Toyota's 'indie' media agency breaks out

After 15 years of radio silence, Toyota’s media agency has finally lifted the bonnet on its business with a declaration to take on multinational rivals to achieve a three-year goal of 50% growth.

The Media Store, re-badged TMS, was the only real innovation that came out of the dismantling of the media accreditation system in 1996 when Toyota backed Warren Hill to form a dedicated media unit to service the carmaker’s business.

Hill, who still owns 100% of the agency with billings of $170 million and revenue of $12 million, has all but retired from day-to-day involvement after he appointed Chris Mort as chief executive earlier this year.

Mort and TMS managing director Andrew Lamb have embarked on a hiring spree in recent months in preparation for a major expansion – agency staff numbers have jumped from 35 to 56 since March.

Although known universally as Toyota’s media agency, TMS has another 20 clients including Sharp, Garuda Indonesia and Nikon – all three, ironically, have come via an informal alliance with Tokyo-based Dentsu, which has launched a takeover of Aegis Group in London with global media networks in its stable such as Carat.

Mort, a former chief executive of McCann Worldgroup and John Singleton Advertising, which became Ogilvy, told AdNews: “The challenge for us was how do we go to market after 15 years of being the invisible media agency? What we have is 100% independence. We are a pure independent. That means we’re not bound by any rules. We’re not being forced into something we don’t think is right. And we can break templates if we need to.

“If you don’t have the scale of the big media consortiums you have to be more creative and we are becoming more of a creative place. I do believe one day we will have a creative director. Not necessarily to do the creative but to guide the work and ensure it stays on track with the strategists and media suppliers. It will evolve into a very exciting place.”

Lamb said one of the biggest differences between TMS and its international rivals was staff retention and seniority. TMS’ retention rate was 94%, compared to about 66% for the industry. Half of the agency’s staff had more than 10 years’ industry experience.

“You’ve got this mosh pit of young kids that are moving around,” Lamb said. “The churn issue is a very big one for the industry. It’s not something that really hits us. Our people feel like management care and clients benefit from that.”

This article first appeared in the 10 August 2012 print edition of AdNews.

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