James King. RIP. Scottish Advertising is worse off today.

James King worked with me at Hall Advertising in the 1980′s.

He was fabulous.

Very bright, very amusing, great fun.

He’d come to Scotland after a glittering career in London but never rubbed it in your face.

He was just, you know, James.

I was (nearly) doing some work for him a couple of years ago but it never came off and so I was shocked when I read today of his death after suffering a brain tumour.

His wife, Katie, is well known, and much loved, as the receptionist at The Union and she is one of the most delightful people you could ever hope to meet.  My sincerest condolences go out to her as she will be absolutely devastated.

I have copied his obituary from The Herald for those of you that knew him and who would like to see what they had to say about his latter career in the rail industry where he was extremely highly regarded.

Rail expert, business strategist and marketing consultant

Born May 25 1951: Died June 12 2011

James Archibald King, who has died aged 60, was best known as the Scottish voice of rail passengers. As the Scottish board member of the national body Passenger Focus, he frequently appeared on television, radio and in the press delivering authoritative comment and cogent analysis of all issues relating to Scotland’s railways, a subject close to his heart.

Despite being diagnosed with a brain tumour last year, he was reappointed to this post for a second term. This was a tribute to his success and effectiveness in continually pushing for better services and facilities for rail travellers and gave him immense satisfaction. (ScotRail bosses may miss his early morning calls from North Berwick station when Mr King arrived to find his regular service to Waverley was not running on schedule.) Part of his responsibilities included membership of the British Transport Police Authority.

He grew up in Lasswade, the son of John Howard King, of the family’s Edinburgh-based brewery Campbell, Hope & King and Margaret Whyte Bannatyne, the daughter of a Tighnabruaich boatbuilder. Educated at Lasswade Primary and Melville College, he obtained a BA in economics and marketing from Strathclyde University before heading to London in 1972 for the bright lights of the advertising industry.

After seven years working on accounts such as the British Army, British Caledonian and Volvo, he returned to Scotland as business development director at Hall Advertising, later opening an Edinburgh office for the global agency Ogilvy & Mather.

After another spell in the south handling marketing and business development projects with business consultancies Oasis and Sybase and travelling extensively, he founded Marketing Principals International in 1996, working with a wide range of growth companies supported by Scottish Enterprise. During that time he also developed a marketing and branding strategy for the Falkland Islands, travelling to the South Atlantic several times.

His consuming passion remained the railways, and steam engines in particular. His was a familiar face on weekend steam excursions, and his house groaned with railway memorabilia. He was a Scottish Railway Preservation Society stalwart.

Highly focused and organised, he always believed in total professionalism. Warm and humorous, he was sparkling company and a loyal friend to a remarkably wide circle of people. Though his health was never robust – he survived two brain tumours in his 20s – he enjoyed a wide range of sporting interests including car rallying, sailing, skiing and shooting. He was also a connoisseur of fine wines and, having started a wine business while in London, still claims the UK record for the number of wine cases to be squeezed into a VW Golf: 32.

His first marriage, to Mandy Ferrand, ended in divorce. For the past 28 years he was married to Katharine (Katie) McCall, whom he met at Hall Advertising and who was the love of his life. Before moving to East Lothian, the Kings lived in Helensburgh and Edinburgh. Though they never had children of their own, James King was an enthusiastic godparent several times over and their home was never without at least two much-indulged cats.

Always a committed Christian, his faith steadily became more central and he was an elder at St Andrew Blackadder Church of Scotland in North Berwick. Even when diagnosed with his final illness, he faced this trial with characteristic fortitude and good humour, cheerfully pinging messages to all and sundry from his beloved Blackberry.

A service of Thanksgiving will be held at St. Andrew Blackadder Church, High Street, North Berwick on Friday 1st July at 2.30 pm, to which all family, friends and colleagues are invited. Donations, if desired to The Edington Cottage Hospital and The Railway Children.

Plagiarism or inspiration?

I went to the British Art Show at GoMA last week.  Not that brilliant to be totally honest.  Mostly pretty pretentious guff.

I saw this painting by Milena Dragicevic.

Two days later I picked up a copy of Shortlist with an ad for Philips.

Look familiar?

How to bow out with dignity.

My good friend Guy Robertson saw his business go bust after 25 years in the saddle last week.

This happens a lot in this industry but usually the vanquished faces a barrage of abuse and leaves with bad feelings all round for suppliers and staff.

Typically the business owner is full of vitriol and blame. Not Guy. This is how he said his final hurrah and I think it deserves a wider audience so that people can see the dignity, decency and wit with which Guy made his final bow (for now)

Good luck in the future mate. You deserve it….

Warm felicitations from the West End of Glesga,

A sense of self-respect, vanishing pride or perhaps plain bloody ego moved me to drop a note to a few of the many friends I have made in the Scottish Ad Industry and some of the more recent acquaintances I’ve made throughout the UK via the IPA. Sadly it’s to report the demise of GRP, the advertising and design business I started back in 1986 (remember those hedonistic and heady email-free days of full commission, meaty mark-ups and boozy lunches?)and which my Partners and I ran pretty successfully for more than 23 out of the next 25 years.

The past year or so has been a very stressful time, both emotionally and financially, so in some ways it’s a relief now I’ve brought it to a head by making the decision to wind down the Partnership. I guess the cracks started at the beginning of the global recession in December 2008 when we lost the Toyota Dealer Advertising business, an account that contributed more than 60% of our income at that point. We made the mistake, easily identified in hindsight if not at the time, of not cutting costs deeply or quickly enough and allowed our hearts to rule our heads when it came to reducing staff numbers. As everyone knows the general business climate continued to decline and despite GRP’s successful transition to Digital, which included winning accounts such as Highland Spring, we couldn’t achieve the profit levels needed to exceed our overheads, tied as we are to the building we bought back in 2005 and which is now too big and too expensive.

With the Bank seeking to down-value the building to the point at which our £450k equity had all but disappeared we took the decision to enter a Trust Deed before we reached the point at which a third party may have sought to sequestrate us.

As a Partnership my 2 Partners and I have unlimited liability (probably our other significant error!) so it has been important to manage the wind-up in a professional, honest and transparent manner and to minimise the effect on staff, suppliers and clients.

This process is happening as I write and I remain hopeful that the majority of the debt can be repaid without recourse to what’s left of my personal assets!! The building will have to be sold and given the commercial property market right now I’m not betting on a surplus after RBS get their claws into it! Meantime I have formed a new company in the name of Guy Robertson Advertising Ltd and happily I’m starting with the support of many of my clients at GRP. So thanks for reading my rambles and apologies if it comes across as somewhat self-indulgent, I guess that’s because it is!

I’m a pro blogger

with thanks to Hugh

Confidentiality doesn’t allow me to reveal for whom, but I was recently approached about writing a B2B blog for a client and having made a proposal have just been accepted, so, although I have written several websites I am now a fully qualified professional blogger.

To say I’m delighted would be an understatement.