Cinderella has a glint in her eye. She has seen the palace and the
crown jewels, and, like an 80s yuppie, she has started to map out her
career plans in the back of her Filofax.
There is a degree of exaggeration in that, perhaps. But what is
certainly true is that field marketing - always an important if not very
glamorous part of the mix - is sharing in the below-the-line boom.
Since the recession, marketers have been placing a greater emphasis than
ever before on measurability and evaluation. Field marketing is part of
that story. Global brands? Yes, field marketing is going
Category management? There’s a role for field marketing. One-to-one
marketing, and bringing the brand to life in the marketplace? Count it
Not surprisingly, given all this, field marketing has also been part of
the current rush to merge, rationalise and acquire. Here’s a summary of
some of the key deals that have taken place since our last league table
a year ago:
- Milton Marketing Group, which owns Headcount, is about to merge with a
US marketing services company called GHBM. They will float on the NASDAQ
stock exchange as The Healthworld Corporation.
’Its field marketing operations worldwide will be known as Headcount,’
says Mike Garnham, managing director of Headcount in the UK, which was
launched only in 1994. ’The deal will enable the Headcount brand to
expand speedily into Europe and North America, both in consumer goods
and medical.’ Garnham is forecasting a pounds 20m turnover in two years,
up from the pounds 6.4m reported here. Part of the growth will come from
a new subsidiary in the highly specialised area of medical field
marketing. Known as ’detailing’, and tightly regulated, it is a separate
industry estimated to be worth pounds 120m a year. An experienced MD was
appointed in March, and has already brought in business worth pounds 3m
Upjohn is the first major client.
- CPM International, through ad agency parent Omnicom, bought one of the
top German field marketing companies, PPD, at the start of the year. PPD
is a similar size to CPM in the UK. The total operation now has offices
in 14 countries, and will have a turnover this year of around pounds
- In another deal struck early this year, FMCG was bought by the
publicly quoted Canadian group Mosaic. The latter, which now has a
turnover of dollars 135m (pounds 61.3m), has two other principal
subsidiaries - S&MG in field marketing, and Mariposa, in below-the-line
communications, such as sales promotion. ’Mosaic is totally a
below-the-line, results-now operation,’ says FMCG managing director Mike
Cottman. ’The UK is really the beachhead for mainland Europe. We have
other takeovers planned for the UK before the end of the year, which
will broaden the services we offer.’
- As Marketing revealed exclusively last month, Barnett Fletcher
Promotions has been bought by McCann-Erickson, the international ad
group which has just restructured into seven ’communications channels’.
(’Barnett runs a very good business,’ says FMCG’s Cottman. ’I respect
that. He was either going to go to McCanns, or come here.’) As it is,
Barnett Fletcher’s eponymous agency has been renamed BFP Momentum. And,
rather like FMCG, it will act as a European beachhead for McCanns’
’experiential marketing’ subsidiary, Momentum. It, too, plans to offer a
wider range of below-the-line skills. ’The Momentum corridor encompasses
sales promotion, and McCanns is trying to acquire SP companies that will
fit in to that integrated role,’ says Fletcher. ’Now we want to get on
with becoming the world’s biggest promotion company. And the best.
Otherwise we have failed.’ BFP’s turnover is a fraction under pounds 6m.
Only half is from field marketing, however, and of this, approximately
half is from overseas.
- Much, but not all, of GSD Field Marketing’s growth since last year’s
table is the result of acquiring MML from Young & Rubicam, a deal which
has brought it the Pedigree Master Brands account. In a sense this is
against the general pattern, where it is the ad agencies that make the
takeovers. However, MML was possibly sitting a little uneasily in the
Y&R group, and was the only one to lose ground in last year’s table.
Meanwhile, GSD has also received approaches. ’We’ve had talks recently
with a couple of sales promotion agencies, but they came to nothing,’
says chairman and managing director Robert Gill. ’There are two or three
important points, and if it were just for the money, I wouldn’t be
First, we would want to be sure anyone who bought us understood what
field marketing was. Second, we wouldn’t want to be snapped up just
because we looked good value to an accountant. On the other hand, if
being taken over offered new opportunities, as when Omnicom took over
CPM, that would appeal.’
- Holmes & Marchant, the sales promotion, PR and design group, had a
subsidiary in last year’s table, but has withdrawn from the market.
This is only the second field marketing league table Marketing has
produced, and despite all the takeover and merger activity, it does
include a few more companies than last year.
Industry leaders estimate the total sector as being worth between pounds
150m and pounds 160m. The 21 companies in our table report a combined
turnover of pounds 133m - up 18% year-on-year.
The question remains how best to define field marketing. Rob Allen,
managing director of The Russell Organisation - a diversified group with
a turnover of pounds 9.6m - used ’a very conservative definition’, which
means his figures are not fully comparable with those submitted by a
colleague a year ago.
The key division is between long-term contract or strategic work, and
short-term, tactical applications.
The strategic side is by far the most important. Its roots are in
selling in products to retailers and merchandising - ensuring the
client’s products are on the shelves. However, auditing and information
feedback are becoming an important factor, and the demand for instant
data means a growing emphasis on use of computers and modems (see IT
panel, page 9).
Moreover, this end of the business is expanding out of its packaged
goods heartland into many other kinds of consumer products and services,
from sports goods to videos, financial services to utilities.
The tactical side is growing, too. This can cover short-term
emergencies, such as selling in a new product, but also embraces
everything from sampling to roadshows and other marketing events.
’The events industry has seen a proliferation of agencies over the past
couple of years,’ says Jonathan Hall, managing director of Roadshows
Promotions & Marketing (RPM). ’This has been largely driven by demand
from clients, who have to use more targeted marketing tools and who,
like drinks and tobacco, face advertising restrictions. Larger ad
agencies and PR companies are beginning to strengthen their portfolio of
services through the inclusion of events departments or companies.’
Bob Ellert, chairman and managing director of Ellert Retail Operation
Services, says it is a nonsense to group the two, strategic and
tactical, together. The latter he describes as a ’body bank’, whereas
the longer-term strategic work is better classed as ’out-sourcing’ and
requires a calibre of operative indistinguishable from the client’s own
He has a point, in the sense that there is probably not a lot in common
between his own company, which is at one extreme of the
strategic/tactical axis, and roadshow specialists, such as CPM’s
Vandisplay, BFP Momentum or RPM, at the other.
If there is a common factor, however, it is the ability to manage
And though the bigger companies tend to work more in the contract area,
and the smaller companies are more tactical, many operate in both
Ellert is also right to say that out-sourcing is the very essence of
field marketing. Most FM companies have employees working week in, week
out for one client, and to all intents and purposes, they could be on
that client’s staff. To take a handful of examples from just one
company, FMCG has people working every day in British Airways uniform,
and others running petrol stations in Ireland for Texaco. It has ’sporty
youngsters’ training shop assistants on the finer points of Reebok
footwear, and ’active greys’ selling home contents insurance for
Utilities is seen as the next big area of expansion. Over the next few
years, consumers are going to have much more choice in terms of whom
they buy their services from, and this is provoking a scramble for the
CPM business development director Nick Fennell says: ’Almost everyone in
the industry has a gas client, and the same will happen with water.’
But, as Gill at GSD points out, the utilities sector is a classic
example of why field marketing staff have to be as skilled and sensitive
as those of their clients.
’We’re calling at households to explain the benefits of switching their
gas account to Scottish Power,’ he says. ’There’s a strong case for
face-to-face contact because many consumers, especially the elderly, are
confused about what deregulation means. We get questions like ’will it
mean changing the pipes, and will there be an increased risk of
’You can see that it requires a very sympathetic approach, and blue-chip
standards. It only takes someone to upset the mother of a local
councillor, and the bad publicity rebounds on the client.’
The fact that new types of client are turning to field marketing augers
well for growth. But it also means FM companies find themselves talking
to potential clients who don’t have the knowledge of field marketing
that would be taken for granted in a packaged goods firm.
’When you take field marketing outside its FMCG heartland, you are
talking to companies who don’t really understand it, so it is not
surprising that they don’t want to go ’balls out’ first time,’ says
Eddie Phillips, CPM’s managing director. ’It is almost a question of
putting it in to test the market, perhaps in just a couple of
This has come as a culture shock to CPM, says his colleague, Nick
Fennell: ’A couple of years ago, if someone said they wanted a test, we
would walk away. But we now recognise that proving it will work can be
key to both sides.’
There is an issue in the industry over whether full-time or part-time
staff are best. Aspen Field Marketing has moved over entirely to
full-timers. Joint managing director Gary MacManus says they are better
educated; they’re put through the Chartered Institute of Marketing
course and get computer training.
This is an interesting stance to take, and it will be fascinating to see
what difference it makes. MacManus claims it stems directly from the
company’s positioning, which is about providing computer-based online
Industry leader CPM, on the other hand, claims to have looked fully into
the question, and found that its contracts increasingly want people for
18 to 25 hours a week, which also suits many of its workers.
’But I think the industry does itself a disservice when it talks about
part-time workers,’ says Phillips. ’That has a derogatory ring to
These are fully committed people who want a challenging job. The fact
they work four or five hours a day is better described as
Finally, it is worth noting some better-than-average percentage
increases from some of the smaller companies in this year’s table. Among
them are two Yorkshire companies: The Network and Teamwork Field
A specialist in the travel trade, The Network has benefited from cuts in
the sales forces of the package holiday operators. With ambitions in the
packaged goods trade, too, it forecasts a doubling of turnover by
Teamwork was founded in 1994 and already has major clients in Nestle
Rowntree and Nestle Fox Confectionery, and Silver Spring, maker of
Perfectly Clear. Growth this year is exceeding 1996’s 77%, says
commercial director Bobby Collins.
’We do everything now on a cost-plus basis, so it is an open book.
I think all of the big companies work this way. There is much more
frankness, and that’s the way it has to be.
’In the old days, an agency might quote a rate of pounds 60 per working
day, and it was its business how much of that the worker received. Now
we’ll recommend what should be paid to the field workers and field
managers, and charge clients a contribution to overheads, and a fee.
’If there’s a problem, it is that big companies, which wouldn’t dream of
running a team without proper management, are inclined to say ’If you
use such good people, why do they need managing?’.’
Robert Gill, chairman and managing director, GSD Field Marketing
’As much as 60% of the sales of a new video are made in the first week
of release, so most video distributors use field marketers to ensure the
retailers are giving their top titles the agreed display.
’A major entertainment company rang us one Friday evening, saying they
needed us to visit 1500 outlets on Monday, to ensure that a
free-standing unit they had supplied had been installed. And they wanted
the report by midday Tuesday.
’We hit the phones for the rest of Friday and all Saturday. We managed
to get to 1473 stores, and they got their report on time. We did this
four weeks on the trot, and it was covert - no one knew we were doing
Mike Garnham, managing director, Headcount
Retailers and manufacturers have embraced category management, which in
theory means shelves laid out to optimum designs. Keeping tabs on it is
Esso’s forecourt stores stock about 600 products in several
To keep its management and suppliers informed, it employs field
marketing firm FMCG to audit its shelves.
Every day, an FMCG employee will receive by modem the planograms for two
forecourt shops, selected at random in his or her area. The operator
then goes to the sites and conducts a full audit. The data is
transmitted back overnight.
Mike Cottman, FMCG’s managing director, says the software for the
touch-screen system used was written by the company in just six
WE HAVE THE TECHNOLOGY
The demand for faster and faster information means that all of the top
field marketing companies are heavily committed to computer
Aspen Field Marketing, for instance, will use laptops to make
presentations, or for retail training.
But some staff use Psion palm tops, and others a Casio palm top PC which
is not yet on the market.
Clients can access data online, and manipulate it themselves. ’They
particularly like a traffic-light system we use, which shows the data in
green when things are going to plan, yellow when there’s something that
needs attention, and red when there’s a real problem,’ says Aspen’s
joint managing director, Gary MacManus.
Ellert personnel have a user-friendly, pen-based system allowing them to
tick boxes or write numbers on screen. A modem link means they can be
briefed in detail before each call, and can immediately modem the
results to head office.
In contrast, GSD has issued staff with an 0800 number for the software
organisation RW44, which can handle thousands of calls
Data is phoned back and consolidated within ten minutes; it can then be
examined by clients such as Procter & Gamble and the BBC.
All of these systems represent huge advances on the paper-based systems
of a few years ago.
The one thing that is certain is that technology won’t stand still. CPM
managing director Eddie Phillips says: ’We’re looking at some very new
and sexy kit to come into operation early next year.’
Field marketing league table, by UK turnover
Rnk Consultancy Turnover Turnover % HQ Field
1996-97 1995-96 chg staff empl-
pounds pounds oyees
1 CPM International 42,426,000 39,566,000 7.23 250 1900
2 Aspen Field Marketing 17,489,000 14,714,000 18.86 78 590
3 FMCG 16,117,000 14,371,000 12.15 100 1150
4 Ellert Retail
Operation Services 10,544,000 11,882,000 -11.26 93 1285
5 GSD Field Marketing Grp 9,221,000 5,124,000 79.96 70 1900
6 IMP Face to Face 7,807,000 6,160,000 26.74 20 430
7 Headcount Field
Marketing 6,391,000 3,421,000 86.82 38 750
Sales Force 5,968,000 3,582,000 66.61 33 3500
9 CBA 3,401,000 3,368,000 0.98 35 n/a
10 DSPS Field Marketing 2,820,000 3,045,000 -7.39 23 300
11 Carlson 1,600,000 1,101,000 45.32 12 200
12 The Network Field
Marketing & Promotions 1,510,000 934,000 61.67 25 800
13= BFP Momentum 1,500,000 1,118,000 34.17 n/a n/a
13= Sue Quest 1,500,000 1,300,000 15.38 12 n/a
15 Roadshows Promotions &
Marketing (RPM) 1,384,000 1,069,000 29.47 18 n/a
16 The Russell Organisation 1,200,00 n/a n/a 65 600
17 QSMP 950,000 1,200,000 -20.83 8 120
18 Face to Face 438,000 424,000 3.30 7 600
19 Teamwork Field Marketing 414,000 234,000 76.92 6 250
20 Retail Field Marketing 375,000 250,000 50.00 6 292
21 Zoo People 283,000 n/a n/a 8 1200
The big users
Rank Sector Spend*
1 Food 37.8m
2 Retail 19.0m
3 Drink 13.5m
4 Business-to-business 10.3m
5 Tobacco 6.3m
6 Home entertainment 5.1m
7 High-tech and telecoms 4.5m
8 Financial services 3.2m
9 Pharmacy/medical 2.6m
10 Other grocery 1.7m
11 Utilities 1.0m
* This table indicates orders of magnitude but understates the totals
because some respondents chose not to provide an analysis of their
clients’ spend by sector.