FEATURE4 December 2012

A French connection


Stéphane Marder, former managing director of French pollsters LH2, talks about Future Thinking France – SPA Future Thinking’s new venture with Groupe Acticall.

Initially, the pairing looks like a marriage of David and Goliath. SPA Future Thinking has had a small team of three in Paris since September 2010 working with FMCG companies including Danone, whereas Groupe Acticall has 12 sites across France and French-speaking nations in North Africa. It counts household names including Orange, Unilever, Toyota, EDF and American Express as clients.

And yet the research team within Groupe Acticall is just a small part of a much larger business that specialises in customer relationship management, says Stéphane Marder, the former managing director of French pollsters LH2 who is leading FTF. “Coming together in a joint venture meant we were able to fuse our expertises together and offer clients access to unique British innovations that can enhance their customer experience offerings.”

He will be joined in Paris by Emma Baret, who has relocated from SPA Future Thinking’s Oxford office to take up the role of associate director. Also on the team is Laure Allegrini as research manager and Adeline Baret – formerly head of research, Europe, at SPA Future Thinking, but now working with the team on a freelance basis.

Marder’s initial efforts are focused on an education process – both internally and externally – to establish FTF as a credible market offering. Taking a cue from his time at LH2, he is seeking to build the brand by seeding mentions of the new agency within the national press through polling work.

Meanwhile, Marder says the Groupe Acticall name – the CRM giant owns 60% of FTF – will help to emphasise the company’s French roots. “The French marketplace is well saturated with a lot of industry giants already offering market research, so we know we have to have a point of difference,” says Marder. “For us, being part of Acticall is very important – their name is renowned across France and is almost a hallmark for quality particularly with government departments and retailers – which are core areas of interest to us.

“But it’s SPA Future Thinking that offers us the crucial point of difference. When we combine Acticall’s expertise with the British innovations from SPA Future Thinking – such as its mobile ethnography suite of tools, Be-There and See-Me – we can broaden the propositions that we talk to our customers about. It allows us to explain to them how they can measure and optimise their resources and improve the ways they engage with customers throughout their purchase journey and then onto the next shopping event.”

Based within Acticall’s Paris office, FTF will also be able to draw on the expertise of sister companies, such as the digital agency The Social Client and community chat tool Chaxpert.

Marder says the difference for Acticall research clients will be noticeable. “Where we might have produced a report full of facts before, we’re in a better position to act on recommendations now and turn insight into business strategy. Our focus is on communicating the enhancements that we can offer from our joint venture, particularly the innovation focus that is coming from the UK office and how it can help to enhance what clients are already getting – be that data analysis for retention strategies or the more behaviourally focused activities that the SPA Future Thinking office worked on.”