The average person is exposed to 2,500 advertising messages a day. No wonder they ignore most of them. In response, companies are seeking increasingly outlandish ways to grab consumers' attention. One technique is 'brand experience' - as perfected by Ross Urquhart and Hugh Robertson. Their agency, RPM, creates opportunities for consumers to 'experience' a brand - for example, by running a mobile Italian kitchen showcasing Olivio, or serving Scottish Blend tea to skiers in the Cairngorms.
'You can't just tell people to try a product,' explains Urquhart. 'You have to create property around the brand.' Urquhart, 35, and Robertson, 34, launched RPM in 1993, investing pounds 5,000 each. Their first office was a refurbished cowshed, although RPM now has smart offices in Hampton, Middlesex, with 43 permanent staff and another 1,800 temporary workers helping out. Turnover climbed from pounds 171,000 in the first year to pounds 7.5 million in 2000.
RPM's first campaign was for Glenfiddich whisky, and present clients include Adidas, McVities, M&S and PG Tips. The average campaign budget is pounds 400,000, and campaigns run for between three and 12 months. 'When we started out we really were the only people doing brand experience,' says Robertson. Now competition is rife. Adds Urquhart: 'We've established ourselves as number one in the sector, and that's where we aim to stay.'