It was clear early on that we shared not only global aspirations, but a passion for continually enhancing our services.”

IRVINE, Calif. — Advantage Sales & Marketing LLC and Smollan Group have entered a strategic international partnership to become the first and only global provider of innovative outsourced sales and marketing solutions for consumer goods companies and retailers.

Advantage is North America’s leading provider of sales and marketing solutions, with a dynamic team of over 40,000 associates providing consumer goods suppliers and retailers with innovative headquarter sales, analytics, insights​​ and intelligence, retail merchandising, marketing and technology solutions. Smollan is the leading provider of sales and marketing solutions in developing and emerging markets operating across 5 continents with 60,000 employees and associates.  Together they now form the world’s leading retail solutions company.

Smollan also has a well-established and very successful partnership (since 2009) with the global leader in advertising and marketing services, namely WPP plc.  This unique global connection has assisted with Smollan’s successful expansion and will add to its new partnership with Advantage. WPP is the world’s largest communications services group with billings of US $76 billion and revenues of US $19 billion. The company employs over 188,000 people (including associates and investments) in more than 3,000 offices across 111 countries.

Under the terms of the international partnership, Advantage will make an investment in Smollan, and the two companies will cooperate to provide seamless global services with Advantage taking primary responsibility for execution within North America, and Smollan taking primary responsibility for execution within Africa, the Middle East, South America, Australia and East and South Asia. The two companies will offer a unified solution across Europe through a newly formed joint venture.

Winning across borders

The partnership gives Advantage and Smollan the opportunity to leverage best practices, capabilities, and technologies to offer highly effective and consistent international representation to clients, many of whom themselves have a global presence.  “We have developed immense respect for the Smollan organization as we have interacted with them over the past few years to drive and challenge each other on best practices and technology enablers” said Advantage CEO Tanya Domier. “We are now excited to call them partners and deploy these practices and analytical and reporting platforms across our complementary markets to offer clients seamless visibility and scorecarding, as well as a consultative, single point of contact with a global view of the business — essentially an efficient, one-stop shop for clients and customers worldwide.”

Smollan and Advantage have a longstanding association, drawn together as like-minded, people-focused companies, with similar histories of service innovation.  “It was clear early on that we shared not only global aspirations, but a passion for continually enhancing our services,” said Smollan CEO David Smollan, who will join the Advantage leadership team as a partner advisor. “For example, the marketing division Advantage launched to help clients connect with shoppers and drive sales has become the No 1 experiential and promotional marketing agency in the U.S. Similarly, Smollan leads the industry with advanced technology and mobility platforms that provide clients with actionable insights to the trade.”

Both companies also have proven expertise in consolidating companies serving fragmented markets into a cohesive whole that continues to understand and cater to local market differences. Advantage rolled up 18 regional retail sales agencies to establish a North American footprint in the 1990s and, more recently, more than 15 regional foodservice agencies to form the largest national division of its kind. Smollan has a longstanding international vision and history of expanding its model across borders into complex high growth markets such as India, China, Pakistan, the Middle East and Southeast Asia.

Unified solution

This combined experience will be integral as the Advantage and Smollan partnership turns its immediate attention to developing its unified solution for Europe through a new jointly owned holding company, Advantage Smollan, for which they are actively pursuing like-minded acquisition partners who are culturally aligned in a quest for service excellence, thought leadership and an entrepreneurial spirit, all leading to better results for clients and customers.  This effort is well underway, as Advantage recently acquired REL Field Marketing, a leading UK-based field marketing company specializing in outsourced sales and marketing solutions, which will be the first company to operate under the Advantage Smollan joint venture.

“The European landscape shows clear parallels to other consolidations we have led,” Domier said. “We believe that this strategy will benefit manufacturers seeking holistic retail merchandising, technology and reporting solutions that span Europe. Our European teams will offer the industry’s best capabilities and technology along with the local knowledge to address the unique dynamics of individual markets.”

“To fulfill our promise as a best-in-class business services company across Europe and on a global scale, we need the absolute best in terms of people and resources,” Smollan said. “As we look to complete our geographic footprint in Europe and beyond, we are targeting companies who are No. 1 in their markets and who share our entrepreneurial culture and passion for adding value as they will have an ownership stake in the business and accountability for our growth together.”

This transaction is subject to customary closing procedures.

About: Smollan Group

Smollan was founded in 1931 as a regional South African based sales agency. Today, Smollan is an international retail solutions company that delivers growth for retailers and brand owners across five continents through leading solutions in field sales and retail execution, activation, information and technology.