the showcase 2023

Redefining Norms for a Bold Future: Total Media's 2023

The media independent hasn't taken a moment to slow down, with a robust 90% pitch conversion rate and industry accolades for its ESG initiatives

By creative salon

Aptly encapsulated as "Thriving in the New Normal", Total Media has had a triumphant 2023, marked by groundbreaking family policies, key board expansions, innovative client collaborations and an impressive new business run. Not bad for a small British company now in its fifth decade: far from slowing down with age, Total Media is motoring ahead.

We caught up with Group CEO Guy Sellers to reflect on the agency's year.

Guy Sellers, CEO, on Total Media's 2023:

What three words would you use to describe 2023?

Thriving (in the) New Normal

Talk us through some of your agency’s highlights this year?

Our industry-leading family policies are a highlight in themselves; we felt incredibly lucky to be selected as one of only 50 companies in the UK to take part in the Pregnant Then Screwed pilot training accreditation scheme. Above this, it’s great to see our People & Culture team already implementing some of the learnings to make Total Media a fully inclusive workplace.

The growth of our board signified our commitment to people and in driving long-term sustainable growth as we welcomed our newly appointed CFO, James Cowing, and Sue Shaw joined as Non-Exec Chief People Officer.

During a challenging period, we've remained deeply attuned to our clients' needs, fostering collaborative efforts that have led to some truly innovative and award-worthy work. Our commitment is reflected by our very high client retention rate. By prioritising the well-being of our current clients and team, we've not only retained but also attracted new clients. Our success in implementing a robust business strategy is evident in our remarkable 90% pitch conversion rate, welcoming exceptional new brands into our agency's portfolio.

Our behavioural consultancy has seen growth in every aspect, from staffing numbers and our client base, to revenue and service offerings, where the expansion into management consultancy saw us launch our inaugural white paper on psychological safety.

What one thing are you proudest of this year?

The enthusiasm and commitment of our team to deliver our ESG objectives has been a source of immense pride in 2023. While we have long been dedicated to leaving a legacy beyond media, our ESG efforts are now well-recognised as an integral part of life here, which has received growing recognition from the wider industry as shown by our growing trophy shelf, with us winning 6 ESG-focused awards this year.

We didn't pursue B Corp certification to boost our bottom line; instead, it served as compelling evidence, primarily to ourselves, of our commitment to fostering a culture that adheres to the highest standards of social and environmental responsibility. As the first independent media agency in the UK to attain this certification, the result conveys high levels of trust.

And what’s been your biggest challenge?

Although the widespread adoption of hybrid working brings many benefits in enabling our people to work more flexibly, the rapid pace at which it was rolled out meant that we were all learning on the job. Concerns around a loss of that agency “buzz” have thankfully not been founded. It’s great to see we have fostered a resilient culture that goes far beyond our agency walls.

What are you most looking forward to in 2024?

We’ve welcomed some incredible new clients into our agency this year with some of the campaigns kicking off in the new year, so I am excited to see this work come to life and to further embed them into our fantastic portfolio of clients.

Alongside this, we have some really exciting plans for our behavioural consultancy, Behave, with us expanding our marketing consultancy offering and branching out into new areas in management consultancy, including AI and Purpose – so watch this space!

Importantly, Behave will also be continuing the work with our charity partner, Young Westminster Foundation, in helping them to deliver crucial work to reduce youth violence in the borough.

Early in 2024, we will be opening a new office in the centre of Birmingham for our midlands agency, Total Media Connect, which will certainly be a high point!

What one change would you most like to see in our industry next year?

I hope for a shift towards a more confident and assured industry. This may involve fostering a culture of continuous learning within the industry to help maintain and reclaim influential positions with clients, as well as investing in new talent to meet these objectives.

Which industry leader have you admired most in 2024?

Carolyn McCall, particularly after her strong performance with the MPs Committee.

Creative Salon on Total Media's 2023

Total Media's year has been filled with a plethora of wins, strengthening its position as a behavioural media leader under the hugely impressive steer of Tom Laranjo, CEO of Total Media London and one of the media industry's most interesting thinkers.

Notably, the agency secured a major victory by landing the competitive pitch for energy company E.ON. Total Media will drive a behavioural-led media campaign to raise awareness of E.ON's commitment to sustainable and personalised energy solutions.

Following this, the agency achieved another success by winning the AJ Bell pitch. Total Media - tasked with managing the brand's 'Feel Good, Investing' campaign to drive brand awareness, affinity, and consideration - will collaborate closely with Pablo London, AJ Bell's creative agency.

Total Media also partnered with MK21, an independent creative shop, to be appointed as the creative and digital media agency for Nakd Bars and Trek Bars. MK21 will focus on developing new platforms for both brands, starting with an integrated campaign for Nakd, while Total Media will handle digital media planning and buying for both brands.

Footcare brand Scholl picked Total Media to help it target younger audiences across the UK and international markets, while the independent film studio Black Bear UK selected Total Media through a competitive pitch for campaigns, starting with the theatrical release of the Gamestop film "Dumb Money".

And specialist insurer Hiscox chose Total Media as its retained media agency for brand advertising; Total Media will leverage behavioural insights to support Hiscox in achieving its ambitious growth plans, collaborating with the newly appointed creative agency Uncommon.

On the people front, Becca Rawlings, formerly head of business services, was promoted to head of people, culture, and business. And the Total Media Group underwent a strategic reshuffle of its board, appointing Sue Shaw as non-executive chief people officer and James Cowing as chief financial officer, a role he stepped into from his previous position as head of finance. Shaw, through her company JourneyHR, will provide senior-level HR consultancy, contributing to the continued growth and success of Total Media.

Creative Salon Says: In 2022 Total Media' celebrated its 40th anniversary. 2023 proved there's no stopping the agency.

One of the very few remaining independent media agencies, Total Media's 2023 was a year of resilience, innovation and growth, underpinned by a culture that combines a strong 'family' spirit with both experience and new energy. There's nothing flashy or gimmicky about this business - it's simply a rock solid, forward-looking agency that really delivers for its clients.


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