As the agencies servicing this sector are so vocal, marketers have probably heard more about field marketing and experiential activity in the past 12 months than they can possibly digest.
This has been both a help and hindrance to the evolution of field marketing and, in particular, to experiential work. With the television market fragmenting, clients have been looking for more targeted and cost-efficient routes to market - a share of purse that the field marketing industry has quite successfully put its hand up for.
However, vociferous debate within the sector as to the need for experiential work has left many clients confused as to the exact services such agencies can provide.
What is clear is that, as valid and necessary as traditional field marketing disciplines are, the bulk of the new revenue is coming from an increasing amount of live experiential work, particularly from FMCG brands.
With client interest now peaked, such agencies now face a new challenge, according to Jane Dyson, managing director of The Network.
"The biggest change to the industry has been the need to deliver experiential solutions direct to consumers and establish the return on investment," she says. "It is no secret that the retail high street is struggling, so there has been a pressing need to try and generate consumer interest as well as sales. The key is having good people, properly trained and aided by trustworthy data collection technology.'
Dyson believes that this quality level will become the key to maintaining and evolving the attention the industry is currently receiving from clients.
"One of our biggest challenges comes from within. There is a need for all FM agencies to talk up the quality work we do and position ourselves as a critical component to the marketing mix," she adds.
Proving the value of their work to clients is a major challenge for agencies, particularly given the intense financial pressures many marketers are working under.
Paul Ephremsen, chief executive of ID, believes the smart approach would be to place experiential activity at the heart of a marketing campaign as a medium that can interact with adjoining strategies through other media.
He says: "The single biggest challenge facing the industry is to elevate the positioning and credibility of the sector so that wherever possible, creating live experiences becomes the backbone of a brand's marketing activity from which other media channels are used to amplify the activity. This is a step change from the current position whereby experiential marketing tends to be considered once more traditional media routes have been explored."
Ephremsen cites some of ID's recent client work as a case in point. "We have seen examples - with the Dove 'Hair Histories' campaign and the 'Living By The Book' campaign for BT - that live activity can be the foundation from which other media such as PR and DM are then used for amplification purposes. This is a relatively new trend which we need to ensure continues," he says.
One threat to the quality levels appears to be coming from the spate of new agency launches - either through start-ups, new divisions of network agencies - eager to take advantage of heightened client interest.
Dom Robertson, account director at RPM, says: "The effect has been twofold: firstly the live media forums are becoming cluttered, and secondly many of these campaigns have not been thought through to implementation stage, which has resulted in lots of disparate campaigns that ultimately undervalue the role of experiential marketing and ultimately turn clients away from the sector."
Matthew Bending, managing director of Space and People and chairman of the Live Brand Experience Association (LBEA), is less concerned. He equates the competition to that of any evolving marketing sector, stating that "the cream will rise to the top".
Regardless of competition, the primary selling point for the experiential industry seems to be its ability to influence consumer choice in ways other marketing strategies cannot.
CPM managing director Mike Hughes says: "Brand experience provides the consumer with an opportunity to submerge themselves in a brand's ethos.
"In this modern age of brand power, a successful experience for a consumer can often be a deciding influence on choosing what brand of clothing they wear, changing their mobile phone contract or even choosing their next drink. Building this sense of increased affinity with a brand and driving sales is the function of brand experience."
Hughes avoids the industry's penchant for navel-gazing, saying integration between traditional and new practices is the way forward. "Although there appears to be debate about whether brand experience is a part of field marketing, CPM has evolved to meet the changing demands of clients and their consumers, offering a holistic range of customer contact methods.
While many of these are face to face through more traditional field marketing activities and brand experience work, our contact centre capabilities enable further consumer contact and experience of a client's brand via phone, email or the web," he says.
A theoretical line of argument this may be, but the quicker agencies concentrate on the client's needs and less on what's going on in their own backyard, the more likely the initial interest can be converted into a consistent revenue stream.
TOP 30 MARKETING AGENCIESR Rank Agency Turnover Turnover % 2004 2003 change (pounds) (pounds) CPM UK* 71,358,956 72,827,686 -2 1 DVC Sales 30,000,000 28,000,000 7 2 FDS Group 17,288,502 20,051,688 -14 Momentum* n/a 18,320,000 n/a Headcount Worldwide Field Marketing* n/a 13,646,949 n/a 3 REL Field Marketing 11,981,434 10,857,839 10 4 PMI Field Marketing 9,200,000 5,600,000 64 5 RPM 8,550,000 9,130,000 -6 6 ID Live Brand Experience 8,009,662 7,360,000 9 7 TRO 7,700,000 6,850,000 12 8 Pareto Marketing 7,000,000 9,000,000 -22 9 The Network 6,494,751 4,014,370 62 10 SMC Field Marketing 6,300,000 5,800,000 9 11 The Brand Company 6,000,000 6,000,000 0 12 Carbon Marketing 5,925,481 4,841,920 22 13 ODM 5,310,908 4,919,992 8 14 Blackjack Promotions 5,272,316 4,280,000 23 15 Trinity Executives 5,027,000 4,918,000 2 16 i2i Face to Face Marketing 4,954,567 3,335,783 49 17 Field Sales Solutions 4,805,340 4,603,313 4 18 The Blue Water Agency 3,262,857 2,803,635 16 19 LoewyBe 3,063,723 2,623,242 17 20 Adept Field Marketing 2,300,000 1,010,000 128 21 Carlson Marketing Group 2,200,000 1,300,000 69 22 NOP Field Marketing 2,150,000 1,100,000 95 23 Closer 2,100,000 1,135,000 85 24 Theatre 2,011,790 69,411 2,798 25 Candour Event Marketing 1,935,807 n/a n/a 26 Link Communication 1,810,000 1,560,000 16 27 MBA Field Marketing 901,263 1,096,044 -18 28 Elite Promotions & Events 437,042 396,632 10 29 NMS (UK) 363,410 n/a n/a 30 Method Two 248,000 n/a n/a Rank Agency HQ:field staff % contract vs % tactical CPM UK* 734:1800 80:20 1 DVC Sales 70:950 95:5 2 FDS Group 85:851 85:15 Momentum* 200:1000 75:25 Headcount Worldwide Field Marketing* 52:550 85:15 3 REL Field Marketing 80:2000 80:20 4 PMI Field Marketing 60:2500 65:35 5 RPM 60:80 90:10 6 ID Live Brand Experience 50:3500 35:65 7 TRO 95:40 80:20 8 Pareto Marketing 35:500 100:0 9 The Network 42:700 20:80 10 SMC Field Marketing 24:220 90:10 11 The Brand Company 50:1000 30:70 12 Carbon Marketing 25:300 30:70 13 ODM 30:450 90:10 14 Blackjack Promotions 28:1500 36:64 15 Trinity Executives 16:340 70:30 16 i2i Face to Face Marketing 20:2500 10:90 17 Field Sales Solutions 20:300 84:16 18 The Blue Water Agency 14:150 70:30 19 LoewyBe 18:200 20:80 20 Adept Field Marketing 12:120 90:10 21 Carlson Marketing Group 9:500 10:90 22 NOP Field Marketing 11:5000 77:23 23 Closer 15:170 20:80 24 Theatre 13:1250 20:80 25 Candour Event Marketing 18:1750 24:76 26 Link Communication 17:5800 20:80 27 MBA Field Marketing 5:40 75:25 28 Elite Promotions & Events 4:3500 10:90 29 NMS (UK) 5:40 70:30 30 Method Two 8:15 10:90 Companies House financial data provided by Willott Kingston Smith on agencies affected by the Sarbanes-Oxley Act.
Marketing magazine's league table of field marketing agencies is an annual ranking of all the major agencies active in this sector. Ranked by turnover figures from the last financial year, the table provides an accurate financial overview of the market. Despite the problems caused by the Sarbanes Oxley ruling, which prevents US-owned firms from releasing financial data, all agencies are invited to enter the field marketing league table in order to gain a complete overview of the market.
For companies affected by the US Sarbanes-Oxley Act, Marketing magazine has used Companies House data provided by Willott Kingston Smith. In most cases, the latest data has been for the 2004 financial year although there were some agencies for which 2003 information is the latest to be filed. All Sarbanes-Oxley-affected companies are listed under their group names and figures as opposed to individually by their constituting subsidiaries. A handful of subsidiaries could not be listed because it was impossible to separate their financial results from those of their parent companies. These were SIG (formerly Ellert Field Marketing), Haygarth, Lime (part of Publicis Group) and Instore Field Marketing (a division of WH Smith).
TOP FIVE SMALL AGENCIES FOR GROWTH Rank Agency Turnover Turnover % 2004 (pounds) 2003 (pounds) change 1 Theatre 2,011,790 69,411 2,798 2 Adept Field Marketing 2,300,000 1,010,000 128 3 NOP Field Marketing 2,150,000 1,100,000 95 4 Closer 2,100,000 1,135,000 85 5 Carlson Marketing Group 2,200,000 1,300,000 69 Excludes Sarbanes-Oxley affected agencies. TOP FIVE LARGE AGENCIES FOR GROWTH Rank Agency Turnover Turnover % 2004 (pounds) 2003 (pounds) change 1 PMI Field Marketing 9,200,000 5,600,000 64 2 The Network 6,494,751 4,014,370 62 3 Blackjack Promotions 5,272,316 4,280,000 23 4 Carbon Marketing 5,925,481 4,841,920 22 5 TRO 7,700,000 6,850,000 12 Excludes Sarbanes-Oxley affected agencies. TOP 10 EXPERIENTIAL AGENCIES Rank Agency Experiential (%) Revenues 1 RPM 99 8,464,500 2 ID Live Brand Experience 100 8,009,662 3 REL Field Marketing 60 7,188,860 4 TRO 70 5,390,000 5 Carbon Marketing 90 5,332,933 6 i2i Face to Face Marketing 85 4,211,382 7 LoewyBe 75 2,297,792 8 Carlson Marketing Group 90 1,980,000 9 Theatre 95 1,911,211 10 Blackjack Promotions 36 1,898,034 Experiential marketing figures incorporate revenue from roadshow and other face-to-face work. Excludes Sarbanes-Oxley affected agencies. TOP 10 TRADITIONAL AGENCIES Rank Agency Traditional (%) Revenues 1 DVC Sales 95 28,500,000 2 FDS Group 94 16,251,192 3 PMI Field Marketing 85 7,797,000 4 Pareto Marketing 100 7,000,000 5 The Brand Company 95 5,700,000 6 The Network 85 5,520,538 7 ODM 100 5,310,908 8 SMC Field Marketing 80 5,040,000 9 Trinity Executives 100 5,027,000 10 Field Sales Solutions 100 4,805,340 Traditional field marketing figures incorporate revenue from selling, merchandising, auditing and communication/training. Excludes Sarbanes-Oxley affected agencies.