Accenture Interactive chief: no Don Drapers please, we’re an experience agency
Accenture Interactive’s chief executive may still remain cagey regarding his company’s threat to agencies but has assured the industry Accenture has little interest in hiring the “young advertising geniuses” historically attracted to Madison Avenue.
Brian Whipple, Accenture Interactive's chief executive
Brian Whipple was hesitant to answer questions on the cash value of Accenture Interactive’s growth on-stage at Advertising Week New York and toed the company line when asked to explain exactly it means to be an ambiguous ‘experience agency’.
But when asked about attracting pure creative talent to the business, he was clear: ad agencies are welcome to it.
“If we were having this discussion four or five years ago... we'd have some dialogue about what we as Accenture Interactive need to do to more broadly attract creative talent,” he said.
“Today, a young advertising genius – one of the many capable men and women in the industry that's dedicated to advertising at a very young age – on the surface wouldn't be the type of candidate we're interested in. We are going after people that want to [get on the] cover of the newspaper, changing the way a brand interacts with its consumers holistically.”
He clarified that Accenture Interactive is still interested in talent that is ‘creative’ “as an adjective rather than a noun”, precluding “a Don Draper character [wanting] their sole focus to be creating advertising campaigns”.
“We do have people that do that but the people that do that that thrive here are the people that want to do that in the context of reinventing experiences,” he said.
Accenture Interactive is taking a similar stance on which accounts it chooses to pitch on. Its mission is “not to have pure advertising clients”, said Whipple, but to work with brands looking to improve their overall business through digital. The company recently strengthened this offering by formalising its dedicated programmatic division (he ardently poo-pooed suggestions that the launch is anti-competitive).
“Many ... clients have not pivoted towards transformation and they might ask a media agency of record for a new creative campaign,” said the CEO. “But we would come back with a discussion at the executive and/or board level saying, ‘well, have you thought about looking at your business holistically and forming a new digital business.
“Sometimes you get warm receptivity to that and others not as much. Frequently we might just withdraw at that stage because I don't have so many critical resources to deploy [on an ad campaign].
Whipple added innovation plays a key part of Accenture Interactive’s new business strategy. His team “spends a lot of time ... ideating around what new experiences could be” and then looking for the perfect client, rather than the other way around.
As for the survival of holding companies, Whipple was confidently polite – particularly about their more innovative management teams. He said he does not “anticipate any sort of massive change” in the industry ecosystem yet caveated: “[holding companies] are going to be challenged to achieve high double-digit growth rate or something like that as long as their core business is in an industry that isn't growing.
“A lot of those businesses are moving towards technology enabled experiences, but the core business is still closer to things that aren't growing that much.”
Whipple believes the complexity of supporting an array of singular agency brands may also be a factor affecting the parent company’s growth – advice that WPP appear to be taking on board with its current period of consolidation in both its media and creative divisions.
“They put all these groups together in different forms ... there's a lot of partial uniting going on there, but that stuff is hard to do when you have this founder’s culture with lots of different earn outs. A lot of the top executives are changing that, but I think it will take time.”
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