School Reports 2016: TMW Unlimited

TMW Unlimited

Creston Unlimited may have bought a stake in 18 Feet & Rising in June 2015 to sex up its creative credentials, but TMW Unlimited remains the group's engine room - and its biggest earner.

With declared income above £23 million, TMW is one of the largest direct marketing agencies in the UK and its net margins are solid at 10-12 per cent.

TMW can land desirable accounts too. It won Vodafone’s £5 million CRM business in September and was appointed lead digital agency for its existing DM client Sony, while losing a only handful of smaller accounts (at £400,000, McCain Foods was the biggest).

Two of TMW’s longest-serving staff departed in 2015, but neither felt like signs of unrest. The long-serving joint chief executive Chris Freeland left to join Rapp as its sole chief executive. Meanwhile, the departure of the chief creative officer, Gareth James, to Aqueduct felt like the move of someone tired of big-agency life. TMW promoted its executive creative director, Graeme Noble, to take James’ place.

Yet TMW is beleaguered by anonymity. The problem must be the lack of visible work. One of the few campaigns to come out of the shop in 2015 that could be called high-profile was its "#BiggerIssues" campaign for Lynx, comprising outdoor digital posters raising awareness of male suicide in conjunction with the charity Campaign Against Living Miserably.

TMW’s incubator programme, and the tracker app for dementia sufferers it spawned, shows the agency can innovate – but fame feels far off. Still, the numbers show TMW is nobody’s concern.

How the agency rates itself: 7

"Creatively, 2015 has been our best yet, with highlights including the Magnum Pink and Black campaign, Sony Xperia "48 hours" and Lynx "#BiggerIssues". We won at the DMAs for Virgin Trains "arrive awesome" and got three Euro Effies for Durex "turn off to turn on". As well as launching our new-business incubator, we welcomed new clients such as Vodafone and grew our relationships with Sony Mobile, Canon, Infiniti and L’Oréal."

TMW Unlimited
Type of agency Customer engagement
Company ownership Creston
Declared income £23.3m
Total accounts at year end 25
Accounts won 2 (biggest: Vodafone)
Accounts lost 3 (biggest: McCain Foods)
Number of staff 273 (+2%)
Key personnel Richard Marshall, group chief executive
Paul Tullo, chairman
Chris Pearce, chief executive
Kate Wheaton, strategy director
Graeme Noble, chief creative officer

Score key: 9 Outstanding  8 Excellent  7 Good  6 Satisfactory  5 Adequate  4 Below average  3 Poor  2 A year to forget  1 Survival in question

Footnote: *indicates where agencies claim the corporate governance constraints of the Sarbanes-Oxley legislation.