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Karmarama founder Dave Buonaguidi: Accenture buyout could be ‘marriage of the year’ but laments lack of independents in an industry ‘devoid of personality'

Accenture buyout could be ‘marriage of the year’ says Karmarama founder Dave Buonaguidi as he laments lack of independents in a / Karmarama

Karmarama founder Dave Buonaguidi - who departed the agency in 2014 but retained shares - has broken his silence following the sale of the agency to management consultancy Accenture.

Choosing to relay his feelings on Instagram, former chief creative officer and originator Buonaguidi described Accenture and Karamarama as “strange bed fellows,” but praised what he saw as a “big play.”

“Consultancies, and PR companies have been moving into the space that ad agencies have inexplicably left wide open for a while now, while agencies seem to be either too reluctant or too scared to embrace the modern business concept of ‘creative’ consultancy, instead concentrating on the safer and more superficial world of ‘adland’ creativity,” he said.

Accenture’s purchase of Karmarama for an undisclosed sum sent shockwaves through the industry last week, with the company declaring that the “next wave of marketing is here,” and that it was going to be the one leading the way. As part of this plan, Karmarama will now join Accenture Interactive, part of Accenture Digital.

In his reaction, Buonaguidi took a more cynical look at the effect the acquisition may have on Karamarama’s culture. He acknowledged that Accenture has “a great business, and strong relationships” and that the team there “know their shit” but asserted the consultancy had “little or no culture of note.”

“Karmarama has a good creative rep, a strong culture and good people. Could be the marriage of the year, but all of that promise depends on the ambition, energy and talent of the people in the agency right now,” he continued.

“The fact is that there is now one less interesting independent company in a business that is sadly devoid of personality and character, and that begs one big question. What are all the visionary entrepreneurs doing? I’m not talking about all the plastic entrepreneurs who start a business with funding, a four year plan and a fucking exit strategy, I’m talking real entrepreneurs that have a real mission, that want to make shit better, and make a difference for staff and clients BEFORE they make any money."

Karmarama was previously one of London’s largest independent agencies with a headcount of 250, working with clients like the BBC and Unilever. It was launched by Naresh Ramchandani and Buonaguidi from a kitchen in Spitalfields without any external funding. In 2011 it received a cash injection from private equity house Phoenix Equity and went on an acquisition spree of its own, buying up agencies Crayon, social media shop Grape and mobile specialist The Nice Agency.

Buonaguidi exited the agency in 2014, first setting up his own beer brand and then moving on to become chief creative officer at CP+B London. When he left Karmarama he told The Drum that he believed the ad industry had gotten itself into “a rut” and was populated with “professional creatives who are only creative between the hours of 9am and 6pm”.

He didn't hold back in his reaction to Accenture's buyout of his previous business venture, finishing up his statement with some advice to other creative entrepreneurs.

"Challenge everything. Shake it up. Work your arse off. Cry. Laugh. Be happy. Hustle like a bastard. Throw a few punches and every now and then, when it has all gone well for a couple of days in a row, celebrate with a glass of warm beer. But please. Fuck the money. Fuck the breadheads. Fuck the exit plan, never ever share equity with people who don’t share your vision and may the bridges you burn light the way," he asserted, finishing: "Thank you to all the people and clients past and present who made the agency so special. Enjoy the next chapter."

You can read his statement in full below.

So, finally my old agency has been sold, and another independent bites the dust. They are strange bed fellows, but it is an exciting big play, and you have to love a big play!Consultancies, and PR companies have been moving into the space that ad agencies have inexplicably left wide open for a while now, while agencies seem to be either too reluctant or too scared to embrace the modern business concept of ‘creative’ consultancy, instead concentrating on the safer and more superficial world of ‘adland’ creativity. Someone texted me and said it's like Bill Gates copping off with Lady Gaga. I laughed out loud. But Accenture know their shit, they have a great business, and strong relationships, but they have little or no culture of note. Karmarama have a good creative rep, a strong culture and good people. could be the marriage of the year, but all of that promise depends on the ambition, energy and talent of the people in the agency right now. But the fact is that there is now one less interesting independent company in a business that is sadly devoid of personality and character, and that begs one big question. What are all the visionary entrepreneurs doing? I’m not talking about all the plastic entrepreneurs who start a business with funding, a 4 year plan and a fucking exit strategy, I’m talking real entrepreneurs that have a real mission, that want to make shit better, and make a difference for staff and clients BEFORE they make any money. Sadly, We are sitting in the middle of the most superficial era of all time, where substance, conviction dreams and audacity are substituted for likes, views, and hand jobs in Cannes. The industry needs independent thinkers to challenge the big ugly corporates, and it would be easy pickings, because the one thing the big corporates can’t do is passion, and clients love passion. We need a new gaggle of visionaries and entrepreneurs to sprout up and culturally wrestle control and vision back from the bread heads who are stifling this creative business and bring it up to date, make it more relevant, and long term, encourage the right people back in who will make a genuine difference to the staff and to the clients who employ us.

A photo posted by Dave Buonaguidi (@realhackneydave) on

When Naresh and I created Karmarama back in 2000 we were stupidly idealistic. The two of us wanted to do something different, we wanted to have control of our own thing, we wanted to challenge everything, and we wanted create a better way, but deep down, we wanted to change the world and be happy. When we set it up, it was about what we COULD do, not how much we would sell it for. there was no plan beyond surviving the next week. We started it with 4k each in my kitchen in Spitalfields. Getting funding was NEVER an option, even salaries were NEVER mentioned and an exit strategy was NEVER EVER, EVER, EVER even contemplated. Like I said, idealistic, extraordinarily naïve, and borderline idiotic.But it worked. It was a fun project, and it had a great independent culture and an insane and unique spirit. We worked with some brilliant clients, we had some great staff, we did some good work too, and we had a riot. Of course it changed when it got big and attracted people who saw it as a cool place to have on the old CV and not a place they wanted to join in with and challenge. It became about job titles and entitlements, and ultimately different agendas started to appear. I made the mistake of employing people who saw my business as a way for them to make lots of money. Conversations about exit strategies sat uncomfortably with me, and then once I realized I was surrounded by people I would never dream of starting a business with, it was very easy for me to walk away and try something new. Constantly moving and reinventing yourself is so important. If you do ever want to do your own thing, please go for it! Have a bold dream. Grow some balls. Take a chance. Challenge everything. Shake it up. Work your arse off. Cry. Laugh. Be happy. Hustle like a bastard. Throw a few punches and every now and then, when it has all gone well for a couple of days in a row, celebrate with a glass of warm beer. But please. Fuck the money. Fuck the breadheads. Fuck the exit plan, never ever share equity with people who don’t share your vision and may the bridges you burn light the way. A photo posted by Dave Buonaguidi (@realhackneydave) on

Thank you to all the people and clients past and present who made the agency so special. Enjoy the next chapter.

A photo posted by Dave Buonaguidi (@realhackneydave) on

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Rebecca Stewart

Rebecca Stewart is a reporter at The Drum with a remit to cover the latest developments in social media marketing and wider industry news. Based in Glasgow, she has interviewed key figures from brands like Airbnb, Amnesty International, Facebook and Spotify. She has covered international events in Berlin and Amsterdam, as well as Advertising Week Europe.

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