Accenture has underlined its ambitions to further dominate the marketing and advertising sector with this week’s purchase of Clearhead, a digital optimization outfit that specializes in helping brands personalize their interactions with consumers.
The management consultancy’s Accenture Interactive arm announced the purchase, the fee was not disclosed publicly, with the new outfit boasting a 70-strong headcount, and a client base that includes brands such as Adidas, CVS/pharmacy, Tesco and WWE.
Clearhead helps brands test, redesign and then personalize their digital properties (including their marketing, sales and services interfaces) by analyzing user behavioral data, to then determine a “user hypothesis”, and then assesses its effectiveness using multivariate (or A/B) testing.
Accenture Interactive claims the process of continuous experimentation and testing is now “a critical capability for companies to compete with digital native businesses”, with the newly acquired outfit, based in Austin, Texas, specializing in helping bricks and mortar retailers improve the e-commerce experiences on offer to consumers.
A press release announcing the acquisition claims “experience is the new battleground” with Glen Hartman, Accenture Interactive, head of North America, claiming Clearhead’s experimental capabilities (which it claims can boost conversion rates by up to 20%) are a key enhancement to its offering.
Speaking with The Drum, Jeriad Zoghby, Accenture Interactive, global lead for personalization, said such an approach to experience optimization was “the new normal”, and that for many big retailers the digital channel was proving a challenge.
Matty Wishnow, Clearhead, founder and chief executive, said an agile and collaborative approach with clients was essential for contemporary practice, and that methodologies using click-steam analytics can help establish friction points in the consumer path-to-purchase.
“Once you understand the root of the problem you can then come up with a solution hypothesis, and then test that out,” he told The Drum.
Clearhead specializes in using software suites such as Adobe Target, Oracle Maxymiser and Monetate to optimize user experiences, and its acquisition by Accenture Interactive bolsters the suite of services the consultancy offers to marketers, which also includes creative, design, marketing, content and commerce capabilities.
Accenture's acquisition strategy
Clearhead is the fourteenth acquisition Accenture Interactive has made since 2013 to expand the reach, scope, and depth of its end-to-end customer experience services, with the outfit named as the largest digital network in the industry by Ad Age for the second consecutive year recently, with revenues exceeding $4.4bn.
Other high profile moves in the marketing and advertising sector the outfit has made include the purchase of creative shop Kamarama in November last year, which it has since moved to fuse with its other design outfit Fjord.
Other purchases include the acquisition of Australia-based independent creative shop The Monkeys in May of this year, a move that quickly followed it unveiling its intentions in the media buying space with the high profile appointment of Trinity Mirror’s former programmatic chief Amir Malik.
Speaking recently with The Drum about the outfit’s ambitions in the space Joydeep Bhattacharya, Accenture Interactive, managing director, said: “We have a clear-cut strategy and it’s starting to show results.”
Despite the growing prominence of Accenture, it has been trivialized as an accountancy firm masquerading in more creative industries, with chiefs at traditional holding companies in the advertising industry – on the surface at least – unphased by this new breed of agency.
Havas chief Yannick Bolore recently discounted Accenture, saying it rarely comes up against it in pitching for new client work, while WPP boss Sir Martin Sorrell branded the threat of management consultancies “insignificant”.
Similarly, Interpublic Group chief executive Michael Roth told attendees at the 4As conference in LA that the likes of Accenture are simply trying to get into advertising "because their own business isn't doing particularly well" and opined that the creative offering will never match that of the more established ad groups.
"You need special individuals on the creative side, and frankly, I don't see those individuals working at an Accenture," he said.
The shifting priorities of the C-suite
However, such opinions are not universally held, with certain parties attesting that while management consultancies and advertising agencies once embodied vastly different sets of skills, culture and services, they are now locked in a turf war and competing for the attention, budget and bandwidth of the C-suite of some of the world’s largest corporations and consumer-facing brands.
Speaking with The Drum in late 2016, Anatoly Roytman, EALA managing director at Accenture Interactive, described the challenge faced by brands: “The whole world is becoming more complex. It’s changing quicker than brands and companies can deal with. Therefore consultancies must be much more strategic to meet their clients’ needs.”
In the same article, Scott Brinker of Chief Martec added: “10 years ago, these were very different types of organisations, but that’s no longer true.”
Management consultants are now successfully leveraging their C-suite influence and change management expertise to get a bigger bite of the cherry, he concluded. Read the full article here.