FIELD/TELEMARKETING: A SLICE OF THE ACTION - Why is field marketing now becoming a must-have offer for the international marketing networks, Robert Gray asks

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

field-marketing companies.

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.


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.


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