Magazine article Marketing

Do Clients Benefit from Integration?

Magazine article Marketing

Do Clients Benefit from Integration?

Article excerpt

Convergence in the field marketing sector is giving agencies a chance to add value

With the migration of so many of the larger UK field marketing companies to multinational communications groups over the past few years there has been a lot of talk about the benefits of convergence.

In place of the rigid demarcations of the past, the thinking goes, clients should be free to use marketing services they need, from a variety of disciplines housed under one roof.

The attention that the sector has been getting certainly indicates increasing recognition of its importance. DVC Worldwide is the latest to add field marketing to its European portfolio with its purchase of Aspen.

But sceptics are apt to see this process more in terms of boosting shareholder value than a desire to create useful synergies for clients.

Some even claim that the relationships are viewed by newly absorbed companies less as an opportunity for creative co-operation than as an arranged marriage, with both client and agency forced to work with unsuitable partners.

Others accept in principle that there are potential benefits in interdisciplinary co-operation for clients, but suggest that these have not yet been demonstrated.

Strategic approach

This may be just a question of time. At Headcount, managing director Mike Garnham says parent company Cordiant Communications has yet to become a significant client, but sees this as a gradual process.

"The intention has always been to take a strategic approach to see where we can add value," he says. Cordiant is running a programme for group companies to look for what can be achieved by co-ordinating services, and that is expected to start bearing fruit next year.

Others are pushing forward with the aim of making integration a reality as quickly as possible. As a new acquisition of McCann-Erickson, GSD has travelled a long road in the past year in the company of sister agencies including NDI and PDP.All are being housed together in an open plan office to provide a fully merged service.

That means it can give clients a much broader field marketing service, characterised by continuity and economies of scale, argues managing director Derek Noakes. The new company will in future be able to provide research, strategic and creative development, sales promotion, and direct marketing, as well as point of purchase, and events and sponsorship.

"It takes the concept of an integrated below-the-line marketing services group to its ultimate conclusion,"Noakes says. "If a project comes in with an events bias, it will be led by that. If it's sales promotion with a field marketing element we will go in with sales promotion,and follow with field marketing expertise just behind."

At Aspen, joint managing director Gary MacManus is looking forward to benefits from the recent merger. "If someone buys into the packaging or design side we intend there to be one major point of contact," he says. "What clients are looking for is anything that will decrease their workload."

MacManus agrees with Garnham that new business wins cannot be expected straight away. "Sometimes it means wrestling an incumbent supplier away from a client and replacing them with an in-house one," he says.

Of course the sharing of resources is not an exclusive prerogative of major conglomerates. Some privately owned agencies list field marketing as just one of a number of activities, and say their ability to provide a range of services can be a magnet for new business. …

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