The bombshell announcement that David Droga will be taking the reins of Accenture Interactive certainly stirred adland. While the industry’s admiration for Droga reaches far and wide, many are wondering how this mega-award winning creative leader will transition to running a $10 billion company.
The battle between agency and consultancy has been raging for years. As the argument goes: agencies don’t have enough access to the C-suite and consultants don’t have enough creativity. In an effort to pull together that magical blend that will wow clients and win business, top consultants have headed to adland. Ogilvy’s Andy Main joining from Deloitte Digital is one of the more recent and notable proof points. At the same time, consultancies have been vigorously acquiring creative shops and talent. None have been more prominent than Accenture’s acquisition of adland’s gold standard of creativity, Droga5.
Competitors watched with bated breath hoping that the corporate nature of Accenture would asphyxiate the creative spirit of the Droga team and its work. Yet the creative hits have continued to come for an array of clients including Allstate, BrewDog, Facebook, Kimberly-Clark, Luluemon, Mattress Firm and Petco.
Now as Droga succeeds Brian Whipple on Sept. 1, it’s clear that Accenture Interactive is fully committed to placing creativity at its core. So how does this really impact the balance of power in adland? Observers have mixed feelings.
‘Agencies have nothing to fear’ in the short-term
The appointment of Droga, who many speculated would leave Accenture to start a new venture, certainly looks good on paper. It answers the question: Is Accenture committed to creativity?
But will it actually make an impact? Not in short-term, says Simon Francis, chief executive at Flock Associates Ltd. “Accenture clearly recognize the symbolism of appointing Dave Droga to his new role. It shows their commitment and intent to talent, clients, and potential acquisitions. Does it change Accenture culture or change the work? No. Just as WPP or Omnicom hiring a consultant doesn’t change their culture or work, at least in the short term.”
“We don’t envisage any imminent changes in the balance of power between agencies and consultancies, and in the week White Claw moved from [Accenture-owned] Rothco to VCCP, we can see that agencies have nothing to fear,” says Francis.
The combination of consultancy and agency hasn’t worked yet, but it could
Accenture doesn’t want to be viewed as a holding company, but with dozens agencies within the fold at Accenture Interactive, it’s hard not to make the comparison. Shops run the gamut from Karmarama in London to Rothco in Dublin and Matter in San Francisco.
“His biggest initial challenge will be uniting the 40-plus investments in the US, UK, Germany, Australia and other places under a single clarion call,” says Greg Paull, principal and co-founder of R3.
The ascension likely insures Droga’s namesake agency will survive as a standalone, but questions remain as to whether all of the creative firepower will actually transform a consultancy as large and as deeply rooted as Accenture. “It has been a lot easier to add technology to a creative agency versus creativity to a pure digital consultancy like Deloitte or Accenture,” says Serge Rancourt, chief executive and co-founder of No Fixed Address and Mischief @ No Fixed Address. “Consultants are invited to the table to resolve business problems and then engage digital transformation. Agencies are invited to deliver powerful creative solutions using technology to deploy them.”
So far, creative agencies that have been acquired by the big consultancies “have not been integrated to the heart of their business,” says Rancourt. “Bringing creativity upfront, while working on big business issues, has yet to be demonstrated well. But if one person could do it, David Droga — with his creative and business acumen — is a good bet."
Paull agrees. “David already has hands on local experience in three continents and more than enough client experience in the other three — he will be a positive advocate for change and will help position the group as an employer of choice.”
Accenture declined to make Droga or CEO Julie Sweet available for comment.
Taking the lead in creative customer experience?
Before the pandemic, agencies and consultancies alike knew they had to transform to meet client and consumer needs. Now, the speed of change is breakneck. “The world is moving faster than we ever before and accelerating new products and services to help our customers save time and money when they need is most is vital but so is innovative creative that engages consumers,” says Lisa Colantuono, president at AAR Partners. “To that end, the David Droga’s take-over is nothing short of explosively brilliant.”
Accenture Interactive will now have the upper hand when it comes to moving beyond customer experience to creative customer experience, says Colantuono. “This is exactly what brands need now, since ‘the future’ is here…clients need purpose, innovation, technology and transformational experience, and this is exactly what David will be able to unlock in his new role at AI.”
Somewhat ironically, it took a consultancy to put a creative in charge which is a rarity even in adland. “It’s an important move because for too long, Accenture has had the legacy of its ‘consultancy’ tag and question marks over creativity,” says Paull. “The fact they have a creative practitioner in charge — something, by the way, very few creative agencies have, sends a strong message internally, to clients and to the industry at large.”