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The Media Store joins Toyota’s trek to Melbourne in first ever expansion

Australia’s biggest independent media agency The Media Store is to finally open its doors in Melbourne.

Twenty years after being founded as Toyota’s exclusive media agency, TMS will open its doors in Victoria as part of Australia’s number one selling car brand shifting its entire marketing and sales operation from Sydney to Melbourne.

TMS CEO Craig Jepsen with Stephen Leeds who will head the new Melbourne operation

In a move that has been widely expected, TMS chief executive Craig Jepsen told Mumbrella the agency had been considering the expansion since Toyota first flagged the end of manufacturing in Australia and the move of its Sydney-based operations three years ago, but the time was now right, just a few weeks before the auto giant closes its Australian manufacturing operations.

The agency has recruited Stephen Leeds, former commercial director of The New Daily and and ex-general manager of Ten in Brisbane and Melbourne sales manager for ARN, to head the new agency. TMS is one of Australia’s two biggest independent media agencies, just ahead of Nunn Media.

Jepsen said the agency would initially be focused on bedding in the Toyota and Lexus businesses, but had a longer term remit to gain a foothold in the Melbourne market with new business.

Jepsen joined the agency from Toyota at the end of 2015 as the agency prepared itself for an expected media review as part of Toyota’s relocation – a review that never transpired.

“I said to the team we don’t need to stress about this, it will unfold calmly,” Jepsen told Mumbrella.

“We will get one brick in, the second brick will fall very quickly, the third brick will fall in etcetera, etcetera. And to that point, this is brick one.”

Jepsen said one key was hiring a leader in Melbourne who understood the market and Leeds, who began his career at Leeds Media, his father’s business which dominated the Victorian media landscape in the 1980s and 1990s before being acquired by AIS which then became Starcom, was a key to the move.

He said the agency needed to respect the market by bringing in a local, and while an as yet to be confirmjed number of staff will move down from Sydney to provide continuity on the business, TMS would also be hiring locally.

“We are looking the create a balance of that core knowledge that’s here in Sydney and blend that with Melbourne,” Jepsen said.

“We took a view and the view was if we won this piece of business what would you set up and how would your structure it and how would you service it and that’s a really simple proposition.”

“We will maintain some core functions in Sydney, but they are actually some core functions that we apply across all of our clients.

With just 20% of Toyota’s existing Sydney-based sales and marketing team agreeing to move to Melbourne, the car maker is undertaking a massive recruitment and retraining drive to fill the abandoned roles and Jepsen said the agency would  play an important role providing the company continuity through the transition.

“Sydney, make no mistake, is head office for The Media Store in this national network now evolving, Melbourne focused on Toyota and Lexus to begin with with Stephen and his team and then the way we’re looking at Melbourne more broadly and our new business mandate more broadly is we now have twice the opportunity than we currently have,” he said.

Leeds said the key to the success of the Melbourne startup was to maintain the level of service Toyota had become used to.

“Melbourne looks like from a production point of view no different than it was in Sydney,” Leeds said.

“Given we have experienced staff that work across various clients, expertise planning, strategy, sponsorships, research and integration that the business can tap into that we then promote that skill set and look to grow the business beyond Toyota and Lexus at some stage.

“I think having local knowledge of the market and the media landscape more importantly will serve us well.”

TMS is the first Toyota marketing and communications supplier to open a stand-alone office in Melbourne as a result of the relocation, while agencies including Saatchi & Saatchi and BWM Dentsu have been beefing up staff in Melbourne.

In October sports and entertainment specialist Gemba bought the sponsorship management division of Bullet Marketing, which handles Toyota’s major events partnerships.

While the majority of TMS revenue comes from the Toyota business, the agency has expanded to service a number of other clients including Sealy, Kennards, Sealy, Cammy and Texas Tourism.

Jepsen said the next stage of growth for the agency meant it needed to attract talent that aligned with the business and make sure that the foundation Melbourne client was taken care of.

“We have to get our proposition right to Toyota and Lexus right first and foremost, to cover that off, and then yes, we are open for business,” Jepsen said.

“(We have) a long standing relationship with an iconic brand and we will see where it takes us after that.”

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