The firm is also behind successful documentaries including Cycling Saved My Life with Josh Quigley, and television including Scotland’s top fan-led football show A View From The Terrace.
Here’s our Q&A from the latest edition of the Business HQ Monthly.
Ian Greenhill is co-founder (with Jordan Laird) at Scottish creative studio Studio Something.
What is your business called?
Our business is technically Something Something Productions Ltd – for those who enjoy a snoop on Companies House – but we trade as Studio Something
Where is it based?
Leith and the information superhighway.
We considered moving to London a few times – because that’s where people say you have to be – but we think you don’t have to be anywhere in particular, and Scotland is heavy decent. We want to celebrate Scottish creativity and produce amazing work here. I’m not saying we won’t venture elsewhere in future, but for now, Edinburgh is home.
What does it produce/do?
We are an advertising agency and a broadcast production company, but also neither of those things at the same time. Right?
Our motto is ‘Make Something People Genuinely Like’, which is a big statement, but it boils down to the fact we come up with ideas that cut through, and we create these ideas for brands and broadcasters.
To whom does it sell?
Brands including Tennent’s, Whyte & Mackay, RBS, SFA, and other acronyms, The Guardian (boo, ‘mon the Herald); and broadcasters such as the BBC.
How many employees?
We shrink or swell depending on projects but just now we have 20 beating hearts inside our building and one cold dead heart (mine).
Why did you take the plunge?
Jordan (Laird – my co-founder and soulmate) and I were working at a Scottish advertising agency and making music videos in our spare time for the likes of Island Records, Red Bull, and Universal.
We liked the pace of making music videos when it was taking us six months to make 30 TV ads none of our mates even saw. So we were faced with a choice – move down to London and work in ads, or become directors. We wanted to stay in Scotland so we aimed to create a Scottish company that could straddle the two worlds and do work with international brands.
Now we work with some of the biggest names and brands in all businesses, who come to us for our creativity and ideas.
What were you doing before?
Directly before going it alone and Studio Something, Jordan and I were copywriters at a big advertising agency in Scotland. However, before I worked in the ‘creative industries’ I worked for Edinburgh City Council’s cleansing department in some pretty grim roles. It sounds intense – because it was – but it provides perspective when I’m stressing out about fonts being the wrong colour or a client changing an adjective in a script.
What do you least enjoy?
I don’t really enjoy being a boss – we never intended to be bosses and some of my personality isn’t really suited to it (I’m silly, reactive and change my mind quickly).
However, other parts of my personality really are – I’m ambitious, positive, and can identify great talent. One [of the many things] I’ve learned running a company is you have to get comfortable being uncomfortable, and every day is either finding someone better than you to do the things you aren’t so good at, or learning how to be better at them yourself.
I also don’t enjoy spreadsheets.
What are your ambitions for the firm?
To win an Oscar.
What single thing would most help?
Being nominated for an Oscar would be a start.
Why is Scotland such a strong breeding ground for creativity?
I think most places are good at creativity in different ways. I think Scotland is good at lateral thinking and having a straight to the point tone. That naturally suits someone like me to thrive in as I like doing both those things.
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I definitely think more needs to be done to support industry though, our focus should be on ensuring that the best people stay here rather than going down to Old Foggy London Town or mainland Europe. I think a few creative companies are genuinely world class in Scotland, but there should and could be more with better support.
You’ve said brands need to be broadcasters. What do you mean by that and why?
My wee girl is three years old and already hates adverts, and I think there’s just such a large volume of content being fed to everyone all the time. This means brands need to think differently about their marketing and content; what is the benefit for the viewer? Yes, you are selling something but why would they spend their time watching your pitch? Brands should do useful marketing, creating acts not ads and thinking of themselves more like a broadcaster – ‘Will anyone watch and engage with this piece of work I’m spending a small amount of my finite time making?’
What is the most valuable lesson you have learned?
My dad has a phrase he used to say when he ran my boys club football team. It was pre-Google Maps and we’d be in far-flung tropical climes such as Lochgelly or Ormiston, trying to find the football pitch we were playing at.
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He’d always stop, wind down the window and ask for directions. He’d then turn to me and say – ‘you’ll never get lost with a tongue in yer heid’. I think that’s a great phrase for business; if you don’t know something… ask. Don’t pretend to know things to look smart, or you’ll end up playing on the wrong pitch.
What was your best moment?
I love seeing people in our business or working with our clients being nurtured, growing.
Failure for me is seeing our people stagnate. However, I feel on top of a mountain when I see that we’ve created a space for good people to make good things, and that’s one of my biggest motivations.
Our head of production, Andy Maas has now series produced more than 100 episodes of one show – cult Scottish football show A View From The Terrace for the BBC – when he had never series produced anything before. It’s a massive milestone and something he probably never even thought about achieving when we started out doing this. He’s immense.
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Emma Lally, our deputy creative director, just directed a bunch of films for one of the biggest sports brands in the world, and she did it here in Scotland. She’s awesome.
Euan Lownie, one of our creatives, is constantly curious, interested and learning new things. Most of our clients get promoted after working with us, which is class!
These are the moments that I consider best.
What was your worst moment?
I know these business interviews are supposed to be a platform for talking about turnover and growth, but this year has been a challenging one for both the industries we straddle – advertising and broadcasting.
Around 80% of broadcast freelancers are out of work currently, and marketing budgets have been slashed amid frankly brutal conditions. So this year of long maybes from clients and uncertainty has been pretty rubbish to say the least.
That and when the toilet in our office gets blocked, I mean that’s awful too.
How do you relax?
I watch a guy called Harry getting his haircut by Japanese barbers on YouTube. There is no therapy like it and you should all check it out!