Grey's global desire

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Direct unit plans stronger global presence with CRM shop in London, new offices in Asia and Latin America, to service clients' internationally

From Brazil to London to Costa Rica, Grey Direct is on a mission to cover the globe. In its latest move toward that end, two weeks ago the marketing services unit of Grey Global Group launched Grey Desire, a small London-based customer relationship management consultancy for Europe.

Heading Grey Desire is Chairman Peter Boggs, who retains his post as president-chief operating officer of Grey Direct International. Mr. Boggs' founding of Grey Desire is one piece of Grey Direct's larger strategy to increase its global presence.

"The world of marketing has changed in the last several years," said Lawrence Kimmel, chairman-CEO of New York-based Grey Direct.

"Three to five year ago, one could make the case to say Coca-Cola and American Express were global brands and needed global deployment, and not much else was happening on a global basis," Mr. Kimmel said, admitting some exaggeration. "We're finding more and more clients interested in true global communications, and we've got to be in the position to support that."

Because marketers are increasingly recognizing the importance of data-driven communications strategies, the core of Grey Direct's international business lies in its worldwide data management consultancy called MarketData Solutions. Grey Direct, with 35 offices in 28 countries, is the seventh-largest marketing services agency by non-U.S. revenue, according to Advertising Age.

"We are awash in consumer data; the question is what do you do with it?" Mr. Kimmel said, adding that the mission of Grey Desire and other Grey Direct units around the world is to "marry together the data information that's currently available with communications in a more sophisticated fashion."

"To be successful in CRM, you've got to have that type of sophisticated data at the heart of your business," Mr. Boggs said.

"Below-the-line agencies that don't do that are in danger of just being used by clients for creative."

Before forming Grey Desire, Grey conducted qualitative interviews with 60 marketing directors and direct marketing managers in top companies in the U.K. to discern what they wanted from an agency. They wanted stronger data analysis, greater innovation, more creative talent and more time working with senior agency professionals. And they wanted quick responses.

"Their frustration was that it took so long to get work out of agencies, and it could be very expensive to get work out of agencies," Mr. Boggs said. "They were being pressured to react to the market much faster and were finding that agencies were not reacting."

In response to these concerns, Grey Desire was created as a 17-person shop with no divisions, departments or hierarchy to speak of, in an aim to maintain a small consultancy feel while leveraging big agency resources.

"Clients were looking for people who could really partner with them, in not only a marketing sense but in a business sense," Mr. Boggs said. "They were looking for business solutions and not just creative solutions."

Grey Desire opened with seven clients including Procter & Gamble Co., for which it's handling a product relaunch in Europe; SmithKline Beecham; and dot-com marketers Hometrack and Shopsmart.

Grey Direct-through Grey Desire as well as new Grey Direct offices in Latin America and Asia-wants to make itself nimble enough to respond to clients' global needs quickly. In the past 60 days, it launched a MarketData Solutions unit in Brazil and acquired local direct marketing agency Zest, Sao Paulo, to merge with the existing Grey Direct office in the country. In the next two months Grey Direct plans to open an office Costa Rica, on the heels of its recent expansion into Singapore.


Grey is one of many direct agencies capitalizing on clients' global sights. True North Commu-nications-owned FCB Worldwide two months ago acquired CRM shop Opus Group, Basingstoke, U.K., and direct shop Datamidia, Sao Paulo, to boost the global offerings of its digital, direct and database unit FCBi. In Latin America, FCBi also is active in Argentina and Mexico, said FCB Latin America President-CEO Scott Hollingsworth, explaining that direct agencies-just like regular ad agencies-need to have a presence in that part of the world.

"We are a fully established network of agencies in Latin America. I think the future as we go on investing is going to be concentrated in the FCBi area," Mr. Hollingsworth said. "When someone wants to run a program worldwide, you have to have that [agency] product available around the world. It's just a repeat of history of what's happened in traditional advertising."


Rapp Collins Worldwide, the No. 3 marketing services agency by non-U.S. revenue with 60 offices in 30 countries, recently opened an office of its interactive arm, Rapp Digital, in Sao Paulo.

"Latin America is actually quite advanced in the technology area," said Malcolm Speed, Rapp Collins chairman-CEO. "That market has very high potential for interactive services. Similarly, while somewhat behind the U.S., the European market is very rapidly accelerating its interactive activities."

Because Rapp Collins already has an agency presence in 30 countries, its future expansion will focus on extending specialized services around the globe.

"I think the demand for relationship marketing, or customer management, is accelerating dramatically. I'd go so far as to say that the market opportunity for marketing services companies is enormous," Mr. Speed said. "From a location standpoint, we have extremely broad coverage right now. What we are expanding in geographic areas is capabilities- interactive capabilities, data analytics capabilities, customer management capabilities."

Despite Grey's recent acquisition of Zest, the agency's overall strategy is to grow organically. To shepherd Grey Direct into this future, last month it created the new position of chief marketing officer, filled by former Rapp Collins Senior VP-Group Account Director Chris Madden, who will serve a strategic business development role, rather than marketing the agency's services to the world.

"It's shortsighted for agencies not to, on an ongoing basis, evaluate their strategic offerings and look at themselves with the same critical eye that any company does," Mr. Kimmel said.

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