Williams Lea Gets Creative with Tag

Matt Swain
Feb 22, 2012

In July of last year, Williams Lea (a subsidiary of Deutsche Post DHL) acquired Tag. With 2010 reported revenues of over $150 million, Tag was considered the world’s largest independent marketing execution and production agency at the time. This move follows a series of acquisitions over recent years to help it expand its value proposition beyond print services. When I reached out for comment, Steve Parish, Tag CEO, stated, “Williams Lea has embraced Tag’s ambition to help clients create, manage and deliver their brand messages around the world. In the current market where CMOs are facing huge challenges combining the traditional tactile approach to marketing whilst at the same time embracing a more data driven strategy, Tag and Williams Lea can provide the platform and tools to help transform the approach.”

Tag CEO Steve Parish with Tim Griffiths, Executive Chairman of Williams Lea

Tag serves a diverse client base of some of the world’s largest brands (e.g., Adidas, Coca-Cola, Diageo, GlaxoSmithKline, H&M, Intel, Land Rover, The Royal Bank of Scotland, Sony, Unilever, and  Vodafone). Of thirteen global offices, their largest is in London, followed by New York, Singapore, and Shanghai. Williams Lea invited me to tour Tag’s New York office last month to help me better understand the scope of this strategic move. Occupying three floors of a eight-story building between SoHo and Little Italy, the Tag offices are filled with busy graphic designers and color specialists working on the creative for magazine ads, posters, brochures, direct mail pieces, websites, and cross-media campaigns for highly recognizable brands. During my tour, Nick Smart, Client Services Director for Tag USA, explained that there is a notable shift in client interest from static print to interactive media. While print advertising remains important, clients are seeking other ways to entice their consumers to interact with their brands.

Another important component of what the Tag acquisition brings to Williams Lea is a visual effects and post-production subsidiary named Smoke & Mirrors. This company has worked on commercials for companies like BMW, Burger King, Chase, Coca-Cola, Jaguar, Land Rover, Panasonic, Rock Band, and Verizon, as well as starting to support feature films such as The Sitter and Revenge for Jolly. Perhaps the most interesting work they shared with me was the creation of The Beatles: Abbey Road Rock Band commercial where they used stock footage of the band members, put their heads onto body doubles, adjusted facial hair, and rebuilt portions of faces (that were behind microphones) to re-enact the iconic Abbey Road crossing.

Frame from The Beatles: Abbey Road Rock Band Commercial

Click here to see a sample of some of the other work the team showed me.

Because Tag’s capabilities are so far removed from traditional print services, I had to keep reminding myself that this marketing execution and production agency was now a part of Williams Lea. This serves as a prime example of an outsourcing company that is embracing change and moving further upstream in its clients’ value-chain. Tag’s client portfolio represents an opportunity for Williams Lea to expand its enterprise print management and document services business while also providing Williams Lea’s existing clients with a more comprehensive offering. “Our complementary business capabilities and client-focused cultures make Williams Lea and Tag a powerful force in the marketing services arena. Together, our unique, integrated marketing supply chain proposition is able to address the marketing services requirements of global brands” said Conor Davey, Williams Lea’s Group CEO. “As the global marketing industry continues to evolve, we are strongly positioned to be a market leader in this space.”

One of the common challenges that a document outsourcing organization has when moving into new service offerings is the existing sales force. A sales person who is trained to sell into procurement or operations often has trouble knocking on the door of the marketing or strategy executives and being able to carry a convincing conversation. Williams Lea is in the unique position that it began building out its creative services business in the early 1990’s and continued to build competency with smaller acquisitions in the years to follow—making the acquisition less of a stretch for its existing sales force. We look forward to seeing what new business deals Williams Lea and Tag are able to close in 2012 as a result of the acquisition.


InfoTrends is launching a new study next month entitled Service Expansion Opportunities for Document Outsourcing that will include perspective from over 625 enterprise organizations across Australia, Europe, and North America to better understand which services they intend to outsource over the next five years and what their ideal provider will look like.

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