Andy Nairn credits some good luck and sound advice with helping him go from Edinburgh law student to advertising aficionado and author.
|Year of graduation||1991|
At the moment
I’m at my home in Berkshire, wishing that 2021 would hurry up with some better news for us all.
Your time at the University
I grew up in the Borders, so coming to Edinburgh was a natural choice. It also turned out to be a good decision because the city is so student-friendly. It’s big (and cosmopolitan) enough to have a thriving cultural life while being small enough to feel manageable, when it’s your first time away from home.
I chose Law and loved the course, even though I never really had any intention of practising. It was just a good, broad-based subject that required you to think about interesting problems. And it indirectly led to my eventual career choice. My favourite tutor was a chap called Alexander McCall-Smith (now better known as a best-selling author) and when I explained that I felt the Law might be too conservative for me, he recommended advertising instead. His logic was that I could use the skills I liked (advocacy) in a more creative environment. He turned out to be absolutely right and I’ve always been very grateful for that lucky advice.
I also really enjoyed the social side of things at Edinburgh (perhaps a little too much, at times..). I met my wife-to-be, my two Best Men and a load of other friends. So all in all, I have very happy memories of the place and those times.
I chose Law and loved the course, even though I never really had any intention of practising.
Your experiences since leaving the University
After I graduated, I took a year out to travel around South East Asia and then came back to complete an MSc in Marketing at the University of Strathclyde. This confirmed my desire to get into advertising and I was fortunate enough to get a job as a junior strategist at one of the country’s biggest and best agencies, AMV BBDO, in 1993.
From there, I went through an alphabet’s worth of other agencies on both sides of the Atlantic, working on brands like Virgin, Hovis, Waitrose and the Met Police.
Then, in 2013 I set up my own creative agency with two friends. Giving up our comfortable lives to start again with nothing was a little hairy at times. But our company Lucky Generals has gone on to be one of the best in the UK, winning a host of awards for clients like Amazon, Yorkshire Tea and the Co-op. It’s been shortlisted for Campaign magazine’s Agency of the Year for the last five years in a row and I’ve been named the UK’s top strategist for the last two years in a row - all of which feels very jammy for a kid from Duns who came to Edinburgh with no idea of what he’d do.
You’ll notice that luck has been a constant theme in my life, so in 2020 I decided to write a book on the theme and donate all the royalties to help working class kids get into the industry. The book is called 'Go Luck Yourself' and includes 40 ways for businesspeople to stack the odds in their brands’ favour. It launched for pre-orders in January and will be physically available in June, which I’m really looking forward to.
Life during Covid-19
I think it’s reminded me that life is short and full of unexpected events that are beyond your control, so it’s important to count your blessings and enjoy the journey if you can.
Keep your eyes open. Too often we bury our heads in our studies or our work, then miss all the opportunities and stimulus around us. The author Sally Koslov puts it nicely: “Learn to recognise good luck when it’s waving to you.”
Go Luck Yourself by Andy Nairn (external)