Sarah Keith reflects on two years as MD of Involved Media and shares her outlook for 2023

Sarah Keith - Involved Media

Keith also spoke to¬†Mediaweek about her team’s successes and achieving 40% revenue growth this year

Sarah Keith has marked two years as managing director of Involved Media (formerly Paykel Media).

Keith is also the group managing director of Active International, the parent company of Involved Media.

Keith spoke to Mediaweek about her journey so far as the leader of the independent agency, celebrating the team’s successes, new partnerships, and her outlook for the year ahead.

Keith reflects on her highlights at Involved Media 

In her second year of leading the independent agency, Keith highlighted three moments that have stood out in her tenure so far. The first was the successful rebranding from Paykel to Involved.

“It was really important for us to refresh and reposition what we were about,” she said.

Keith explained the reasons for the rebrand were to set themselves apart from other agencies and to adopt “egoless positioning,” which puts clients at the centre of what they do ahead of the agency.

The additional reason for the rebrand was to be closely aligned with their corporate trade business and to be “actively involved”.

“Being able to successfully rebrand, get that message out there and continue the momentum with our existing clients. That’s what was important.”

Keith noted building an excellent team for the agency as another great highlight. She said that with the size of the agency and the complexity of its ownership, she was uncertain they would be able to attract the right people.

But now, she boasts a strong team with general manager Dan Hojnik and a band of group account directors, strategists, and head of digital.

Leading a “Swiss Army Knife” team and celebrating their successes

Despite having a small team, Keith described each member as a “Swiss Army Knife”. Qualities that embody such a team include having hands-on experience, being prepared to roll up their sleeves, being self-sufficient, and being experts in their particular division.

Keith rounded her highlights with Involved Media’s wins over the last two years. She said the victories showed the rebranding, repositioning and strong team were the right moves for the agency.  

Their wins include NordicTrack, Chartered Accountants Australia and New Zealand, Hertz, O’Brien Electrical & Plumbing and Crayola.

Sarah Keith - Involved Media

Adopting a strategic focus for clients 

As a result of the rebrand, the agency adopted a strategic focus. Keith explained it was essential to employ senior strategists to help understand the complexity of media, particularly in a post-pandemic environment.

“Not just the proliferation we constantly see with new platforms, new sources of data, and looking at owned and earned channels, as well as paid channels,” she said.

Keith noted that the pandemic significantly changed people’s consumption habits. “Setting up early on with a strong strategic focus was absolutely vital, and I think that’s been key in terms of both existing and new clients,” she added.

Navigating the pandemic and achieving impressive growth

With the pandemic passed, Keith noted that despite a tough 2020, the agency fared well and has grown since it hit.

“I came on board at the end of 2020, and we had some clients who were no longer spending in line with the fact that they didn’t feel that consumers were spending,” she said.

Keith also said that 2021 was tough but that 2022 has been a fantastic year for the agency. “We’re on track for significant revenue growth year on year,” she added.

Involved achieved a 40% revenue growth this year. According to Keith, the key to achieving that successful result has been the increasing number of projects they have been working on, client growth and new clients.

“Our egoless positioning allows us to do a lot more behind the scenes with other partners,” she shared. Keith noted that their partners’ use of Involved’s expertise in digital work, insights, or strategy drove revenue this year.

Partnering up to launch Real Life Media

In recent weeks Involved Media’s other business, Active International, along with JOY Investment Partners and Word Of Mouth Media, joined forces to launch Real Life Media.

Real Life Media is an innovative new advertising solution that will see the marketing services companies use real people and testimonials to create product reviews and recommendations, delivered in video format via television and social media.

Sarah Keith described it as an alternative to middle funnel activity. She explained that it would help inform consumers who understand what they want and are looking for reassurance in their purchase decisions.

“Ultimately, it is testimony from real-life people. It’s an alternative to influencers if you like. It’s genuinely being able to find a key insight from people in real life to help support your product,” she added.

Left to right: Simon Rush, director of JOY investment partners, Sarah Keith, group managing director of Active International Australia, Anthony Meyer of sales director for Real Life Media and Warwick Hills, managing director of WOM Network

The outlook for Involved Media in the year ahead

Keith was realistic about her outlook for the year ahead, calling it tough. She noted their key areas of focus would be on retaining and growing their people and delivering for their client’s business.

“I think it’s going to be a tough year. I think, post-Christmas, when those credit card bills arrive and that summer glow burns off, people will start looking at their bank balances, and things will tighten up a little bit.

Keith said Involved media would focus on ensuring clients get the correct information about what to do and where to spend. She added: “ensuring we remain agile and move things around as our clients need to, as well as making sure that we don’t get too spooked by it all.”

Keith also noted that the agency would continue to inform and advise clients of new technologies and innovations, such as the metaverse, in-housing digital, etc.

“Making sure that we’re continuing to spend enough time on clients, rather than worrying about those day-to-day pressures that we’re going to have once we get to February.”

Keith added: “As we move into 2023, I think it will continue to be important to find ways of remaining creative and resourceful in a hybrid environment. That’s going to be a challenge for everybody.”

“It’s certainly one of the things we will focus on behalf of our clients because collaboration, whether it’s virtual or hybrid, is the thing that drives creativity and serendipity. Those are the things that we pride ourselves on,” Keith concluded.

Making the Mediaweek Agency 50

Sarah Keith was recently part of Mediaweek’s Agency 50 list, coming in at number 48 and said: “I was delighted to be part of it.”

“I felt very honoured to be included, and it was a fantastic recognition for my team and nice for our clients to see that we were also recognised,” she added.

Top image: Sarah Keith

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