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50 Years of Tag: Tracing the Company’s Evolution and Sharp Future Outlook

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Simon Timmons, Tag EMEA’s managing director - who has been at Tag almost two decades - talks to LBB about Tag’s history, why the company is thriving today, and how it’s preparing for the next half a century

50 Years of Tag: Tracing the Company’s Evolution and Sharp Future Outlook

50 years - or half a century - is a long time by any and all measures. In business years it may as well be an eternity, since to weather that amount of time means to live through economic upswings and downturns, changing market demands, and a technological revolution that forced everyone to evolve and adapt, fast.  

This year, Tag celebrates the momentous birthday having weathered a fair few battles itself, though now standing proud - and independent - with a clear agenda of what the future looks like and how it’s going to pursue it. Having worked with all of industry’s giants over the past five decades, Tag has learnt some important lessons about delivering value to its customers and innovating ahead of the curve. Having started its life as a print house, the Tag of today looks nothing like it did at the start - it’s a global creative production powerhouse, offering clients end-to-end solutions, and around-the-clock service.  

Thriving through evolution  

“When I think about Tag as a company, the word that comes to mind is ‘evolution’, says Simon Timmons, Tag EMEA's managing director. Tag’s journey to where it is today has had a few twists and turns; it was acquired by Williams Lea, part of DHL, expanding Tag’s initial capabilities. It was then purchased by Advent, separating Williams Lea from Tag. Today, Tag stands proudly by itself again with a clear vision that independence is one of their USPs. “We’ve been on quite a transformative business journey. Now we’re really embracing our independent status and using it to the best of our advantage,” Simon adds.  

Having worked with Tag for 19 years, Simon has been privy to many of Tag’s trials, tribulations, and also transformations that helped make the company the household name it is today. One way Tag has done this is by broadening its remit to better address current market challenges. With brands pivoting to an omnichannel strategy, Tag knew it wanted to cater to that demand and do so with a high level of expertise. “We knew we had to become experts to offer clients the best service, which we’ve done through our global acquisitions. We’ve been strategic by going after capabilities we felt were missing and bolstering our services that way. Through the challenges of covid we had to make our global delivery centres more established with more capabilities & talent; we also deliberately made some acquisitions in APAC and the Americas to complement the existing skills from a global perspective.” 

“The acquisition of Taylor James a few years back expanded our capabilities in CGI and moving image services, bolstering the Americas offering. What this means for clients is an assurance that they’ll get the same experience by working with us in London as they do with our New York or APAC offices.” A focus on strengthening end-to-end capabilities translates into thinking bigger and more abstractly in some cases. In APAC, this looks like extending into the shopper experience. “Tag is thinking about the best ways to design and build retail installations that can support a brand’s ambition in store and online, which we’re pursuing with the help of Popcorn Global and the e-consultancy, Moni Media,” explains Simon.  

On the side of moving image, Tag’s acquisition of Smoke & Mirrors means that they have a boutique post house with a high-tech suite and studio sitting in Tag’s London HQ. “To be truly end-to-end, we knew we needed acquisitions that meant we were uniquely positioned to sit at the centre of creativity, tech and media and bringing all the acquisitions under one roof, Tag Collective Arts, has allowed us to do that”, Simon says. “You name it, we do it.” 

Tag's latest acquisition of L&A Social, expands their capabilities even further. L&A Social’s expertise in strategic social consulting, influencer management, campaign development, community management, digital content development, analytics and insights, complementing and enhancing Tag’s existing social media and digital capabilities. This is Tag’s fifth acquisition in as many years and a continuation of its strategy to offer their global client base market leading strategic, digital and content led production at scale.   

The change in Tag’s operational model has likewise been quite a stark one. “We’ve been brave about the way we provide our services. Our services are not restricted by location, and instead we pair the right talent with the right job. No matter where the client sits or where the work needs to be completed, we don’t compromise on service by lassoing them to the most conveniently placed office. Each client is supported by the team most suited to the output they require”. In practical terms, this translates to a robust global network of talent that’s ‘on’ 24/7. Tag made the change long before many of its competitors, and the globally established Production Hubs, as Tag calls them, were able to navigate the uncertainty of the covid period relatively smoothly, without ceasing operation. Resiliency, alongside efficiency, is at the heart of Tag’s business strategy.   

The secret to success? 

Good business is always about a combination of winning factors and while there’s no one secret to Tag’s success, Simon posits that the fact their client relationships are built with a long-term relationship in mind has given Tag a competitive advantage. “We’ve changed with our clients by being flexible, addressing their needs, and learning in the process.” Doing what’s best for the client sometimes takes on an unusual form, one that Tag isn’t shy about. “Part of our craft is knowing what we’re good at and how we can work with someone. On the flip side, if we feel that we can’t add value, be the best partners to that client, then we’re happy to pause or reshape the relationship,” explains Simon. It’s this level of confidence and maturity that keeps so many clients working with Tag, assured that their needs take priority above all else. “We think about our relationships in terms of longevity, not short-term wins.” 

Your people are your business - this is an adage that Tag understands all too well. “One of the key things we believe is investing in our talent. We’re always encouraging people to learn and develop while providing them with resources and support to do it.” Tag actively builds and maintains a positive working culture. It’s something Andria Vidler, Tag EMEA’s CEO, who joined just before the pandemic started, brought with her, implementing it across the company and its practices. “We changed the way we worked to be more people-centric, which Andria was fundamental in bringing to Tag,” Simon adds. 

Tag abides by six values, which are infused into everything the company does: integrity, innovation, sustainability, growth, accountability, and trust. No one value takes precedence over the other, instead each one informs and connects the values together.  

DE&I and sustainability are the two issues that demonstrate just how seriously Tag takes living by its core values. Under Andria’s direction, Tag EMEA has become more diverse than ever, bringing in more women to form a 50/50 male/female leadership split and making equality part of the business agenda throughout. Additionally, “Andria is very focused on nurturing young talent, regardless of gender. Being fair is what drives her, she wants to give opportunities to everyone, no matter who they are or where they’re from.” Since Andria’s tenure, Tag has seen a shift in working conditions following the renovation of their HQ, to a ‘home/hub’ set-up where people are encouraged to work in a way that suits them best; more robust mental health support was implemented, and maternity and paternity leave was increased too to make the company a truly positive place to work.  

As a responsible business, sustainability is at the core of all conversations at Tag as it represents a microcosm of the aforementioned values the company wants to embody and the passion for ‘doing good’ it uses to drive a greener agenda. Leaving the lip service to others, Tag is diligently reviewing its practices and the services it offers through a green lens. Working smarter with the help of new tech is part of the strategy that also encompasses maximising and optimising what is shot and making procurement greener. Tag is taking the guesswork out of sustainable efforts by measuring and analysing meticulously collected data, which ensures that they’re making real green progress in all areas of production and passing those learnings onto clients as well. DI Planet, a proprietary technology designed by Tag coming in 2023, is helping the company do it by providing a 360-look at all elements of production, measuring the impact of any implemented changes.  

A spirit of independence  

While not many companies can celebrate making it to their 50th, even fewer can do so independently. Tag loves the creativity and freedom independence affords them and, in turn, their clients. “We love working with the clients that we feel are a best fit for everyone - that we can produce the best work for- and have the choice to do it. There’s no fear of upsetting any holding companies or groups,” laughs Simon. “It also means we’re in quite a unique position in our industry because we can decide which direction we want to grow in, how to develop our people, and what to focus our attention on. We work transparently and our clients trust us more because of that.” 

A significant win - Crown Commercial Service - wanted to appoint a production specialist that government departments could work with. Tag spent a lot of time analysing whether they were best suited to “add value to the government’s ecosystem” before going out to pitch. Tag beat out eight market leaders for many different reasons, but the company’s independence played a vital role. “We’ve carved out a really confident space for us as a production agency to sit alongside the creative and the media agencies in a new industry ecosystem that can then best service complex and exciting clients like CCS,” says Simon.  

What does the next 50 years look like? That’s too big of a question for anyone to answer. Still, thinking of the future doesn’t scare Tag. Their values and principles are clearly defined, guiding culture and business decisions at every step. Tech and innovation will continue to play a huge role in optimising and streamlining the production process while simultaneously making it greener. “Fundamentally, we always want to be a business that people want to work for, and clients want to work with. As the drive to recouple creative, media and production accelerates, we will strive to always be the first choice as the end-to-end marketing production partner for clients”, concludes Simon.  

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Tag, Thu, 10 Nov 2022 11:18:53 GMT