Last fall, The Marketing Arm’s founder and CEO Ray Clark took 30 of the shop’s key leaders to Los Angeles for a retreat. The goal was to hash out what the greatest marketing agency on earth looks like, and then become it in five years.
“We’re one-tenth of the way there, but we’ve got the first one-tenth right,” Clark says. “Even if we achieve 80% or 90% of that goal, it will be the most successful failure of all time.”
The Dallas-based shop muscled its way to first place overall from its No. 6 ranking last year in the PROMO 100. It took the top spot for growth, a whopping 729% to an estimated $56 million in 2005 from $6.7 million in 2003, with 50% of that growth coming from additional business from existing clients. Amidst all that growth, creative remained a high priority: the firm won the No. 7 spot for campaign work.
Operating within marketing and communications giant Omnicom Group, The Marketing Arm encompasses several smaller shops. Millsport, U.S. Marketing and Promotions (USM&P), Davie-Brown Talent, and most recently ipsh!, are four shops the company acquired in the last two years. The latter was purchased in October to help the agency flex some mobile-marketing power.
“We wanted to be on the front end of new technology and tactics to reach customers powerfully and efficiently,” Clark says. “There’s no question that with 100 million Americans texting…the mobile phone will be one of the most powerful mediums in America.”
Meanwhile, USM&P handles event management and retail services, Davie-Brown’s forte is entertainment consulting and activation and sibling Millsport provides sports consulting and activation expertise.
“Millsport has worked relentlessly for over a decade to create one of the strongest sports marketing properties in the country — the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl,” says Joe Ennen, VP-marketing for the Doritos, Tostitos, Cheetos and Fritos brands at Frito-Lay North America. “Millsport continues to work with us on managing and activating this premiere college football property.” For two years in a row, Millsport has been Frito-Lay’s agency of the year.
Whether at stadiums or parking lots, the sibling shops have won kudos for a variety of marketing events. In April 2005, to spark sales at Wal-Mart of merchandise licensed by LucasFilm in advance of the release of Star Wars: Episode III, Revenge of the Sith, USM&P unleashed 48 Hours of the Force. For two days, 60-foot by 20-foot tents popped up in 400 Wal-Mart parking lots across the country. The canvas venues were outfitted with interactive displays and offered Star Wars-licensed food samples, toys and games, collectible stickers and posters, and Darth Vader voice-changers. The ultimate playground for Star Wars enthusiasts made cash registers ring, as 8,000 field staff delivered 3.5 million products into the hands of Wal-Mart customers, Clark says. Wal-Mart realized more than $100 million in sales as a result, he adds.
Now that’s a number to notch as The Marketing Arm counts down to 100%.