Consulting firms have always sized-up the marketing space as a potential service offering. They have flirted with it for decades. Most large-scale forays have ended up in retreat after just a few years. Meanwhile, ad agencies have long-looked to shore up their dusty, old revenue models and expand by purportedly delivering more strategic offers. This too, has been largely episodic and unsuccessful.
Stick around and I will tell you why neither have historically worked but why they may work now. First off let’s substantiate that this mash-up is taking place:
- Eight of North America’s top 10 agencies are owned by consultancies. Accenture has acquired at least 40 of them. Deloitte, Accenture, KPMG, PwC, and McKinsey now have agency arms.
- Deloitte is out to create “the world’s first creative digital consultancy.” Meanwhile, IBM’s digital agency unit, iX, has over 10,000 employees and 1,000 designers in 25 offices worldwide.
- Del Monte Foods selected Epsilon as its U.S. creative agency of record reflecting a fresh focus on data-driven marketing and a move away from traditional advertising agencies.
- PwC made waves in 2016 when they appointed their first Chief Creative Officer. It should be noted that PwC also named a Chief Purpose Officer, which seems very much like an agency-thing-to-do.
- Omnicom created Hearts & Science, an integrated digital agency leveraging technology to scale customer relationships. It has attracted Proctor & Gamble and AT&T as clients.
- Razorfish, a division of Publicis Groupe, partnered with Adobe to build its own digital marketing platform.
- Starcom MediaVest Group launched marketing consulting brand Zero Dot and sibling Zenith soft-launched a media-focused consultancy called Apex.
- R/GA and GroupM now offer broad-based consulting services for the purposes of higher margins while securing traditional ad business. This is the strategy of O&M’s strategy consultancy, Ogilvy Red. Carla Hendra, global chairman of Ogilvy Red, is quoted as saying, “If we sell $1 of consulting work, down the road it can lead to $3 to $4 dollars of communications work.”
Clearly, traditional lines are crossing and blurring but why?