Interview: Jordan Laird, co-founder of Edinburgh-based agency Studio Something

Entrepreneur on carving out a unique niche across both brands and broadcasting.

Jordan Laird is the co-founder of Studio Something, a creative studio based in Edinburgh’s Leith that is “on a mission to make something people genuinely like”. He started the firm in 2014 from a tapas bar after selling newspaper classified ads, followed by enrolling for a degree in creative advertising at Napier University, which led to a placement at The Leith Agency where he met Studio Something co-founder Ian Greenhill.

Laird says they had “no money, no business plan, and no experience running a business”, but it has since attracted a prestigious roll-call of clients including Coca-Cola, travel search engine Skyscanner, and pizza oven firm Ooni, while accolades include scooping two Royal Television Society Scotland 2023 Awards.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

In the year of your tenth anniversary, what have been key achievements to date, for example Studio Something recently posted on LinkedIn about seeing its first-ever TV credit, in 2019 – for Scottish football TV show A View From The Terrace, which has now passed the 100th episode milestone…

'The enemy of this company is “wallpaper” – work you don’t notice,' says Laird. Picture: contributed.'The enemy of this company is “wallpaper” – work you don’t notice,' says Laird. Picture: contributed.
'The enemy of this company is “wallpaper” – work you don’t notice,' says Laird. Picture: contributed.

Our first client was [Glasgow-based lager firm] Tennent’s. Winning a dream client like that straight off the bat felt like a major milestone. We had this idea for Wellpark – an insane 60-part animated series that looked at all of Scottish weirdness and culture – it was the first format we created, and it proved our hunch about where branded content was going.

A commission to make a pilot for the BBC based on a popular Scottish football podcast – The Terrace – transformed our business, and our lives. On the back of it, we’ve won several network commissions. When it was commissioned for season two, we decided to look for other opportunities to break into that world, using sport to tell authentic, genuine stories. This resulted in commissions for Josh Quigley: Cycling Saved My Life and Eilish McColgan: Running in The Family.

Our tenth anniversary is a major milestone. Now it’s a “proper” company people are proud to work for. It’s so much bigger than us now. Amazing work comes out of the studio that Ian or I are not directly involved in, and people we hired flourish in a company we started. It’s an incredible feeling.

Studio Something has just launched a campaign with major global sporting name the NBA, harnessing “scrapbook storytelling” – how significant is this contract for you? How does it tie in with key ambitions for the business going forward – you’ve said branded content and entertainment aren’t mutually exclusive, and that brands need to act as broadcasters…

The firm's accolades include scooping two Royal Television Society Scotland 2023 Awards. Picture: contributed.The firm's accolades include scooping two Royal Television Society Scotland 2023 Awards. Picture: contributed.
The firm's accolades include scooping two Royal Television Society Scotland 2023 Awards. Picture: contributed.

We had a choice to make about 18 months ago – go all-in on working for brands or follow the path of broadcasting, or both. Our hunch was we wanted to do both – and it proved to be right. Big brands want to entertain their audience and are looking to more traditional TV formats to do that. Broadcasters are aware that making shows is only one part of the puzzle. Shows need to be brands that can fight for the attention of a fragmented audience. Not everyone gets it, but those that do really, really get it.

Winning the NBA job was this hunch coming full circle. It was taking what we had learned in broadcasting and A View From The Terrace – understanding fan culture, how to make formats, and how to make entertaining, compelling content about why you follow sport – into a different league but through the same human principles. Ultimately, people love the Arbroath and the San Antonio Spurs sports teams for very similar reasons.

Your Fifa World Cup 2022 title credits for the BBC impressed RTS Scotland Awards judges, but were also controversial, what was it like getting the latter reaction?

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

The enemy of this company is “wallpaper” – work you don’t notice. If it elicits a reaction, we can be proud of it. One newspaper hated the title credits, and another said we were off our heads on drugs, but it was seen by millions and most loved it – I would find myself thinking about the amount of people around the country who watch the World Cup, then thought, “I wonder who has actually seen it? Kate Winslet, Stormzy…” For a small company in Scotland to go into a pitch like this against some big-hitters in the industry, and produce a “crown jewel” of sports broadcasting was something pretty special.

What are key pressure points at the moment for the business – is it clients reining in their budgets?

It’s a tough time for everybody now, whether at home or at work. The industries we straddle – advertising and broadcasting – are not immune. Budgets have been slashed and they’re harder to come by; we’re all aware of the value of a pound. We take tremendous care to ensure clients’ investment is justified by creating something they truly need, and we’re not complacent.

Studio Something worked on the high-profile Power Of Okay mental health campaign for charity See Me, while it says it is “on a mission to make the right thing, not the easy thing”. Can you characterise the positive social impact you’re looking to achieve?

It’s always been important to us to devote a certain amount of our time and brainspace to not just sell "things”, but to use creativity to help. That could be to help people who feel bad feel a little better about themselves, or it could be work to convince one kid fewer to carry a knife. If you’re going to be creative, why not put it towards stories and ideas that you believe in, and that can help make tiny changes.

The campaigns we’re most proud of are where we’ve made people think differently. I want Studio Something to make a positive contribution to Scotland and the world – and have a big old smile on our faces while we do it.



Want to join the conversation? Please or to comment on this article.