Creative agency Whitespace looking to grow internationally

Edinburgh-based creative agency Whitespace is eyeing ambitious growth over the next few years, with plans to open an office in London in the next 12 months and extend its client base across the UK and internationally.

The official 2016 Edinburgh Festival Fringe programme is launched on Edinburgh's Portobello beach, Scotland. Whitespace counts the Fringe among its clients. Picture: PA

Joint managing partner Iain Valentine told Scotland on Sunday at the firm’s office in the city centre that it currently has more than 80 staff, and has space for 125 at the site, which opened its doors as the company’s base in August.

He said the agency, which was established in 1997, had been hesitant about expanding staff for fear it would change the culture of the business.

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“The goal has never actually been to be big, the goal has been to do better work for better clients,” he said. However, the firm then realised that as its presence grew, it could expand headcount after all, “as long as we actually all have a shared vision and we’re still having fun”.

He said that staff numbers are not likely to hit “astronomical” levels and the 125 maximum will be sufficient for the coming years.

As well as plans to open in London, he added: “I wouldn’t rule out an international presence either, but it’s not something that we’re actively looking at.”

Whitespace, which says it is Scotland’s largest independent creative agency, is expecting to grow fee income to £4.8 million this year from £4m in 2015, having reported annual income growth of around 15 per cent since 2011.

Last month the company was chosen as Design Agency of the Year 2016 at the Scottish Design Awards, and its clients include the Scottish Government, the Edinburgh Festival Fringe and Sainsbury’s Bank, last year adding RAC and the accountancy body ACCA to its roster.

Valentine, who in 2010 carried out a management buyout with fellow managing partners Emma Jardine and Phillip Lockwood-Holmes, said that as part of plans to broaden its work internationally, the firm is looking at China as an area with potential. Whitespace has held discussions with companies there “who want to market to a western audience” and it also recently secured Lego as a client, he added, helping broaden its international reach.

Valentine added: “Our next phase of growth will be marked by more international work and the expansion of the team both in terms of our skills, services and geography. Our ambition is to be a leading international creative agency with its main base in Scotland.”

He said its success to date has been characterised by the quality of its staff, work and “ability to work closely with clients to deliver a clear return on investment”.

He added: “It’s important that we keep sight of these strengths as we enter our next phase of growth. We’re very aware as a business that we need to constantly evolve.”