FDS continues to make impressive strides, buoyed by its recent win from Interbrew and the continuing success of its work with Npower and T-Mobile. Ranked in sixth place in Marketing's League Table, the company is budgeting for a 45% increase in turnover during the current period.
That would be a major feat in a sector that saw little growth in 2002.
But group chairman Alison Williams says the company has never failed to meet its targets. "We have been investing heavily in infrastructure over the past two years, and we are now reaping some of the benefits," she says.
The agency, the largest to remain in private hands, has split its sales activity into a separate division managed by Keith Tate, while the field marketing arm is headed by James Moyies, former managing director of PMI.
Moyies is not the only senior figure to join from another agency recently, an indication of the esteem in which FDS is held within the industry.
Others include Julia Collis from Headcount and Tracy Webber from FMCG.
The size of the board has doubled to six, and office staff have increased by 15% to 120.
Another sign of success lies in recent plaudits, including Outstanding Achievement Customer Service (Interbrew Wow Awards 2002); Best Work by a Field Marketing Agency (Direct Response Smart Awards 2002); and Creativity in Management, for tailored arts-based training (Arts & Business).
New wins this year include Business Link, visiting small firms to offer consulting services; Nestle, visiting independent retail outlets; and Asda, merchandising mobile phone stands in stores. Other new clients are Charles Worthington and V-Net. There has also been considerable organic growth: for instance Interbrew, which contracted with FDS a year ago, has since grown its activities fourfold, running promotions for DVQ Scotland, On Trade England and Boru Black.
This summer FDS provided a face-to-face element in Zurich Bank's national publicity blitz. A campaign for Express Dairies helped dairy section managers in major stores maximise sales by increasing their knowledge of consumer behaviour and efficient stock management. Call coverage reached 98%, exceeding targets by more than 13%, while 60% of stores visited have reversed declining sales and a further 30% halted the decline.
Several field marketing companies have been developing their own computer systems, and in the case of FDS the results have been so successful that it expects this to be a major source of revenue in its own right. One is Matador, a web-based suite of field activity management, data capture and reporting solutions. This is now being tested by two clients, typically showing 25% improvements in accuracy and reduction of project management time.
"The immediate application is for field marketing, monitoring distribution and sales," Williams says. "But the system has many other applications, and can be used by any company that needs to co-ordinate information swiftly over a variety of venues and sites."
To steer through a period of major change and expansion FDS has developed its own management training tool, and its success means that this, too, can be generally marketed. Called Frontline Dynamic Marketing, it aids managing change and devolving responsibility to individual employees within an organisation.
A potentially serious setback this year occurred when the head office in Whitstable, Kent, was destroyed by fire. "It was through sheer determination, commitment and teamwork by all staff involved that turned the situation around in three days," says Williams. Within that time new offices were found, furnished and networked, enabling normal work to resume. Procedures in place ensured that no data was lost in the fire.
Last year's top agency RPM won £2.8m of new business in 2002 and is set to boost its turnover by 33% to £9m in the current period.
That vindicates a bold strategy of eliminating work from agencies in order to focus on strategic partnerships with brand owners.
Major new clients include BRL Hardy Wine Company, Laurent Perrier, and Camelot, for a National Lottery campaign that achieved a return on investment of 125%. The agency also staged campaigns for new brands belonging to existing clients, such as Hellmann's, Croft Original and Glenfiddich.
In October RPM was named Agency of the Year for Field and Service Marketing in The Grocer's GRAMIA Awards for advertising and marketing in the grocery sector.
The creativity of the agency's approach is demonstrated by its promotions for Glenfiddich, where style bars were visited by illusionists, style photographers and personal lifestyle managers. That boosted a commitment to purchase from 21% to 36%. And in a campaign for Adidas, actors played the roles of a footballer and a 'mad professor' in Selfridges during the World Cup.
When growth is difficult, better to concentrate on being more profitable, argues Headcount's managing director Mike Garnham. The agency pushed net profit up by 42%, much of it through expansion in Asia Pacific and elsewhere.
It has also won £4.5m of new business and turnover is up 15% in the current period.
One new win is American Express for which Headcount carried out a pan-European campaign aimed at promoting the acceptance of charge cards and travellers cheques by retailers. Staff made 100,000 visits to shops, bars and restaurants in 11 countries across Europe over a ten-week period, which boosted the acceptance rate by 113%.
For Gordon's Gin, Headcount trained 39,000 bar staff in 7500 on-trade outlets to gain a sales increase of more than 40%. For Evian Volvic its sales and merchandising success rate in retail outlets averaged 75%.
Another successful area has been technology. Headcount has developed its own data collection software, and a 'smart pen' that makes auditing quicker and more accurate. "It's so good that rival agencies are enquiring about purchasing the product," Garnham says.
THE NETWORK FIELD MARKETING & PROMOTIONS COMPANY
In these tough times, travel companies have downsized their sales operations and turned to field marketers to fill the gap. That has been good news for The Network Field Marketing & Promotions Company, which visits more than 4000 travel agents monthly on behalf of clients such as British Airways and First Choice Holidays, and expects to boost its turnover "significantly".
New wins this year include Ramada Jarvis, P&O Cruises, and USAirtours.
The agency also added the Evening Standard, offering bar customers two drinks for the price of one when they bought a copy of the paper. "This achieved significant increases in circulation and readership in a highly cost-effective manner," says managing director Jane Forsdike. To meet the workload, the agency has expanded its specialist team at head office as well as recruiting new field staff.
This year The Network ran a series of national activities nationwide to increase Metro's distribution. In a double promotion with Metro and Nestle's Yorkie, field teams offered men chocolate bars carrying the strapline 'not for women', which ensured a vocal response.
First People grew at an impressive 88% last year, with new wins such as Kellogg's Frosties Chocolate, an outdoor event programme targeting students, and the launch of Nectar at 140 BP petrol stations. It was also involved in the launch of Nestle Double Cream, staging PR stunts in which consumers scrambled to get chocolate bars from a 'broken down lorry' that had shed it load.
To launch Sainsbury's Active Naturals range First People developed the first ever experiential store extension, a tunnel fixed to the entrance of 100 stores that enabled shoppers to experience the brand. The tunnel replicates a Garden of Eden filled with herbs and fruit, waterfalls and ambient music.
For Jack Daniels, First People undertook a campaign to recruit 70,000 new users, visiting 2000 outlets to buy drinks for consumers 'in celebration of Jack's birth'. That boosted bar sales by £250,000. The agency also approached a younger audience with an offer that highlighted JD's commitment to the social bond created by the brand.
THE RUSSELL ORGANISATION
It has been a busy year for The Russell Organisation (TRO), a staffing and events company growing at around 20% per year. An automotive specialist, it has benefited from the increased use of field marketing by car companies.
In June it was appointed to support Land Rover's outdoor events programme, liaising with the dealer network, and co-ordinating its participation in outdoor events in the UK and Europe. It also handles Volvo's exhibition programme.
The agency ran a nationwide roadshow following up the launch of the Mini in September and October. Convoys of Minis drove through 12 busy city centres, stopping to give lifts and hand out merchandise. It gave 360 test drives, while press coverage reached half a million readers and 6.5 million radio listeners, helping Mini exceed sales targets.
During the year TRO won four events awards, including the Incentive Travel & Meetings Association and the EIBTM Awards, and was ranked second in Marketing's league table of the Best Marketing Employers in 2002.
McCann-Erickson's Momentum has made great strides in the two years since it acquired GDS and other agencies to create an integrated experiential marketing service. In 2002 it billed £28m, a 20% gain on the previous year, and almost as much again overseas, where it now ranks second after CPM. New clients include Siemens, American Express, Food Brokers, and General Mills, owner of the Haagen-Dazs and Old El Paso brands.
One of Momentum's major successes this year was a campaign for Johnson & Johnson's Acuvue brand, promoting a new one-day contact lens product in 18 countries. The aim was to offer trials to the key female 18 to 24 market, with a roadshow that could be easily adapted to local market conditions.
Professional contact lens fitters offered on-the-spot 'comfort' trials at gyms, sports clubs and leisure centres for the duration of the consumer's work-out or game. They then returned to have the lenses removed and make an appointment with an optician. Up to 25% conversion to purchase and an increase of up to 30% footfall into specialist opticians has been achieved.
TOP 20 FIELD MARKETING AGENCIES
Rank Agency Turnover 2001
1 CPM UK 56,855,000
2 Mosaic UK 47,762,000
3 Ellert Field Marketing 36,030,000
4 Momentum 28,193,000
5 Headcount Worldwide 26,800,000
6 FDS Field Marketing 16,649,000
7 IMP 13,038,000
8 Sira Group 12,297,000
9 REL Field Marketing 8,400,000
10 Quest 8,122,000
11 The Network Field Marketing &
Promotions Company 7,000,000
12 RPM 6,806,000
13 The Russell Organisation 6,600,000
14 iD 5,600,000
15 Trinity Executives 5,912,000
16 Draftworldwide 4,340,000
17 i2i 4,060,000
18 First People 3,368,000
19 QSMP 2,900,000
20 Marketing Dynamic 2,837,000
Source: Marketing League Tables