Holmes Report 01 Dec 2011 // 12:00AM GMT
The story of Taylor’s transformation is familiar—it has been told often in this publication—but it nevertheless is worth repeating. A management buyout in the middle of the decade and a radical shift in strategy devised and executed by the new leadership team had a revolutionary impact on the firm’s culture, market positioning and performance. Taylor changed from an old-fashioned publicity shop with a focus on sports and sponsorship and a roster of 70 clients to a template for the PR agency of tomorrow, providing strategic brand counsel to a select list of 20 blue-chip companies, climbing from outside the top 50 at the start of the decade to become one of the top 10 independent firms in the U.S., and earning unprecedented recognition, including our Midsize Agency of the Year award twice, our Agency of the Year award once, our Strategic Agency of the Year award in 2009, and our Agency of the Decade award in 2010.
Such recognition did not provide managing partner Tony Signore and his team with an excuse to rest on their laurels. Entering 2010, Taylor unveiled a new vision: “To be the preferred brand counselor and marketing communications portfolio of leading consumer brands by utilizing lifestyle, sports and entertainment platforms to engage consumers and drive business growth.” The vision is supported by five strategic principles: discovery, an in-depth dialogue with clients to define brand objectives and success criteria; a sophisticated understand of the landscape in which the brand operates; consumer insight to identify emotional and rational engagement drivers; breakthrough creative strategies; and flawless execution.
The past 12 months have seen the continued growth and diversification of the firm’s brand counsel group, which includes integrated brand planning, consumer insights, digital strategy and creative capabilities and continues to differentiate Taylor from more traditional public relations firms. It added two senior brand planners, Michelle Leo and Katina Scott, who report to executive vice president, strategic planning, Christian Alfonsi. One indication that the strategy is working: for the first time in agency history, nearly 50 percent of total revenue was derived from strategic brand counsel and 100 percent of the firm’s clients tapped into the brand counsel group for marketing strategy. The firm also made progress on the digital front, with server new hires, most notably Jackson Jeyanayagam as vice president, digital strategy. Almost a third of the firm’s revenue now comes from digital work.
Growth has slowed somewhat in recent years after the heady pace that followed the MBO, as management has sought to sever ties to clients who are “no longer in alignment with our vision” and focus on a select list of category leading brands. So 2010 saw revenues roughly flat around the $19 million mark, enough for Taylor to hold on to its place among the top 10 independents in the US. Key clients include Diageo, P&G, Allstate, NASCAR, Capital One, MasterCard, Coca-Cola, and Gillette, while there was new business from Taco Bell, Novartis (for its Excedrin brand), Nestle-Purina (Stouffer’s), and Amazon.
In an effort to amplify P&G’s NFL sponsorship during the 2010–2011 NFL season, Taylor launched a season-long effort dubbed, “Take it to the House,” which included social media, influencer engagement and local and national media to support a campaign that brought families together and promoted youth health and wellness. In November 2010, Taylor launched the “One Million Poses” campaign on behalf of the Captain Morgan spiced rum brand, an integrated campaign engaging consumers to help the Captain achieve his mission of inspiring one million people to strike his iconic Pose. Taylor also partnered with NASCAR on a landmark initiative that began with a top-to-bottom review of the sport’s overall communications strategy and led to the creation of a new integrated marketing communications capability within NASCAR.
“Taylor has been an invaluable partner to NASCAR,” says Steve Phelps, NASCAR senior vice president and chief marketing officer. “Their team has provided great insights and excellent strategic counsel across a number of very important initiatives not only for NASCAR, but the entire industry. Their dedication of senior-level expertise is unmatched and they show tremendous passion for our business that is always reflected in their work.”
A majority of the agency’s work is domestic but they do have international capabilities, supported through an office in London as well as extensive knowledge of global markets developed over the years through its multimarket work with clients such as MasterCard, Gillette and Diageo.