Trouble at Tag as new owner Advent wields the axe

We’ve noted agency cutbacks in the US but, so far, the UK has seemed to have got off relatively lightly (it was the best-performing region for most holding companies in 2017).

But non-aligned production giant Tag, now owned by private equity firm Advent International, has been wielding the axe, getting rid of 45 posts at its London HQ.

Tag was bought by print services company Williams Lea a few years back in a £300m deal and subsequently became part of Deutsche Post. The deal never really worked and Tag/Williams Lea was sold to Advent last year.

Tag was once a print repro company called The Adplates Group. It spread its wings into all areas of production, often with newbie agencies, and prospered mightily under former majority shareholder Steve Parish and financial sidekick Richard Jameson. But it lost its lustre under the more process-driven Williams Lea and has been hit by a number of account losses. Most recently it lost Coca-Cola Europe production, worth about £10m, to WPP’s majority-owned Hogarth.

The big agency groups, spearheaded by WPP’s Hogarth, have sought to tighten their hold on production, in a concerted bid to improve margins. Then there’s the rise of on-site production agencies, like Oliver, which has established a big network for Unilever.

So Tag, which has also expanded into the US and continental Europe via an outpost in Amsterdam, is facing a vexed future.

Might Parish, when he isn’t occupied by his chairmanship and co-ownership of struggling Premier League club Crystal Palace, be tempted back into the fray?

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About Stephen Foster

Stephen is a former editor of Marketing Week and London Evening Standard advertising columnist. He wrote City Republic for Brand Republic and is a partner in communications consultancy The Editorial Partnership.

6 comments

  1. terrible company run by terrible people, only effective at losing business and clients – surprised it wasn’t more.

  2. The times of SP and RJ not forgetting the loyalty (a word never knowingly used under the WL leadership (a loosely based term)) of those around the company that were founded upon friendships and families and had the will to succeed together, cannot be rewritten under the same cloud.

    Nostalgia can get in the way far too often and a return, in my opinion is not a likely outcome. That fast and dynamic pace of an industry (another word missing from the WL dictionary) does not encompass the revival of, in its day ‘a trendsetter’ that had its heart disgracefully, ripped out in-front of us all.

    I’m sure what the next chapter in the SP/RJ story looks like, but it’s is probably already looking exciting.

    Crackers

  3. The new owner is doing the right things to sharpen the saw before it goes right through competition.

  4. People are seeing Mr Parish’s tenure with rose tinted specs, ok the company at the time was winning business and doing well but don’t kid yourself that there weren’t any problems even before the WL buy out.

  5. I don’t think anyone is wearing rose tinted specs… What a problem to have that winning business and doing well!

    Slightly different problems to the ones facing WLT today…

  6. “Process-driven WL” – sums it up. A very difficult and frustrating company to try to be creative in, because the people at the top didn’t understand how real creativity could benefit the company and its clients, despite some good people trying their very best to convince them that that was the way forward (with some great internal examples of how ‘creative’ had massively increased profit margins on some accounts – all above initial contractual agreements) – the only way to survive in their ever-changing market. The acquisition of TAG seemed like a step in the right direction, but (from the outside) I suspect they changed what was good about TAG to fit into the archaic WL business model – what a wasted opportunity.

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