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Opinion and Insight

It’s Been a Good Year for… Consultancies

2017 saw creative agencies like ACNE and Karmarama snapped up by the likes of Deloitte and Accenture – LBB’s Addison Capper investigates

It’s Been a Good Year for… Consultancies

As we hurtle towards the end of 2017, the list of top ten biggest agency companies in the world currently includes four consultancies. Accenture Interactive sits at number six, PwC Digital Services at seven, IBM iX at eight and Deloitte Digital is in ninth. It was only three years ago, in 2014, that IBM became the first consultancy to break into the top 10.

“[2017 has been] intensely positive,” says Global Head of Accenture Interactive Brian Whipple. “I am extremely proud of our team who deserve all the credit for our success.”

The facts prove him right. Accenture experienced a record-setting year financially and added nine new companies into its network, including esteemed creative agencies Karmarama, from the UK, Australian The Monkeys and, as recently as last week, Cannes Lion-winning Irish agency Rothco. The business is ranked by AdAge as the largest digital network globally (only one of the top five, Publicis.Sapient, is owned by a traditional holding company) and it was named Maserati’s global experience agency of record, tasked with enhancing the automotive brand’s customer experience across all digital channels and expanding global sales.

“This partnership is something we are extremely proud of and is a notable example of how we are laser-focused on creating the best customer experiences on the planet,” says Brian.

Since joining the Accenture family in May, Mark Green, the Co-Founder and CEO at The Monkeys, believes that the agency has been doing some of its best work. It’s also been winning business and expanding on the back of that, to 160 strong across the Sydney and Melbourne offices. “The agency model is under pressure to change,” he says when pressed on the reasoning behind joining Accenture. “Our first seven months witnessing the consulting world really proves that there is an entirely different way to employ creativity and be compensated for it.” He also mentions the opportunity to “learn a whole bunch of new and interesting things”.

Acquisitions such as The Monkeys, Karmarama and Rothco have led to suggestions that the time has come for consultancies to add a truly creative edge to their digital expertise. 2017 also saw Deloitte acquire design firm Market Gravity and Swedish hot shop ACNE (it’s also worth noting that San Francisco agency Heat joined the fold last year). What’s more, Andy Sandoz joined as its first Chief Creative Officer in August, leaving behind his role as Havas London’s Executive Creative Director. 

“I’ve only been in since late summer myself, so from behind my honeymoon period, rose-tinted frames of reference… the acquisitions of Market Gravity and ACNE offer, alongside our Experience Design practice, a unique, broad and exciting circle of creative talent,” he says. “Market Gravity are an incredible offer, proven at embedding breakthrough ideas, innovation and speed right into the centre of our client’s businesses, and ACNE have had a storming year with their work front page of the Internet and winning big new clients.”

Andy is also enthused about the fact that ACNE, Market Gravity and Deloitte Digital are already collaborating “on a number of big client transformation journeys”.  Outside of the creative space, Andy says Deloitte’s “connected experiential assets in retail, finance, factory and health continued to improve and inspire our clients and we’re working on many more innovative product ideas”.

“We’re seeing growth in all the right places, across all industry sectors,” he adds. 

According to Patrick Hickey, CEO at recently acquired Rothco, consultancies’ success over the past year or so can be compared to the success of platforms such as Netflix and Spotify. “I’m a huge Netflix fan and a huge Spotify fan. And then you think, do you remember that brilliant Spotify commercial?” he ponders. “No. I love the brand because of the experience. As people who have built their careers on showing and helping brands how to gain love, empathy and engagement, it was our responsibility and the consultancies’ responsibility to start understanding that better and start getting engaged with it. And that’s what they’ve done. And that’s why it’s now.

“So in my view the consultancies, in particular Accenture Interactive, have jumped ahead because they saw that they already do brilliant technology, but that brilliant technology is not enough. It has to be brilliant technology that engages humans.”

When pressed on consultancies' creative acquisitions, Brian from Accenture offers a pragmatic view, expressing that the business doesn’t like to pigeonhole itself into categories like ‘consulting’ and ‘creative’ due to their ambiguity. “We don’t believe brands are built from advertising anymore,” he says, “but rather they are built from an amalgamation of customer experiences – increasingly, digital ones. So we are 100% focused on the experience space and this approach has worked quite well for us. There will always be a place for great advertising agencies – however, we are laser-focused on creating the best experiences on the planet and advertising is just one of many elements of that.”

And what about 2018? 

For Andy it’s “all about the work”: “I look forward to seeing all that we’re doing come together, all the agencies, alliances and explorations come together to create the extraordinary, the breakthrough, the beautiful… made by Deloitte. Watch this space.”

“I am very excited for what lies ahead in 2018 and beyond,” adds Brian. “In short, my expectation for 2018 is that more and more clients will understand the way brands will be built in the future and focus less on individual platforms and technology. Experience will be king. And this is really just the beginning.”

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