PAYING the living wage goes beyond the money – it’s an indication of the whole ethos of a company, according to one leading market agency.

For award-winning The Union, paying the living wage comes from an awareness that the staff are its biggest asset.

“We work in a demanding business and we are working for big companies who expect the best possible service, the best possible creativity and the best technical skills, so we need to be paying people as well as we can,” said Ian McAteer, who co-founded the company more than 22 years ago. “There are pressures on the business but paying the living wage goes beyond just pay – it is about the whole ethos of the company.”

He pointed out that competent, motivated staff are vital to the success of any company in the highly competitive marketing industry.

“We don’t have machinery, we just have people – they are our asset,” he said. “Seventy-five per cent of our cost base is our staff and when they leave at the end of the day that is our asset walking out the door.”

He added: “What our clients buy from us is expertise. They want the best and these days marketing is highly complex. One of the reasons we have survived is that we have adapted and developed. There have been big changes in the industry with the advent of the internet, there have been big changes in how companies want to market themselves and there have been big changes in terms of regulations as well. If people are our asset, we want a highly skilled, highly motivated workforce.”

Named Agency of the Year in the 2017 Marketing Star awards, The Union is based in both Edinburgh and Leeds, has 95 employees and works for a wide range of clients including the Scottish Government, Scottish Widows and Heineken.

It was set up in 1996 and McAteer believes that it was ahead of its time with regard to the benefits provided for the staff.

“Even before the living wage came along we offered all our staff a company pension paid by the company right from the beginning which we did not have to do,” he said.

“We felt it was important for young people to have a pension from day one. I found it strange when the legislation came in and the government was asking companies to pay a lot less than we had been paying over the past 22 years.”

Even at the best of times, marketing is a tough sector but The Union has survived the challenges of the recent economic downturn.

“We are doing well and have a good, motivated workforce,” said McAteer. “We have stuck to the philosophy which is behind our name The Union. We believe that it is only through team work and valuing people’s skills that you get the best results.

“When we started we set out four principles: to do outstanding creative work; provide clients with a brilliant service; make money, and have fun because if we don’t have fun no-one will want to work here. It all wraps up into our overall philosophy.”

It’s a philosophy that appears to work as over the years the agency has won more than 80 marketing effectiveness awards and well over 300 creative awards.

“Our success is down to a passion for sticking to our core principles,” said McAteer.

The UK living wage for outside London is currently £8.75 per hour. It is significantly higher than the UK government’s “national living wage” rate of £7.50 which applies to over-25s only.