Total Media is celebrating turning 30 today!
It was an announcement in Campaign magazine sometime in
April 1982, which alerted me to the birth of Total Media. Mike Sell, who I am
sure was wearing white socks in the photo, and his founding partner Mike
Dinsdale (Dins) struck a louche pose in their launch broadside at the world.
Intrigued and having met Dins briefly at Market Research Society events I got
in touch and after a period of freelancing for the Mikes soon left my job at
HTV and joined up. At the end of 1983, when a couple of our research contracts
came to an end, we decided to focus purely on media planning and buying and, in
an amicable separation, Dins set off on his successful research career.
There were now three of us in a converted double garage and
the only way was up! Endless pitching with hand-drawn charts (no computers
then!), days that routinely ended between 10 and 12 pm and all fuelled by the
Sharnaaz Tandoori brought the wins that allowed us to start growing. This all
nearly ended in tears when, after taking our two largest clients to Jean Michel
Jarre in the Docklands, we tarried too long in a wine bar post-show and missed
the last train out. Electing to walk to civilisation we got caught in a storm
and attempted to keep up the jollity while sheltering in a rapidly filling drain
culvert. A sympathetic security guard squeezed us into his sentry box where we
called one of the client's husband who drove up from Epsom to rescue us. He was
very good about being dragged out of bed, though I am sure he mentioned
organising something in a brewery as we were dropped off.
Nigel Potter, after a stint in US agencies, joined our
number, and helped us develop and grow our publishing sector strength. He also
introduced fancy dress parties which endure. Following a particularly cheerful
Christmas party – Mike dressed as a bumble bee, Nigel as a French maid and
myself wearing a nappy and bonnet combination – we were walking back to Acton,
where we all lived at the time, when a large black Mercedes screeched up next
to us. Out leaped what looked like a heavy-weight boxer, clearly offended by
us, and headed straight for me with fists the size of dinner plates. The bumble
bee seemed to melt into the dark, I was frozen to the spot and the French maid
did a brilliant Henry Kissinger negotiation, convincing man-mountain that
decking a man in a nappy would do nothing for his street cred.
Annie Lambert, the next senior hire, insisted unreasonably
we felt, that we buy some PCs and subscribe to a few research sources before
signing up. Good thing too. We were then 14 strong and growing as we headed
into the 90s and long lunches, company cars and ties began to disappear. The
company established its skills for launching products and services and
developed strengths in the arts, travel and retail sectors, launching Amazon
and TK Maxx amongst others in the UK. At about this time, Barry Took brought
his agency into the fold and Total Media North was formed and has thrived ever
since. Another arrival was David Proud who set up our production division
fifteen years ago today! That’s right, Total Media Production! David is an
ex-England boxer and at a very young 62 is the fittest person I know, regularly
With this growth came a need for more financial rigour and
Daniel (don't call me Dan) D'Mello joined us as our first Financial Director.
Dan (don’t call me Dan), despite a worrying commitment to Crystal Palace,
sharpened up our systems and has kept the place ship-shape ever since.
Moving to our first office in 125 High Street Kensington
felt very grown up and the space seemed enormous, uncluttered and a great
source of corporate pride. Lucas Brown joined at this time to develop our
direct offer but also introduced the annual company walk and the concept of
Lucasland. This shifting place, some five miles beyond Neverland, forms the
destination to which Luke cajoles, pleads, bribes and bullies the generally
overhung rabble to strive to. We've done around half a dozen of these epics now
with plans for another this September.
At about the same time as Luke's arrival we absorbed some of
the staff and clients of Radar, nee Upward Brown Media. From this development
we formed our international team, unique in the independent sector, and our
sector strength in charities. Ten years on, many of those clients are still
with us and from the team that came aboard Jacqui Purdy and Pedro Martins each
lead client teams, and Tom Laranjo is now Total Media Ltd.’s managing director.
Since moving into our current floor six years ago, the
agency has experienced more change and growth than in the previous twenty-four
put together. The company is now 89 strong, some 83 in London and 6 in our
Solihull Total Media North (surely Midlands, don't ask!) office. Digital has
profoundly changed the media business and rather than outsource we decided to
build our own teams which now include PPC, SEO, Social media, PR, Strategy, our
own DSP and data, who all integrate with our planning teams.
At the end of 2010 we welcomed the arrival of a number of
Round 2 Media's staff as that company encountered difficulties. The boost in
numbers involved some squeezing up and demolition of partitions but added to
the strength and depth of our team and established the agency in the
pharmaceutical sector. My beautiful office, which took 28 years to get, is now
looking pretty temporary!
With all this squeezing up we have spotted a noticeable
number of relationships forming; some going right through to offspring and
weddings. It does seem at times that the company's core purpose of customer
engagement has been reduced simply to engagement. Perhaps we just need to put a
match-making commission system in place?
Throughout all this Mike has been the rock and glue of the
agency (if that is possible) and his irreverence has kept any shred of hubris
or pomposity at bay. He did once swear though that he would top himself if we
ever employed anyone younger than the company. As of today some 62% of the
agency weren’t born when the company started and I am glad to say that Mike, or
someone just like him, is still with us. In this sweep I must include Mike
Drake and Andrew Dunlop who have been our legal and financial non-execs from
the start. Mike does our board minutes, which stay just this side of polite but
are very funny. Andrew, who at six foot six, commands attention and once picked
me up by the lapels and dropped me on the pavement outside the office. I think
I was just questioning his amortisation policy. His son, James, now works for
us and is just as big. Oh dear.
Total Media has started, been part or formed all of the
careers for great numbers of young and not so young people. Many have stayed
with us for many years, a heartening number have left and returned and those
that moved on form Total Media’s diaspora, now in the low hundreds and in
agencies around the world. And, of course, our 30 year long journey would not
have been possible without our clients, some of which have been with us almost
from the start. To every Total Media friend – employee, client, media owner and
supplier; past and present – many thanks indeed for your contribution in
getting us to 30.
Happy Birthday Total Media!