DIRECT HOLDS STEADY IN FLAT FOREIGN MARKET;GLOBAL STRATEGIES PLAY INCREASING ROLE TO DIRECT, PROMO SHOPS' BENEFIT

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International dollar growth may have been spotty for U.S.-based direct response agencies in 1994, but none slackened expansion abroad in an acknowledgement of how increasingly important global strategies are in marketing services.

Ogilvy & Mather Direct, the leading direct response agency worldwide, was one of the few shops to show stronger growth abroad than in the U.S., unusual because the strength of the dollar cut into foreign returns, mainly from Western Europe.

Kobs & Draft, long present overseas, ranking No. 5 on the worldwide chart, had a rise of only 2% in non-U.S. gross income as its London and Seoul offices were down.

"International has stabilized, but it's not booming," says Chairman Howard Draft.

The unit of Cordiant-new name for U.K. holding company Saatchi & Saatchi Co.-shifted its small Toronto operation to sister Cordiant agency Bates Worldwide during 1994, and in the U.S. Kobs & Draft absorbed Saatchi & Saatchi Direct and infomercial agency Hudson Street Partners, both previously part of Saatchi & Saatchi Advertising Worldwide.

Counting about 55% of its revenue outside the U.S., agency Wunderman Cato Johnson drew the second-largest volume from non-U.S. sources. According to President Barbara Jack, growth in the near-term will be double digit in the U.S., "very rapid" in Latin America, reasonable in Asia, stable to moderate in Western Europe and uncertain in Central and Eastern Europe.

Rapp Collins Worldwide, No. 2 in total worldwide revenue, is looking to Canada as its fastest-growing area. It now does 60% of its business in the U.S. and 40% abroad.

Most subsidiaries of U.S. agencies operating in the direct-response venue are in major European countries where the dollar gained against most currencies, including 9.7% vs. the French franc and 8.2% vs. the Italian lira.

The dollar grew 6.4% against the Canadian dollar.

The international activity of agencies in this report goes deeper than the big shops represented in the Top 10.

Cohn & Wells, San Francisco, a unit of Paris-based Euro RSCG, generated 32% of its 1994 business on the international level, up from 19% in '93. Reason for the jump was the startup of Cohn & Wells, Toronto, in early 1994. That unit joined its other foreign property, DirectWorks of Carlton, New South Wales, Australia.

The North American Free Trade Agreement promises to score something for U.S.-based marketing services agencies. FCB Direct sees Nafta as a factor in its operations. For one, the agency is going to have produced in Mexico a number of its "dimensional" collateral pieces that require a lot of assembly.

Wunderman Cato Johnson had high aspirations for Mexico until the peso fell in mid-1994.

"We still believe Mexico will be in the four or five top markets by the end of the decade," says Worldwide CEO Mitchell Kurz, adding that the country is "in the bottom 10% now."

On the sales promotion side, Omnicom Group's Alcone Sims O'Brien has established a London office by forming an alliance with British shop Anvil.

Its purpose is to "exchange work and staff," says Chairman-CEO Matt Alcone, who bills the linkup as the first truely international network of marketing promotion services.

Plans are to operate throughout Europe, developing promotion plans and producing POP materials and premiums.

D.L. Blair Inc. opened its first office on the European continent, in Paris, in December 1994.

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