Next month Cosine will celebrate its second birthday, but the agency has already become a major player thanks to a string of impressive wins, including the field marketing industry's biggest prize of 2006 - a three-year deal to run all in-store sampling for manufacturers' brands in Sainsbury's stores.
Rivals may be whispering that Cosine was given a significant head start, being a sister Omnicom agency of CPM, the industry's biggest field marketing agency. Though Cosine did start out with a legacy of three CPM clients, it soon added a string of its own clients, leading to first-year revenue of nearly £9m, easily placing it among the top 10 and making it a worthy winner of Marketing's Field Marketing Agency of the Year.
In 2006 it picked up clients including Sainsbury's, Weetabix, Pernod Ricard and Britvic, as well as incremental wins from American Express, Kraft and BT Ireland.
It was the agency's creative approach that helped it win the esteemed Sainsbury's account. Cosine worked with customer publishing house Seven Publishing Group to develop an integrated selling and sampling approach. It tied sampling with foods and recipes featured in Sainsbury's Magazine, which is sold in supermarkets, and its 100-page quarterly title Sainsbury's Fresh Ideas, to 1.5m customers cherry-picked from its Nectar card database. The magazine drives customers to try brands and at the same time provides the supermarket with advance warning on which products to feature in-store and stock up on.
To differentiate itself in a crowded, mature market, Cosine has put the intelligent use of data at the centre of its business model. It has set up an in-house data team to analyse various data sources to help clients determine where they should focus their work and the resulting activity is linked to sales, so clients can further segment their approach and increase effectiveness.
Nick Fennell, managing director of Archway Management, which provides field marketing consultancy to both agencies and manufacturers, says Cosine's data-led approach is not unique, but only a handful of agencies are doing it effectively.
Pernod Ricard wanted to increase distribution of its Stoli and Havana brands in the independent convenience sector. After Pernod identified the ideal demographics of customers for those spirits, Cosine used demographic profiling to locate stores near those customers and approached shop owners instead of cash-and-carry suppliers. The effort added 157 distribution points in the first two weeks of the campaign and the activity paid for itself in three months.
As a result of its focus on data and sales, Cosine is offering clients a risk-sharing model. Fennell says payment by results is not new to field marketing, but Cosine stands out in its implementation of it. 'It is one of the first agencies to have adopted the strategy wholeheartedly,' he says.
In May, for example, Weetabix outsourced field sales operations to Cosine to enhance product availability and monitor how supermarkets were complying with its in-store promotional agreements.
Part of the work involved the successful launch of Oatibix. The Cosine sales team delivered an 8.5% availability improvement for Oatibix in stores it oversaw compared with control stores. The effort resulted in getting the cereal into more than 1.5m households and in the four weeks to 9 September, Oatibix garnered 2.4% volume brand share of the breakfast cereal market.
Cosine's focus on segmentation also applies to its own business structure, with the agency concentrating on three sectors: financial services, FMCG, and telecoms/utilities. Within financial services, Cosine offers a specialist service to clients wanting to reach SMEs.
Under the leadership of managing director Nick Jones, who resigned from CPM's board to establish the agency, Cosine prides itself on its non-hierarchical structure, which allows functional experts within a given industry sector the authority to make quick decisions.
The challenge now is to sustain momentum. Parent company Omnicom has stumbled before in attempts to launch an agency to deal with account conflicts at CPM. But given Cosine's initial success, it is possibly of more concern that the young start-up might eclipse its older sibling.
2005 REL Field Marketing
BEST OF THE REST
Channel Advantage has grown both its traditional field marketing and brand experiential business by focusing on technology companies.
In Marketing's Field Marketing Leagues, it was the fastest-growing small agency, expanding 130% in 2005. This year it is on target to grow 33% to hit a £5m turnover on the back of nearly £1m in total incremental wins from clients such as Microsoft and Hewlett-Packard, and another £1.4m in work from new clients including Intel, Seagate and Virgin.net.
Channel Advantage stands out creatively for its approach to a brand experience project for Microsoft in which it showcased Microsoft's offerings to corporate customers.
It converted the former College of Art in Chelsea into a fictional home, workplace and cafe, and a team of four actors took guests on a 90-minute tour to demonstrate how to use more than 50 Microsoft products. Bill Gates opened the Life2 centre and more than 2000 guests, mainly director-level key partners and clients of Microsoft, attended. Several multimillion-pound orders were taken as a result of the tour.
This activity was followed by the creation of a £200,000 2000ft2 similar area called The Retreat near Henley-on-Thames, which provides a permanent technology showcase for Channel Advantage's clients. More than 1000 retail staff are being trained at The Retreat on behalf of Microsoft, Intel and HP ahead of the launch of Windows Vista and Office 2007.
Not only is the agency responsible for B2B training for Microsoft, it was also appointed the official customer demonstration partner for Windows Vista and will carry out more than 7000 demonstration days of the new operating system in early 2007.
Of the experiential marketing specialists, LoewyBe has had an outstanding year, boosting its turnover by 42% in 2006. It added 15 clients with assignments totalling nearly £1m, including Powergen, Superdrug and Npower Urban Cricket.
It also attracted £1.5m in incremental business for 40 projects from clients including P&G's Pampers, Danone, Diageo and Scottish & Newcastle. The latter commissioned LoewyBe for the national roll-out of its 'Biggest Round' promotion, launched regionally in 2005. Brand advocates engaged with drinkers to find their existing preferences, before offering them a half pint of an S&N alternative in a chilled branded glass.
REL Field Marketing, last year's winner, has had steady growth, increasing its turnover 10% to £15.5m. It picked up more than £3m in incremental wins from clients including Reckitt Benckiser, Ferrero Rocher and Sainsbury's. New clients include Danone, L'Oreal and Kettle Foods.
For the industry's top agency, CPM, which is as big as the next four biggest agencies combined, it is no mean feat to have increased turnover by more than 10% in 2006. Clients coming on board included Campbell's, Coors, eBay and Twinings, with incremental business coming from Hewlett-Packard, GlaxoSmithKline, Masterfoods, Microsoft and Procter & Gamble.
This year it has focused on researching how customers shop and how and why they use different purchasing channels. Using these customer insights, CPM has been advising clients on how best to offer their products to consumers in terms of place and time in an effort to maximise sales.
In March, CPM moved into experiential marketing with the launch of Mango, which has already become Diageo's preferred supplier for experiential marketing. Mango is also the preferred supplier for Lucozade and has worked with Nike.
An early pioneer of experiential marketing, RPM boosted its turnover by more than 25% in 2006, thanks to new clients such as Blackberry, UK Online, Bombay Sapphire and existing clients such as Unilever, Umbro, Constellation and United Biscuits.
RPM also implemented the Sky Festival, Europe's biggest free entertainment event, comprising 36 events and reaching more than 200,000 consumers in a single weekend.
In a similar way to Channel Advantage, Gekko has grown by specialising in the technology sector. Earlier this year it won the assignment to manage and staff the first Apple concession store at a Tesco in Milton Keynes. Its field marketing specialists provided the expertise and knowledge to enable high-end, high-tech products such as computers and iPods to be sold in traditional value-based, FMCG environment.
Gekko was also awarded the management of Toshiba's first standalone store in the Cheshire Oaks retail park near Liverpool.