Following the Renault-Nissan global account review which saw Accenture and Deloitte pitch alongside DigitasLBi for the Franco-Japanese automobile partnership’s digital marketing activities, John Reynolds explores the growing role of management consultancies in the marketing space.They are global juggernauts with offices in just about every corner of the earth and if a business needs to root out costs then they are the go-to guys.Love them or hate them, management consultancies are a key part of the make-up of business life today, whether it be advising on cutting costs out of a sales team, implementing a new IT system, or advising on finance. Now, however, the likes of Deloitte and Accenture are spreading their tentacles even further and making a grab for the domain of digital agencies, pitching for global digital marketing briefs.Not only are they taking on the likes of DigitasLBi in digital pitches, they are also quietly building up their creative arsenal as they look to expand their footprint across the sector.Anil Pillai, DigitasLBi’s UK chief executive, has dubbed them a “formidable force,” adding that digital agencies will have to be “on their ‘A’ game” to defend their territory. Pillai should know, DigitasLBi having last month beat Accenture and Deloitte to the mammoth €50m Renault-Nissan global digital account.Management consultants seduced by marketing servicesIt is not difficult to see what is attracting management consultants into marketing services. On the one hand, they are seduced by the size of these multi-million accounts on offer, while on the other, pitching for digital briefs is a natural fit for them: their modus operandi is to work on big, global projects, be it IT or finance. Marketing services is simply the next frontier.Underpinning these factors is the changing face of the chief marketing officer (CMO) who is the new technology power player in a client’s organisation (no longer the chief information/technical officer) – controlling everything from data and analytics to front and back-end IT spend.“They [management consultancies] see the future of all technology spend coming from the CMO. That is what they are running towards”, says Pillai.Watch out, they are coming!Deloitte and Accenture appearing on the Renault-Nissan pitch list may have raised a few eyebrows, but it was only the latest indicator that management consultancies are making a land grab in this area.Accenture’s marketing services arm, Accenture Interactive, manages BMW’s global digital marketing campaigns and the rollout of its web platforms, while management consultancies have been involved in a host of other pitches, either on their own or as a part of consortiums.They are also moving into the marketing services area less overtly.Capgemini has worked with Havas Media on digital consultancy projects and has also acted as a mediator during a Cannon digital review. Accenture, meanwhile, is running the search for Amazon’s media agency review.Along with pitch involvement, they are building through acquisition and other means.Last year Accenture bought the London-based design firm Fjord, complementing its previous acquisition of digital production services company AvVenta, while Deloitte runs its own specialised unit, Deloitte Digital.What management consultancies offerThe changing business landscape means many clients are demanding scale, coupled with a business that can provide IT skills across everything from data to analytics to customer service.Royston Seaward, a partner at Deloitte Digital, explains: “The fact that everything is so data driven is a very distinct reason why this is happening. We don’t want to be a full-service industry. We don’t see ourselves moving into marketing and campaign execution. We are about helping clients to drive revenue, drive growth and increase market share.”The briefs management consultants are interested in, according to Accenture, are Amazon-like in scale and ambition.Despite Seaward’s denial, however, they are clearly going up against digital agencies, as digital marketing is part of the whole pie which makes up the customer experience which management consultancies want to own.When it comes to pitching, management consultancies say they have options: either utilising their own creative people or buying in the expertise from an agency.Anatoly Roytman, the European managing director of Accenture’s digital division Accenture Interactive, tells us: “As far as the creative services, we have a number of examples were we are willing to partner with agencies, more often than not we do. But it’s not that we have a global partnership agreement, but more client by client.”They can also pitch as part of a consortium, an increasingly common occurrence, whereby a digital agency, technology company and management consultancy will team up together.There is little argument that the big advantage they hold over digital agencies is the sheer scale of their operations.As Pillai says: “They can field clients with 100 project managers in a couple of months. We don’t have that depth of resource.”Entering through the back doorManagement consultancies are omnipresent in business today, managing systems and processes from IT to rubbish collection. And in some cases, it appears an existing relationship with a business has helped them get onto a pitch list.Steve Antoniewicz, managing director of agency search specialists RAR, explains that clients are acutely aware of how tuned-in management consultants are at the top level to the latest business issues, putting them in a favourable position to get work. He says: “The consulting firms are tied into many of the other key business functions at a high level, so they have a real advantage in areas where they are already providing advice. In categories where businesses are outsourcing things like technology or CRM it’s now a much shorter leap to marketing.”Digital agencies fight backSpeak to any digital agency and they are likely to have one big issue with management consultants – that creativity is not in their DNA.As Antoniewicz puts it: “Though I can see the appeal of a business using consultants for technology or operations, I’m not sure I can see many clients employing them for the more creative forms of marketing.”Or, as Pillai argues, “we provide a level of insight around digital and creative muscle that you can’t buy”.Some also argue there is a trust issue with management consultancies, who can, critics say, come across as shadowy figures operating in the dark shadows of a business. And because they are still a bit player – Accenture has a global headcount of 250,000 while its design agency Fjord has just 200 people – this can play to their disadvantage.SapientNitro’s European MD Nigel Vaz believes it is a disadvantage when companies are pitching as part of a consortium.“Clients say to us ‘we don’t want a whole group of companies who look like they have just me in a lobby’,” he tells us, adding that they want “somebody who has figured out how to connect these different things.”Battle set to intensifyIt seems that while, for now at least, digital agencies are dominating the digital marketing services landscape, management consultancies are on the charge. And agencies are fighting back by encroaching into the management consultancy space of technology implementation.According to Vaz, “the reality is that over the next 10 years management constancies and agencies will come together and compete against each other. The biggest challenge for them is to decide what they want to be. Are they an agency?”Pillai agrees, adding that an important job for digital shops to “upweight their skills at programme delivery and IT hardening,” adding that “being able to talk at the same level with chief technical officers is incredibly important to establish confidence”.Deloitte and Accenture, meanwhile, remain adamant that they are not here to turn the digital marketing services world upside down and say they are not a threat. Whether or not that is the case remains to be seen.
Here come the corporates – Accenture and Deloitte are flexing their creative muscles as they make grabs for digital marketing briefs
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