Online Community Experience Drove This Independent Agency From the Start

The Social Element thrives on connection

Tamara Littleton (l.), founder and CEO, and Ashley Cooksley, CMO.
Katie O’Connell

Independent agency The Social Element may be based in London, but the world—and the internet—is its office. Founder and CEO Tamara Littleton worked on online communities with the BBC before starting the company in her London garage 16 years ago with a 10,000-pound loan from her parents. “We used to talk to each other on Internet Relay Chat,” said Littleton of the early days. “We were complete geeks.”

CMO and 10-year veteran Ashley Cooksley, who came from AOL, added that “we were able to move into the social world because people didn’t really understand how to connect” back then. That’s what made The Social Element stand out from the rest: “Connection is at the center of everything we do,” Littleton said.

Now, its 250-plus staff is spread across the globe and has clients like Jack Daniel’s, HBO, Lego, Oreo and Toyota under its belt. Cooksley stressed that the agency is “really passionate” about protecting the social community and its brands; Littleton and co-founder and COO Kate Hartley launched simulated crisis company Polpeo five years ago to train brands’ social media teams on responding to attacks in real time.

This story first appeared in the April 9, 2018, issue of Adweek magazine. Click here to subscribe.