Given that the field-marketing sector in the UK is estimated to be
worth more than pounds 350 million per annum and, in percentage terms at
least, is among the fastest-growing disciplines in marketing, it comes
as little surprise to learn that it has caught the eye of the big
marketing services groups. When McCann-Erickson's parent Interpublic
snapped up GSD, which ranks as number six, in September last year it
left only two privately owned businesses among the top ten
Interpublic, which merged GSD with an agency it already owned and
renamed it Momentum, joined Omnicom, Mosaic Group, Havas, Cordiant and
D'Arcy as a significant player in the sector. This dominance of the
upper echelons by the big groups raises some interesting questions. For
instance, is field marketing becoming a must-have offer for the
diversified groups with ad agencies at their heart? What kind of
synergies are there to be had between advertising and field marketing?
And will the going get increasingly tough for the independents?
Alison Williams, the managing director of FDS Field Marketing, one of
the two privately owned businesses in the top ten, thinks that the
independents are not at too great a disadvantage. However, she concedes
that those businesses that have ad agencies as sister companies are
likely to benefit from "warm" leads as business is referred across the
constituent parts of a diversified group.
Williams, who is also the chairman of the Direct Marketing Association's
Field Marketing Council, says: "We very rarely work with an ad agency
and only sometimes work with a sales promotion agency. Mostly we work
with the client's marketing department."
This is not, though, to say that advertising and field marketing do not
work together. Product sampling, of course, is often a major part of
FMCG launches that have major advertising support. Yet this is only part
of the story.
Many people in advertising probably labour under the misapprehension
that field marketing is all about roadshows and product
While such activities are clearly part of the mix, what is often
overlooked is the key area of retail auditing. Or to put it more baldly,
making sure that retailers who say they are stocking a product really do
have it on their shelves.
Williams says FDS recently carried out an audit at a retail chain with
about 1,000 outlets. The retailer had said that the product made by
FDS's client was available at all its stores, but the checks revealed
that it was only on display in one out of three.
This sort of situation obviously has major implications for advertising
campaigns, particularly in the current climate where clients' budgets
are under pressure and there is greater onus on agencies to prove the
effectiveness of the marketing communications they create. If the
advertising had broken without the checks being made on product
availability, inevitably it would have been considered ineffective
because less product would have been sold than anticipated - simply
because consumers would not have been able to buy it due to distribution
"Over the past four or five years most advertising agencies have been
saying: 'We need to have a total solution.' Field marketing is one
element of that total. Lots of our work comes through good referrals
from agencies in the group like D'Arcy and Leo Burnett," IMP's managing
director, Phil Cottier, says.
Cottier points out that whereas in the past field-marketing agencies
worked predominantly with sales directors at client companies, today it
is more often than not the marketing director who is the prime
Field marketing is becoming more tightly integrated into the
communications mix, he adds, with more roadshows, product sampling and
retailer auditing all timed to coincide with major bursts of marketing
communications activity. Momentum's regional director for EMEA, Chris
Weil, says that between 25 and 30 per cent of his company's revenue
comes from clients it shares with its parent, McCann-Erickson, which
gives some insight into the potential synergies between the
Occasionally, however, field marketing may be seen as an alternative to
above-the-line spend. Clients, after all, are currently much exercised
with one-to-one marketing and customer relationship management - and
what better exemplifies these terms than meeting consumers face to
"We're actively taking budgets that were earmarked as advertising
spend," Aspen Field Marketing's joint managing director, Gary MacManus,
With field marketing growing at more than 30 per cent a year, albeit
from a relatively low base, there may well be some substance to such
Yet for all its virtues, field marketing is rarely perceived as a
discipline meriting a seat at the top table as regards the development
of marketing strategy. Perhaps that is why WPP has so far refrained from
acquiring an agency of this type.
Some field-marketing agency principals take issue with being painted as
low-end commoditised service providers. Among them Mosaic Technology's
chairman Richard Thompson. "We bring strategic value to what we do
rather than being a glorified employment agency," he says.
Mosaic Technology, as its name suggests, specialises in field marketing
for electronic products, numbering Orange, Compaq, Hewlett-Packard, Sky
and Toshiba among its clients. It has also picked up the field-marketing
contract for Microsoft's Xbox, the software giant's eagerly awaited
first foray into the computer games console market.
Technological expertise aside, says Thompson, being part of an
international group was a major point in the agency's favour when
pitching for the account. "All the big brands are getting bigger. You
need global leverage," he contends.
At a time when countless clients are focusing on "one-to-one"
techniques, some with the obsession of Buddhist monks chanting a mantra,
field marketing offers a way of increasing the impact of above-the-line
advertising and making an impression with consumers at the point of
purchase. That, coupled with the sector's strong rate of growth, is why
several big marketing services groups are pleased to have
field-marketing specialists in their portfolio of agencies.
OWNERSHIP OF THE UK'S TOP TEN FIELD MARKETING COMPANIES
1. CPM Now part of Omnicom's Diversified Agency Services division, CMP
was previously under the aegis of BMP and before that, Davidson Pearce.
2. FMCG Part of Mosaic Group.
3. Aspen Field Marketing Independent.
4. Brann Ellert Owned by Havas.
5. Headcount Field Marketing A subsidiary of Cordiant.
6. Momentum Created when McCann-Erickson (Interpublic) bought GSDin
September 2000 and merged it with an existing operation.
7. FDS Field Marketing Independent.
8. IMP Part of D'Arcy
9. Mosaic Technology Formerly EMS, which was bought by Mosaic Group in
June 1998 for pounds 5 million and recently rebranded.
10. Merchandising Sales Force A Havas subsidiary.
Source: Marketing magazine.