Tin Man: devising and delivering campaigns with a heart

Tin Man Communications won the ‘Marketing Agency of the Year’ award at The Drum Marketing Awards 2017.

Founder of Tin Man, Mandy Sharp has said that each campaign they enter has a different core brand message, “but essentially, the reason we enter The Drum Marketing Awards is to showcase our work and our agency to a wider marketing audience. Our approach to campaigns often tends to cross disciplines and is less ‘traditional’ PR– so we appeal to marketers generally, as well as PR folk.

“Understandably, awards are a financial commitment, so agencies have to be comfortable with that, but in our experience, they have been well worth the money. It also trains agencies to strive to produce their very best work.”

The young communications agency explains the achievements and challenges faced that won it the top accolade.

Executive Summary

Only three years old (at the time of entering) Tin Man has already turned heads. No longer the one to watch, this consumer agency is now a serious PR player within the industry, creating Campaigns with Heart and impacting the bottom line for blue chip brands such as ITV, Monkey Shoulder, Monarch, JustGiving, Cartoon Network and Trainline.

And our year in numbers adds up well:

  • 86 awards wins/ shortlists
  • 114% profit growth in last 2 years
  • 60% revenue growth in last 2 years
  • Doubled head count in 2016
  • 98% pitch conversion

Report

About Tin Man

Three years in and 2016 was a BIG one for us. It was the year we turned from boy to man (or rather, Tin Man), taking our place at the top table with other established consumer agencies. We’ve worked on some great clients - from William Grant & Sons whiskies to Nickelodeon, Wateraid, Harvey Nichols and Borough Market to name a few. We’ve also proudly filled our shelves with shiny industry awards (86 shortlists/wins to be exact), delivered a 114% profit growth and 60% revenue growth in the last two years alone.

But we wanted more.

Tired with often being the ‘wild card’, we wanted recognition for ‘our outstanding strategic and creative thinking’ (word for word feedback from our latest pitch win against the big boys).

And just like the Wizard of Oz, our story is a good one….

We’ve grown from one to 15 in three years (doubling in 2016 alone), excluding finance and IT. Tin Man consists of consumer, social and experiential PR experts with a mix of talents and skill sets. We’re also fun and good people. We don’t do drama and politics. That’s for other agencies.

Agency Objectives

We’ve always had three objectives:

  • NOT to be the biggest or flashiest agency in London
  • To ONLY produce exceptional work
  • And have a GREAT time doing it

With 20% of the team (including the founder and director) working four-day weeks, Tin Man understands the importance of working hard but also ‘having a life’ - something staff frequently comment on. As the agency name suggests, Tin Man is centred on creating Campaigns with Heart - campaigns that engage our audiences emotionally as well as rationally. This ethos translates through everything we do – from our work to the honest and close relationships we develop with clients and staff.

Clients appreciate our Tin Man Heart Monitor – a bespoke evaluation package to gauge the true power of our ideas. We think it's a no-brainer, but they tell us frequently that other agencies don't do this.

Campaign snapshots

Trainline – The Magic of Mobile Tickets

Brief: Get people using Trainline’s mobile app to buy digital train tickets instead of paper tickets

Idea: We needed something shareable and with mass appeal to engage Trainline’s disparate audiences. We enlisted ITV’s BGT winner, magician Richard Jones to visually sell the benefits of mobile tickets. He swapped his deck of cards for a deck of paper tickets and made thousands of them disappear in front of stunned commuters’ eyes. This engaging content-led campaign showed paper tickets and queuing are on their way out.

Results: App engagement uplift of 16.09%, over two million cross channel views and 256 pieces of coverage.

ITV – Thundercabs Are Go

Brief: Launch season two of Thunderbirds Are Go to families

Idea: The ThunderCabs – a fleet of black cabs transformed into iconic Thunderbird vehicles transporting families around city attractions during the half term (when parents look for kid-friendly activities) at £1/ ride (all proceeds went to The Children’s Trust). We partnered with well-known cab app who turned their digital taxis icons into ThunderCabs and we turned ITV postergirl Sam Faiers into Lady Penelope to ensure mass market coverage.

Results: 25% awareness uplift, series reached 5.9m people (two times more than series one), 202 pieces of coverage, 67,000 competition entrants, 46,200 organic social impressions.

Recent achievements

Ambition has been the buzzword since day one and our financial targets have always been high. Whilst we are very different to the £5m income agencies also included in this category (not even sure how you can even judge us together?) for us it’s all about profit, growth, a talented and motivated team and the quality of our work. On that front – we’ve smashed it.

The numbers (in three years)

  • Revenue growth: 60% (2014-2016)
  • Profit growth: 114% (2014-2016)
  • Profit margin: 25% (2016)

The work

  • 86 award shortlists and wins in under three years

The results

  • 95% of new business comes from recommendation or seeing our award-winning work
  • Pitch win rate 98%
  • 100% of clients surveyed said; we are better than other agencies they have worked with
  • 100% of clients said; we delivered beyond expectations and would happily recommend us

The team

  • 100% of staff are very happy with their working environment
  • Annual bonuses and bespoke treats for great work
  • Totally flexible working. Working mums make it to sports days yet still meet deadlines

The challenges faced and how we’ve overcome them

Our 2016 mission was to go from boy to man, so we needed a laser like focus to get there. Enter our four-point business plan

1 - Establish a seriously impressive client list:

We already worked with some blue-chip consumer brands including: Little Brown Book Group, Borough Market and Nickelodeon, but we wanted to work with more household name clients that would buy into the Tin Man PR approach. So far so good. In the last six months alone, we have started working with: Just Giving, Cartoon Network, ITV and Monarch to name a few.

2 - Only work on business that will deliver this plan

We turned away 10% of new business and our pitch rate has risen to 98%. The last eight pitches have been won against the big players helping shift the industry’s perception of us as the hot ‘new kid on the block’ to an established, leading consumer PR agency.

3 - Invest in some seriously talented staff

We doubled in size. With key hires from respected agencies we also widened our skill sets adding digital and entertainment expertise with strategic in-house hires from big brands.

4 - Innovate

Since day one we’ve had a soft spot (and skills) for helping start-ups go to market. From apps that financially reward Instagram influencers to a new Watermelon Water now being sold in Sainsburys. As such we’ve developed a bespoke approach called Launch Pad - using our expertise to give entrepreneurial brands an affordable, PR kick start they need.

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