There's a bizarre fact about the UK field marketing industry that
isn't widely appreciated. Like other marketing service sectors, it's
seen many of its leading players swallowed up by international
communications groups. What's different with field marketing is that
this seems to have happened absent-mindedly, while the buyers were
concentrating on something else. Not so much impulse shopping, as "good
heavens, how did that get in the trolley?"
CPM, for example, is the UK's biggest field marketing agency, with a
turnover of £75 million. Taking its Continental sister companies
into account, it is also the biggest in Europe. It was bought by BMP,
which in turn was acquired by Omnicom.
"I think this was a case of Omnicom buying a desirable ad agency and
seeing what came along with it," CPM's managing director, Tom Preece,
says. "In that sense, it was accidental, but I don't think they've
In a similar way, Headcount suddenly found itself as part of Cordiant a
couple of years ago. "They weren't buying Headcount, they were buying
our parent, Healthworld, because they wanted to be in international
healthcare advertising," the managing director, Mike Garnham, notes.
"They weren't too sure where we fitted in, but we were making lots of
money - a large part of Healthworld's European profits came from
And the story is not so different with a third leading UK field
marketer, Ellert. Originally it was bought by the ill-fated US group
Snyder, which had its origins in field marketing and related
disciplines, while also nursing ambitions in creative communications.
When Snyder hit trouble, it put itself up for auction and was bought by
Havas Advertising, attracted to the direct marketing specialist Brann
and the Arnold advertising group.
Snyder decided that Ellert sat logically with Brann and rebranded it
accordingly: Brann Ellert. Havas, in a restructuring announced just
before Christmas, merged Brann's UK direct marketing agency with
ehsrealtime to form EHS Brann, while hiving off Ellert and Brann's
telemarketing arm, Contact. These two now report directly to Paris and
could, in time, be merged. Ellert director, Bruce Ellison, welcomes the
move, which frees up the company to work with other agencies.
It might be deduced from all this that the big, advertising-oriented
communications groups are a bit unsure about where field marketing fits
in the marketing mix. After all, there's a more obvious fit with
below-the-line disciplines such as sales promotion and direct
DMB&B's SP agency, IMP, for example, has a field marketing division, and
so has Carlson Marketing. The Canadian below-the-line group Mosaic has
bought two UK field marketing agencies (FMCG and EMS Chiara), as well as
the DM/SP agencies ZGC and Stretch the Horizon. (This, though, is a
situation that the sector is watching with fascination: Mosaic has
aborted its plans to expand to the Continent and scrapped the original
UK agency names in favour of the Mosaic tag. Many of those who built
those businesses, such as Mark Zimmer at ZGC, Mark Sheard at Stretch the
Horizon, Mike Cottman and Steve McQuillan at FMCG, and Richard Thompson
at EMS Chiara, have left.)
Meanwhile, to the global communications groups, field marketing is
clearly one of the small sectors, with many one- and two-man operations,
but only three dozen or so agencies that regularly stand up to be
counted. Total UK turnover is unlikely to top £500 million, which
is about half the size of the market research industry.
At the same time, the term "field marketing" covers a lot of different
disciplines, from checking stock on retailers' shelves to handing out
samples at Waterloo Station. Some parts of the industry are struggling
to find alternative names, such as "brand presence", "last metre
marketing" and "experiential marketing".
The common factors that glue these together are skills in logistics,
data collection and, above all, managing a lot of people. It's very
different from the creative hothouse of a high-profile ad agency.
Yet field marketing is expanding fast, with UK growth rates of 30 to 35
per cent in 1999 and again in 2000. The communications groups are not
usually averse to growth, profits or grabbing as big a share of total
marketing budgets as they can.
Jim Surguy, the managing director of Results Business Consulting, is
probably involved in advising more agencies on takeover and merger
strategies than anyone else in the UK. He says: "Over the past two
years, my perception of the game has changed significantly. What you
might call 'brand experience' is now a serious part of the
communications mix. Given the amount of clutter in traditional media, I
think there are some big opportunities for continued growth."
Some of the major groups are now extremely interested in the sector,
Surguy adds. He rightly points to the McCann-Erickson group, which has
consciously put field marketing high on its shopping list.
The blame for coining the term "experiential marketing" lies with
It has created a new UK agency, Momentum, based on four acquisitions
from closely allied disciplines: the roadshow specialist Barnet
Fletcher; the merchandising and auditor GSD; the sales promoter PDP; and
the point-of-purchase designer and distributor NDI.
All have been merged into one operation, to the point where the London
managing director, Derek Noakes, says: "We don't see any lines any more.
A brief comes in and we brainstorm it on the basis of what's best for
And it's not just in the UK. Chris Weil, the regional director for
Europe, the Middle East and Africa, says that Momentum, launched in the
US in the mid-90s, now has more than 2,000 employees in 55 offices, and
a turnover of $200 million.
Weil says: "Where does the customer come into contact with the brand and
what is the experience? The model is very simple - sponsorship
marketing, event marketing, field and presence marketing, and sales
promotion. These together are experiential marketing. Our biggest
challenge is that we are the biggest in the world and no-one has heard