FIELD MARKETING: The International Stage - James Curtis investigates the ways in which field marketing agencies cope with cross-border activities in Europe

In this age of global business, the biggest clients increasingly

only want to work with those agencies with an international network.

However, in field marketing, relatively few UK suppliers have

international aspirations.



There are different levels of capability. The UK's biggest field

marketing operation, the Omnicom-owned CPM International, is the most

established in Europe, having built a network of agencies in 17

countries over the past decade.



Ten of these are wholly owned and seven are affiliates. Clients who use

CPM's network for pan-European field marketing campaigns include

Hewlett-Packard, for whom the company recently performed a retail audit,

collecting data from outlets in 17 countries.



McCann-Erickson's Momentum, which has been assembled as an "experiential

branding agency", combining field marketing with allied disciplines, is

emerging as another force on the European scene. It has 26 wholly owned

offices in Europe, and a total of 60 worldwide. Its pan-European clients

include Procter & Gamble, which uses the company for distribution and

sales support for Sunny Delight and Pringles across eight European

territories.



Others include Headcount Worldwide Field Marketing and FDS Field

Marketing.



Both of these have "virtual networks" for international projects,

calling on strategic partners in Europe when the need arises. Julia

Collis, the sales and marketing director of Headcount, says the company

is seeing strong growth in its European business, with four projects on

the blocks already for 2002, compared with two in 2001.



Another important player is Walter Marketing of Germany. The company

bought the SEP Group in 1998, giving it a network of field marketing and

sales promotion agencies in France, Spain, Belgium and Portugal. It now

conducts 40 per cent of its business outside Germany, developing

pan-European work for clients such as Bayer and the German pharmacy

chain Schlecker, which is expanding into Spain and Austria.



As for the other big names in UK field marketing, the picture is more

patchy. Aspen Field Marketing currently does nothing in Europe, but,

under its new owner, the Chicago-based DVC Worldwide, has plans to

expand there in 2002.



Mosaic, the Canadian-based marketing group which acquired FMCG (now

Mosaic Sales Solutions) and the IT specialist EMS Chiara (now Mosaic

Technology), attempted an ambitious expansion into Europe, but has since

pulled out, closing some offices or selling them back to the previous

owners. It now has strategic alliances with agencies around Europe and

still does cross-border work for clients such as Sony.



So why is Europe not proving a sure-fire expansion route for the UK's

field marketing sector? Bruce Ellison, the business unit director at

Ellert, which is owned by Havas Advertising, says the potential for

European work is not of sufficient scale or value.



"We just don't see many clients looking for pan-European homogeneity in

field marketing. The sector in Europe is not as advanced as it is in the

US and the UK. Utility deregulation is getting off to a slow start and

in-store merchandising is not massive, with much less emphasis on

compliance. We believe the Continent is not quite ready, or the

opportunity is not there for dynamic growth."



Ellison doesn't rule out European expansion, however, especially as the

company's sister direct marketing agency Brann, to which it reported

until a few weeks ago, has been gradually building a network. But, he

adds: "It's not for field marketing to lead the way. The best option is

for us to trade off the back of wider moves made by Havas and

Brann."



Ellison, like many in the industry, points to Mosaic's ill-fated

European adventure as a warning to others. Russell Green, the client

services director of FMCG, explains what the experience has taught him:

"We spread ourselves rather quickly, largely at the behest of some

clients who wanted pan-European solutions. But a lot of that work didn't

materialise.



"Did we get our fingers burnt? Maybe. What we have learned is that we

should concentrate on the markets we know we can crack. Also, we now

know that if you want a foothold in Europe, the best route is through

strategic partnerships."



Some of FMCG's competitors argue that its problems were a combination of

overly rapid expansion and reduced demand from key IT clients, as

opposed to Europe itself. Derek Noakes, the managing director of

Momentum, says: "When it comes to big US clients, they see Europe as one

market, whatever we may think here. They don't understand why a project

which worked in the UK can't be immediately exported into Europe. As

suppliers, we have to meet that demand."



Noakes concedes that the number of true pan-European projects is small,

with most cross-border activity being limited to two or three markets,

such as a sponsorship support project Momentum is doing for Stella

Artois in the UK and France. However, he says, the potential is always

there for wider briefs.



"Out of 20 projects, I'd be surprised if more than two were

pan-European. But if you get those 18 others right, they could lead to

European activity."



Tony Stratton, the chairman of CPM, says that pan-European work is "the

smallest part of our business" but is confident that there is potential

for growth.



"Just look at what is happening," he says. "The rise of global brands

means marketing is being reorganised along regional lines. We see

regional advertising, regional PR and, increasingly, regional

promotional activity. The launch of the euro can only accelerate the

process."



There appears to be more potential for cross-border work in the

data-driven side of field marketing, such as retail auditing and

merchandise compliance. This is where a network and its consistent

systems of reporting and analysis can deliver economies of scale. At the

experiential, face-to-face, end of the spectrum, the complex human

element makes it a harder process to centralise.



For the moment, it looks as though the wisest strategy is to be

positioned to take advantage of growth in cross-border field marketing,

through having a wholly owned or affiliate network. As field marketing

matures as a communications discipline, it is only logical that clients

will begin seeking the same economies of scale that they find in other

areas of their marketing activity.



FIELD MARKETING AGENCIES IN EUROPE



CPM



Field marketing agencies in EuropeCPM CPM INTERNATIONAL



Owns agencies in ten European countries and has affiliations with seven

others. Turnover from its overseas businesses totals nearly £120

million. Much is single country work or projects for two or three

territories.



Clients include: Hewlett-Packard, BuenaVista, Mars and the Dutch

supermarket chain Ahold.



MOMENTUM



Turnover is £23 million in the UK and £44.2 million

overseas, most of which is local market activity. Around 60 per cent of

its activity is contract merchandising and 40 per cent is experiential,

such as sampling and roadshows. Momentum has 26 offices in Europe, the

Middle East and Africa.



Clients include: P&G, Interbrew and Nestle.



FDS FIELD MARKETING



A leading UK independent, it offers a virtual network of European

affiliates and is pushing into new markets. Recently worked with Nokia

on a pan-European, airport-based sales project.



Clients include: One2One, Npower and KFC.



WALTER MARKETING



With a turnover of £60 million, Walter is a major player in

Germany and, through its subsidiary, SEP, owns a network of agencies in

France, Spain, Belgium and Portugal.



Clients include: Bayer, Canon, Esso and 3M.



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