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Media agency TMS reverts to former name and plots growth through branded content

the media store One of Australia’s biggest independent media agencies TMS is returning to its old name The Media Store, Mumbrella can reveal.

The agency is focussing on a major branded content play, with CEO Chris Mort claiming 20 per cent of revenue is now coming from content creation rather than traditional media planning and buying.

Mort explained the decision to return to a name which the agency had for 14 years, before changing to TMS in 2011, saying: “I believe a brand name should reflect one of three things: the heritage, the desired attitude or personality or the category that you work in. I don’t believe TMS did any of those things.

“The Media Store was still synonymous with the agency – where it carried that name for 14 years – it was time to go back to it and gain more memorability about what we do.”

Mort

Mort

The agency was founded as the media division for Toyota, with the Japanese car brand still its biggest client with a main media spend of $62.3m spend last year according to Nielsen.

Mort defended the decision to return to a name synonymous with its roots and one-client reputation, arguing: “So many of our clients and parts of the media still called us The Media Store it was the natural thing. It had a lot of brand equity and it makes it a lot easier when you have that brand equity to restart it.”

He also stressed the agency, owned by Warren Hill, was still pushing to land a second “tier one” client to add to its roster, after picking up a several smaller clients  including CrimSafe, Payless Shoes and South African Tourism, last year.

Last year also saw a major threat to the agency’s cast-iron grip on the Toyota account averted as it defended the dealership element of sub-brand Lexus’ account, holding off network agencies UM, the newly separated Mediavest agency and Publicis Media.

“That win was hugely significant. Being the incumbent it is always a little more difficult and we were up against some terrific competitors,” said Mort.

“We went in with everything we had and for me personally sent a signal the agency has changed. To be able to defend something like that and put our best foot forward as part of the pitch process is extraordinarily satisfying.”

Mort says in 2014 the agency “gelled” with the account wins and some new personnel, as well as 11 per cent income growth and 14 per cent billings growth, built in part on the launch of a new search engine marketing program for the Lexus dealers as well as the expandedbranded content offering.

The Media Store boss argues that this new focus on branded content is shown by some of its latest work for Toyota, with Youtube videos starring cricketer Brett Lee, which has been led by sponsorship and brand integration team lead Sandra Wiles and digital head Ally Cooney.

“Branded content is a conscious effort,” said Mort. “One of the beauties of having such an active client as Toyota is we are involved in many things and we go back a number of years in the branded content area.

“Over the last 18 months we have broadened our efforts and it is much more top of mind. Sandra’s team manages that which is coupled with Ally’s team in digital working hand in hand. It is now very much top of mind and producing good results.”

Despite the organic growth and smaller client wins, which have seen brands like Sharp, Petbarn and Kennards Self Storage appoint the independent, Mort admits the aim is still to land a second blue chip client to sit alongside Toyota.

“We have been fortunate to have a tier one client from day one and that experience should be worth something in a presentation to particular sized clients, and that’s what we intend to do,” he said.

“We have been getting better at pitching. Last year we did start to get into our stride.

“Agencies of our size should aim as high as they can. We are an independent, currently, and that positions us in a way that should mean we can demonstrate things in a more freestyle manner.

“I would hope in the next three to four years we have got ourselves at least one tier one client and a selection of tier two clients.”

Candidly he said the current media agency environment meant all agencies were on a “relentless pursuit” for new business.

“It is a relentless pursuit and anyone who tells you otherwise is wrong,” he said. “You’ve got to make sure you are servicing your clients better than ever because margins are getting squeezed and everyone is chasing hard and to do that you have to be pitch fit and you are well skilled and competitive in nature.

“We have to build upon scale like any agency and it is up to us to convince prospective clients that we have the ability to do that.”

Asked about the comment that The Media Store is “currently” independent Mort played down the suggestion that the media agency may one day be on the market.

“There are no plans for a change (of ownership) but you never say never,” he said.

Nic Christensen

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