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Why Scotland’s oldest agencies, Lewis and Tayburn, have joined forces


By Richard Draycott, Associate Editor

May 24, 2024 | 6 min read

Scotland’s newest kid on the marketing block may only have been registered with Companies House in February, but the new group already has a 50-year track record.

Limitless Innovations Group

Stewart, Simpson and Lewis of Limitless Innovations group

Scotland’s longest-standing agencies, Lewis and Tayburn – agencies that opened their doors in 1973 and 1979, respectively – have come together under the banner of the Limitless Innovations Group, Lewis having acquired Tayburn in a six-figure cash and equity deal last week.

David Lewis, the MD at Lewis, along with Richard Simpson and Malcolm Stewart, joint MDs at Tayburn, sat down with The Drum to explain the deal, which came about after a throw-away “we should work together more” comment at an Edinburgh networking event in 2020.

“After that comment, Richard and Malcolm would get in touch and say, ‘We have an opportunity, but it’s not for us. Do you want to look at it and vice-versa?” says Lewis. “Eventually, we began talking about whether there was more to this loose arrangement. Last year, we got into more detail about what a deal could look like for us all. We did deep dives into each other’s businesses and reached the point where we all felt we could get a deal over the line.”

Legal papers were signed on April 26 and Limitless Innovations Group was formed. Early discussions decided that retaining both agency brands operating under separate P&Ls was the best way forward. As Lewis says, you don’t throw away over 100 years of combined brand heritage without damn good reason. Nothing was broken here.

“This is not just about doing a deal, money moving hands and anyone disappearing off into the sunset. It is about bringing the best of what we’ve delivered for 45 or 50 years. It’s about making sure that we offer something valuable and we think there’s a valuable offer here now at Lewis and Tayburn for current and future clients and brands.”

Stewart adds: “There are no earn-outs; it’s all ongoing. This is a chance to build something going forward rather than sitting around for a couple of months and then us disappearing.”

As MDs of long-established businesses, not established by themselves (Lewis was founded by Ray Lewis and Tayburn by Erick Davidson), Simpson says they are merely “holding the jerseys.”

“This is a proud legacy to uphold and makes me feel even more strongly that I need to look after the Tayburn jersey. With that in mind, I believe that our decision to join forces with Lewis will create an abundance of opportunities for our team to develop their expertise further, create resilience in the face of the adversity our industry faces and work effectively together with our clients, ensuring that we are at the heart of their businesses.”

For Simpson, the new offer is compelling, with Tayburn offering best-in-class design and brand strategy work for global clients such as Heineken, Prince’s Foods and Pet’s Choice, while Lewis brings creative and digital expertise to the table, working with long-term clients including Santander, Whyte & Mackay, Scottish Power and National Museums of Scotland.

“There’s very little overlap,” he says. “It’s all very complementary, so there’ll be no consolidation here. There’s a great opportunity for our colleagues to develop and hone their expertise. And it’s the same for our clients as well. There are no conflicts of interest, so we can continue to operate at the heart of their businesses and the intention is to get out and win some new ones as well.”

We live in an age where marketing agency groups abound – both big and small, generalist and specialist – and with a name like Limitless, is this perhaps just the beginning of what could become a bigger marketing group? Already Lewis is operating a fast-turnaround marketing collateral offer within Lewis called Always Real, which will be part of the group, albeit not as a standalone agency at present.

Lewis says: “One of the things that we first discussed back in the early stages is what areas do we really want to work in and what expertise do we have and don’t have? What are the things that we’re being asked for by our clients that maybe we should bring in [to the group]? We were talking about film the other day and PR and we are talking about social as a standalone entity. We’ll be putting Lewis and Tayburn first, but the options now are limitless.”

Much like characters such as Vince Taylor of Hall Advertising, Jim Faulds of Faulds and John Denholm of The Leith Agency were the stalwarts and guardians of Scottish marketing during the heady 80s and 90s, Lewis, Simpson and Stewart are their modern-day equivalents; highly experienced marketers leading businesses and delivering rock-solid strategic, creative and digital work for national and global brands.

So, what’s the aim of the game for Limitless Innovations Group?

“We want to make sure our clients love working with us; that’s the only piece for us. Now we’ve got an offering they love and we’ve got a way of doing things that they want to be part of. We want to make sure that everything we do is strong, financially secure, resilient and robust.

“We need to make sure that we are looking after everybody in the team. It’s about the staff and their future, giving them security in their roles. I think with what we’ve got now, we’ve have only scratched the surface of what we can achieve.”

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