Competitive pitches are increasingly being hijacked by unfamiliar faces that have relatively little experience in creative advertising.
Although IPG's Michael Roth dismissed the threat of financial giant Accenture's continued pivot toward advertising during his 4As keynote speech, it's impossible to ignore that these new players may pose a legitimate threat in the near future, thanks to well-funded corporate parents.
iCrossing, for instance, is part of the $11 billion Hearst company. Accenture generates revenue exceeding $8 billion.
As these new players shake up the advertising industry, Glen Hartman, managing director, North America, Accenture Interactive, Anne Bologna, chief strategy officer, iCrossing, Emma Cookson, partner, You & Mr Jones, Andrew Keller, global creative director, Facebook Creative Shop, joined moderator Co:Collective's Rosemarie Ryan for "The Gatecrashers" panel during the 4As Transformation Conference. They discussed how the industry is evolving and what role these new upstarts will play in disrupting the status quo.
For his part, Roth believes Accenture lacks the creative brainpower needed to solidly compete against traditional agencies. Hartman replies that Roth "seems defensive, don't you think?"
Accenture's entry into advertising is probably causing the most industry chatter as it continues to redefine the traditional AOR relationship. "My brand has to be about performance and technology and we are suddenly in the running," says Hartman, pointing out that both Celebrity Cruises and L'Oreal have reworked how they define their account partnership. "Their customers are asking for something new, so they need new providers."
Hartman acknowledges that Accenture may be best known as a technology company right now and that "no one knows us as creative juggernauts." However, marketing and branding are intrinsically linked to technology and the space is converging, he says. The company has acquired several creative shops to gain top talent and will continue to seek additional opportunities.
One key selling point for potential clients is how Accenture operates under one global delivery system P&L allowing for "scale and complexity."
Ultimately, results justify decisions. CMOs are seeking Accenture's talents, not the other way around, he says. This is because it is “no longer sufficient just to run a Super Bowl ad, but instead CMOs want to make it cross-platform, know how to syndicate the content and relate across the entire customer journey. This is where we are widely relevant," he says. "We are getting there."
Likewise, Cookson departed traditional agencies like BBH to join upstart You & Mr Jones (founded by former Havas CEO David Jones) largely because the group is being built to harness the power of technology. Every part of creative can be improved by technology, says Cookson. “We say run at the future. Technology feels like the future of where the industry is going.”
Keller cited a similar reason why he jumped from traditional agency CP+B to work at Facebook, saying that a key selling point was how "creativity intersected with media."
Anne Bologna agrees that digitally focused agencies are better positioned for tomorrow's clients after spending most of her career at Fallon Worldwide. "Every business is in the business of experience," she says. Her time at the Hearst-owned iCrossing taught her that the future is about "creating and curating experiences on behalf of brand that consumers want to engage with."
Previously, most advertising was brand driven, through TV spots and print ads. Now it is much more consumer-driven. As a result, agencies need to create content that draws an audience -- something Bologna learned from working at a publishing company. "Editors live in the shoes of audiences," says Bologna. They intuitively understand their audiences. Brands need to have that editorial mindset. Otherwise they will skip you and tune you out."