ANALYSIS: Oversuccessful, overcompetitive and now, over here
The B2B sector looks set for an American invasion, with two of the leading US players making significant inroads into the UK market last month. Firstly, Harte-Hanks strengthened its established UK presence with the acquisition of specialist technology sector creative agency Mason Zimbler. This news was followed quickly by the long-anticipated announcement that Info USA, the marketing-leading B2B data provider in North America, was officially launching its UK operation, fronted by former Experian business data supremo Richard Lloyd.
This wave of US invaders become the latest big names from across the pond to stake a claim to the UK B2B industry, with the likes of D&B, WPP and McCann Erickson all having well-established subsidiaries dedicated to this sector. This news demonstrates that it is not just UK-based Gyro International which sees globalisation as the key driver in B2B marketing. Whether these announcements signify the start of a wave of further overseas acquisitions in the UK remains to be seen, but it is certainly an indication of the growing globalisation of marketing on the back of the changing structure of the world economy.
Top 20 agency
Harte-Hanks' deal for Mason Zimbler follows hot on the heels of its investment in an option to acquire B2B data boutique Information Arts and complements its growing technology specialism. Mason Zimbler has appeared in the top 20 of B2B Marketing's Agency League table for the past two years, and won 'Agency of the Year' at the B2B Marketing Awards 2006.
Mark Mason, CEO of Mason Zimbler, says, âHarte-Hanks serves a number of leading global technology companies â some of whom we share as clients â that have increasing need for top-flight creative, digital and integrated marketing communication at the individual prospect and customer level. As one company, we believe we can serve as a powerful marketing partner for these business brands."
Gary Skidmore, president of Harte-Hanks Direct Marketing, comments, âBringing the global creative and marketing expertise of Mason Zimbler to Harte-Hanks increases our international footprint, expands our digital offering, and provides us with established agency resources beyond the United States to support clients worldwide.â
Harte-Hanks is understood to be constantly reviewing proposals for future acquisitions, and therefore further announcements regarding UK companies should not be ruled out.
Setting sights high
Info USA also has existing operations in the UK â a market research operation called ORC and the business information company One Source. However, its new data subsidiary called Info UK will operated as a standalone operation based in Manchester.
âThe objective is to become the market leader in the UK,â explains Richard Lloyd, general manager. The company is set to begin the process of building its database through telemarketing at the beginning of this month, with the aim of completing the file within 18 months.
Its appointment of Lloyd represents a major coup for Info USA, particularly as it managed to prize him away from Cyance, the specialist data consultancy he had established with Shane Redding and Mike Housley. Prior to Cyance, having established and built up Experian's B2B arm, Lloyd left the company suddenly at the end of 2006, amidst rumours of a fallout with senior management. Housley has taken over the MD role from Lloyd at Cyance.
A key factor in Lloyd's decision to take the new role was the fact that Info UK will own its own data, whereas many of the data providers currently operating here are reselling the same files, albeit sometimes with enhancements. âHaving our own data will put us back at the top of the foodchain,â he says. In this respect, Info UK will primarily be competitive with Thomson and Market Location as a data wholesaler. The role also comes with considerable autonomy
Vin Gupta, CEO of InfoUSA, comments, âRichard has exactly the right experience, expertise and commercial acumen to ensure Info UK becomes a major player in the business list market and will drive the successful launch of InfoUK's business database.â
Lloyd accepts that competition is intense and margins are tight in the B2B data sector, and that this will make competing for sales of raw data difficult. However, he says Info UK will aim to carve out a niche partly by focusing on the SME sector, which he claims is currently poorly served by B2B data companies, by providing data through marketing applications sold on a subscription basis, which have additional functionality and allow records to be drip fed.
Info UK expects its first data to be sold in Q4 of 2008.
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