TASK MASTERS

The use of one-stop agencies to supply all aspects of promotional initiatives is on the increase. But many believe it compromises quality.

The Jack-of-all-trades, according to popular belief, is a master of none, but in the world of promotions and incentives, some agencies say they have proved that the opposite is true.

A cross-discipline promotion is hardly a new concept. As the lines between marketing disciplines have become increasingly blurred, it is not unusual to see a below-the-line agency incorporating advertising as part of its brief, or an advertising agency bringing direct marketing tactics into its campaign.

In the promotions and incentives market, agencies claim the same is happening.

The skill sets of corporate hospitality, incentive travel and sales promotion are traditionally supplied by three disparate specialist companies. But now agencies say there is an increasing demand from the client world to look for a Jack-of-all-trades agency, which can handle all three skill sets.

This approach has advantages for the client. If they are faced with the prospect of co-ordinating several skill sets to pull together a multi-faceted campaign, a one-stop shop gives a single point of contact, improving integration and avoiding a mammoth co-ordination task involving three agencies.

Secondly, it avoids the scenario of sitting in a room full of agency heads thrashing out a business plan – a prospect which some clients may refer to as an invigorating challenge, but most view as a nightmare.

Using one agency to pull together a multifaceted campaign is hardly a new idea. Traditionally, advertising agencies will be called on to head a cross-discipline promotion. The agency would then act for the client, pulling the multidiscipline campaign together by buying in different agency expertise from its favoured suppliers or partners.

A generous internal charging fee of up to 20 per cent would, of course, be incorporated into the final result.

But today the agencies which traditionally deal in incentive travel or corporate hospitality say they, too, are being called on by clients to provide a multidiscipline approach and lead a campaign.

Many agencies are waking up to how lucrative marketing services can be – giving margins of up to 50 per cent. Although agencies may recognise the business advantages of expanding their services, they must convince the clients to move away from their traditional network of specialists, and entrust them with the brief instead.

One sales promotion agency’s new business head merely snorted: “This just isn’t going to happen. I can hardly see Pepsi, or Coke, saying ‘OK, you did a great job on our corporate hospitality tent, here, take over all our sales promotions for us’.” But those agencies which are starting to offer a mix of services claim the market is already changing.

They say they can successfully combine the skills needed for sales promotion, incentive travel and corporate hospitality, and the clients are willing to listen and to invest.

The Marketing Organisation (TMO) launched in 1980 as The Travel Organisation, offering incentive and conference travel. Today it has expanded to include services such as database management and direct marketing campaigns, having poached marketing talent from the industry.

According to managing director David Tonnison, clients are more than willing to invest in added services from one agency. He claims half of the agency’s existing client base for travel has since hired TMO for other marketing work.

High ranking clients include Peugeot, for which TMO organises a package encompassing reward schemes, conference organisation, product launches and sales promotion. Although Peugeot also uses other specialist agencies as part of its marketing mix, Tonnison claims that the combination of work given to TMO is evidence that major corporates are looking for one-stop shops.

“Three or four years ago a client would be surprised if you told them you could do other services. Today, half of them are only interested if you can do it all,” says Tonnison.

But not all clients seem as keen to go for a one-stop shop, and there are drawbacks for agencies which look to provide this approach, say other agencies.

John Fisher, managing director of Page & Moy Marketing Group, says it would be unusual to find one agency which could really be a master of all three disciplines.

“Through-the-line advertising, sales promotion and direct marketing are a concept which everybody understands. Through-the-line sales promotion, incentive travel and corporate hospitality is a more unusual mixture,” he says.

“Promotions demand totally different expertise, and are handled by very different people to those who manage incentive travel and corporate hospitality. It is unlikely the client would find one agency to handle such a cross-section with total success.”

He adds: “When we sit round a table with other agencies, we often realise we could do all the work under one banner for the client. The client may understand this, but may, for example, have a close relationship with a sales promotion agency, and would prefer that agency to handle, say retail, while we handle the trade promotion.”

These round-the-table meetings are sometimes a tricky task, he admits, pointing out one of the difficulties in trying to co-ordinate several agencies on one task: “Agencies have to bite their tongues when they don’t agree with another agency’s approach. Criticise too much and it looks like you are trying to encroach on another agency’s business.”

Another agency, Page & Moy Worldwide Incentives, which does claim to combine all three skill sets, cites this clashing of agency opinions as one of the reasons why a one-stop shop can sometimes work best.

“You can use a series of agencies, but the quality of service can be damaged because there are so many people involved,” says corporate groups manager Stephanie Kingsley-Smith. “With just one agency there is just one point of contact, and the quality element is really under control.”

The group, which is increasingly selling itself as an all-in-one agency on promotions such as Foster’s Grand Prix (see box), says if agencies can get this mix of elements right, it can enjoy a lucrative market.

“We have seen a real growth in requirements for this. There is a niche in the market for agencies with this specific range of skills,” says Kingsley-Smith. “There are not many incentive agencies which understand sales promotion, but, increasingly, sales promotion campaigns are going down this route.”

The specialist agencies may well scoff at the Jack-of-all-trades offer, but multiskilled agencies may well have mastered the changing requirements for a promotional marketing campaign.

Foster’s Grand Prix Party Promotion

Agency: Page & Moy Worldwide Incentives

The brief: Foster’s planned a promotional campaign to drive consumer sales and achieve trade support – visibility in-store was a key factor.

The method: Page & Moy worked with Foster’s brand and agency teams including sales promotion agency Momentum to devise an integrated nine-month campaign. This was based around Foster’s Formula 1 sponsorship.

The campaign was devised to appeal to Foster’s core male market, and was intended to dovetail with Foster’s global sponsorship programme.

Page & Moy felt that single events could not achieve the objective – the promotion had to be planned on a grand scale. The agency therefore organised 60, ten-night, once-in-a-lifetime holidays for two in Australia and 50 long weekends in Monaco and Barcelona. Each was promoted in different parts of the country using different mechanisms across the Foster’s brands.

Page & Moy identified specific account teams to handle all follow-through activity on the consumer side and for the trade incentives. These were long-stay trips to Australia, Monaco, Barcelona, Belgium, Italy and Hungary. In each case the highlight was the Grand Prix, including corporate entertainment.

Specifics of the campaign:

Redemption, handling and co-ordination of winners

Integrated account teams to work on different aspects of the promotions and prize packages

Detailed specifications and delivery arrangements such as travel, accommodation, transfers, race tickets

Corporate hospitality and some organised events

Page & Moy representatives on site for each event to host guests from the consumer and trade areas

Tours and excursions organised on an individual basis through a central contact point at Page & Moy.

Scottish Courage spokeswoman Kirstin Fitzgerald comments: “We needed a unique company, one which understood our sales promotion campaign objectives, which had experience with corporate events and which was proven and reputable.”

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