didn’t quite approve of our fleeting visit (two hour meeting) to see a client. I can see his point of view, return air travel, car travel and rail travel, plus an overnight visit for one two-hour meeting. Seems a tad extravagant right? Well yes I guess so, but that’s the downside of working in Scotland, we have to work three times as hard as any agency on the other side of the border. If we didn’t make the effort and go the extra several hundred miles, clients would easily get distracted a agency closer to home. And this also makes sense, it’s easier to build richer, deeper relationships locally.

It’s not the first time I’ve had someone tut, tut at me for flying up and down the country by air travel. “Can’t you use video conferencing?” friends argue and yes, in theory we could. The trouble is… that although we now have a million and different ways to communicate with each other…. most of us still prefer face-to-face. Since competition is huge for agencies and the budgets significant for clients, nobody actually wants the compromise of technology matchmaking humans. I appreciate the argument that people fall in love online, they even marry online connections, but real trust and rapport takes a lot more real-world investment.

Every Scottish agency I’ve worked for has worked extremely hard to keep its national clients. It would be great to have clients who were more mindful of our physical journeys (not to mention the mental journeys that red-eye flights inflict), but we work in a highly competitive service industry and Scotland is a finite market. Any company in Scotland needs business beyond the border to maintain and develop growth.

Blonde has a national focus, but the majority of its human IP is firmly rooted in Scotland (even with an office in London). We’re up here because we like the quality of life that you can’t get in London (and I have lived there). Scottish agencies are so self-conscious about appearing Scottish, the first thing we do when profit hits is open up in London. It’s important to be at the hub of “where it’s at”, but it’s also important to maintain an informed, relevant, perspective and although we have the costs of travelling to London, we don’t suffer the expense of living a London life.

Have also been defending the argument of anti-green consumers, arguing that “Green” is a middle-class value that an increasing number of consumers can’t afford. Perhaps in other countries, life is made easier for green consumers, but in the UK, being green is often a bit of a mission. Whether it’s buying fish-friendly toilet cleaner, recycling our weekly waste, getting the train or encouraging recycling at work, such activities often cost a premium and take a considerable amount of effort to organise. I’m not saying we shouldn’t bother – far from it(!), but solve the economic problems first and then jump on a soap-box.