AGENCY 2003: Field Marketing Agency of the Year - Best of the rest

Field marketing agencies continue to operate in a difficult economic environment, and few can boast outstanding growth in 2003. But the demand for auditing and merchandising remains strong, as brands fight for limited shelf space in supermarkets. Clients also continue to show a fascination with experiential activity, and there has been no shortage of effective campaigns this year.

"Field marketers are being asked to deliver high return on investment, keen costs and high standards. This is challenging, but good for the industry," says Alison Williams, chairman of the Field Marketing Council (FMC).

Ellert's work with PayPoint was a high point of the year, helping to ensure the smooth introduction of pay terminals for London's Congestion Charge scheme. Aware of the project's political importance, managing director Kathryn Smith and her senior colleagues pitched in to help supervise the operation.

Ellert has also extended its work with Masterfoods and Toyota, as well as winning business from Mercedes, Gillette and others.

CPM offers an integrated field and telemarketing service. It claims to have increased turnover this year by 15% on its 2002 turnover of £77m, a hefty £11m, for both disciplines.

The agency has been praised for winning clients such as Heinz and Kimberley-Clark. FMCG giants such as these have not been big users of field marketing, but are being persuaded of the need to ensure compliance with supermarket agreements.

The problem for FMCG brands is that individual stores often flout the planogram arrangements made at head office level regarding presentation and stock levels. "The challenge lies in the last 50m of the supply chain, getting the product onto the shelf, and ensuring it is available all the time. If field marketers are in stores regularly they can drive that capability," says CPM client services director and FMC council member Nick Conway.

In one strikingly successful campaign carried out this year, Momentum raised compliance for Food Brokers Direct from as little as 26% to more than 90% on many products, helping to generate significant volume growth.

Similarly, FDS Group deployed teams across the UK on behalf of KP, selling in stock and merchandising display stands across the retail network. By introducing an additional 19,000 distribution points, the agency added more than £1m in sales for KP in the first 11 weeks.

Both agencies were involved in mobile phone campaigns. FDS provided an all-network merchandising service in Asda stores, increasing sales by some 20% and boosting compliance from 30% to 95%.

The agency's service is being used internally by Asda Wal-Mart as an example of worldwide best practice. "FDS has without doubt improved customer perception of the mobile phone category and contributed to enhanced sales," says Asda buying manager Simone Newman.

Momentum, meanwhile, has been running a brand development campaign for Siemens, aimed at increasing handset sales by getting store staff to raise endorsement levels. This has helped to increase Siemens' mobile market share to 12.8%, thus challenging the second position behind Nokia.

It's not only the big agencies that have had successes. "The work is being spread around more, with big-name brands such as Mars and Procter & Gamble recognising the specialist skills and creativity of small companies," says Nick Fennell, director of consultancy Archway Management.

PMI FM has more than doubled its turnover to £3.3m in the 12 months to June. This includes work for BMG Music, Universal Studios and Samsung.

It claims to have acquired no fewer than 13 clients in the past three months alone, and has doubled its head office staff.

PMI was particularly busy promoting Disney film releases this year. These included The Lion King DVD, Pirates of the Caribbean and an array of back catalogue titles.

The agency's auditing and merchandising have given clients an advantage.

"We were flying blind in stores, but now PMI is our eyes and ears, as well as extra hands," says Richard Corps, sales and trade marketing manager at BMG Music.

LoewyBe has prospered, anticipating a 27% increase on turnover to £3.4m.

One of its most important wins has been a 12-month £1m sampling initiative for Jordans cereals. Others are Yakult and Florette.

Experiential specialists have had a particularly good year. ID is increasing turnover with wins from L'Oreal, Heineken and Unilever Bestfoods, and achieving significant growth from existing clients.

The agency has also invested in an independent evaluation service from Connexus Research, which shows levels of awareness doubling and purchase propensity increasing by as much as two-thirds as a result of iD live campaigns.

Providing measurable results has also been a key driver at The Works, a fast-growing provider of creative brand experiences. One recent campaign was a mechanical 'bucking bronco' contest at Alton Towers for Fanta Fruit Twist, which led to 60% of those who sampled the product making a repeat purchase.

The element of theatre had a strong presence in the agency's campaign for Vanilla Coke. An atmosphere was built up with the presence of 'bodyguards' and 'camera crews', and staff emerged from the back of a lorry on scooters to hand out samples.

More than two million drinks were distributed, and three-quarters of those who had not tried the product went on to buy it during the following month.

Kommando has also used field marketing to reach youth audiences. It created an effective campaign for the Information Commissioner, designed to raise awareness of data protection rights among university students.

Kommando has proven adept at taking advantage of opportunities that arise unexpectedly. A prime example is the way in which it won publicity for Imperial Leather and other brands at David Blaine's recent stunt by flashing images on to Tower Bridge in front of an international TV audience.

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