Yesterday, Accenture Interactive was named the joint winner of the 2018 Dadi Awards Agency of the Year. It's the first time a management consultancy has ever won the award, a reflection of the advertising landscape's evolution.
As the biggest and fastest-growing digital agency network, the past few years have been particularly fruitful for the company. Following several acquisitions including Karmarama, Rothco and The Monkey's, Accenture Interactive’s revenue grew by more than 20%, year on year.
Despite its growing presence, holding companies - and even clients - have been sceptical of the new breed of agency.
Havas chief Yannick Bolore famously discounted Accenture, declaring it rarely comes up against it in pitching for new client work, while Michael Roth, Interpublic Group chief executive put down Accenture when he said it only got into advertising "because their own business isn't doing particularly well."
The Dadi judges deliberated over whether to give the consulting giant the prestigious award. In addition to joint Agency of the Year award, Rothco Accenture Interactive snapped up the Grand Prix for The Drum Awards for the Digital Industries (The DADI Awards) 2018, whilst also taking home the awards for best Use of AI/Machine Learning and best News/Media/Publishing Website, App or Campaign.
Judges Chair, Phil Jones admitted in choosing Accenture Interactive as Agency of the Year the Dadi judges sparked "an interesting discussion".
“When is an agency not an agency? Well, there is no doubting that the big consultancies have made a major impact in the space and it will never be the same again. Accenture Interactive decided that customers needed a much tighter interlock between business and strategy, brand experience, design and technical delivery and operations at scale and pace,“ said Jones.
"Few agencies in the market can achieve this. It invested heavily in acquisitions to bring in the very best agency talent, while at the same time organically growing their digital business consulting, operations and technology capabilities to achieve at scale transformations.”
Although design firm Fjord was Accenture Interactive's first purchase, it was their acquisition of Karmarama back in 2016 that was a pivotal moment for the consultancy as the revered independent agency chose to sell to a consultancy over a traditional holding company.
Since then, Accenture Interactive has acquired a raft of digital, creative and analytics agencies, including Rothco in Ireland, Media Hive in America, Kunstmaan in Belgium and Altima in France.
More recently, it revealed it was going to move into the media buying space, by launching a 'Programmatic Services' unit.
At the Dadis, Karmarama also won an award for best Recruitment Website or Campaign while Fjord won for best Retail Website or Campaign.
As an end-to-end service, Accenture Interactive combines the best of both a left brain and a right brain. It can take companies from researching the latest technologies to R&D and prototyping new concepts, designing and marketing a service around them, right through to scaling it across the world.
Alex Trickett, one of the panel judges, simply said: "The breadth of Accenture's ambition and evolution set them apart. Here is a big company, reaching for new services and skills and never standing still. Diversification backed up by strong commercial results."
Fellow judge, Gion-Men Kruegel-Hanna, group creative director at Head Sports, agreed, saying: "In a cut-throat and over-crowded communications industry, Accenture brilliantly manages to utilise creative strategy, brand consulting and digital as part of their service to shape and transform their clients’ business and culture.
"This set-up is something many could not only not envision a few years ago but even saw it as a declaration of war to the beloved communications and branding industry.
"Whether you like it or not, the traditional agency model is dead, long live the agency model – but this time – in an integrated business consultancy setting."
Accenture's chief executive Pierre Nanterme has previously spoken on the success of Accenture Interactive, saying it is now a "core" part of the wider business.
And as Accenture continues to rise year on year, it appears that a number of those holding companies that were quick to dismiss it are now eating their words.
IPG's Roth said last year that it would one day "partner" with the likes of an Accenture, while Sir Martin Sorrell, who as leader of WPP branded the threat of management consultancies "insignificant", has declared he will take them on with his new outfit, S4 Capital.
As the industry starts to acknowledge the stronghold management consultancies have, and Accenture Interactive is the first to win Agency of the Year, it looks like they're here to stay.