Are Consultancies The Key To Unlock The Boardroom?

"Toto, I have a feeling we're not in Kansas anymore" is how Dorothy speculated she was probably a long way from home, and it's arguably how the advertising industry is feeling right now. It's no longer us against them for a brief -- it's us against them and the consultancies. It's the talk of London as to whether this is a good or a bad development.

A video released by The Drum, while probably a little longer than it needs to be, underlines the transition from agencies grumbling about the tech giants coming in and changing Cannes to how the consultancies are starting to get their feet under the table. Regardless of what individuals think, the shift is happening, and like any disruption an industry faces, there will be winners and losers and there are opportunities and challenges.

The most obvious challenge is that there is more competition out there and it is coming from a consultancy and tech background. if a client isn't sure how tech should be used to deliver a particular outcome, or if they know they need to change something and tech might help, it's pretty likely they will trust consultants. They are not tied to any tools or any particular way of working and, in the main, don't have a stable of sister companies they are expected to win work for.

That's the obvious threat -- someone's coming into the industry to steal your dinner money. The flip side is well worth considering, however, and if you do feel like checking out The Drum video, you will probably find you get the gist after a minute or two, but it's worth hanging in or fast forwarding to 5.50 minutes. It's there that the chairman of Karmarama, Jon Wilkins, makes a point that need to be listened to.

Now, Karmarama was bought by Accenture recently, and so the creative agency obviously has a company line to toe here, but Wilkins' point is simple and well put. After years of being an ad agency that was fed briefs to make an ad for print or tv or online, the game has changed. He claims to have been frustrated that a piecemeal approach never answered some of the bigger issues a brand might want to address. But when you're associated with a consultancy, suddenly you are invited into senior meetings where you can discuss the bigger issues. These can vary, but tend to be around transformation and customer experience. 

I pass it on because it's something I have heard several times amid all the sniping about tech guys in suits coming in and driving creativity out of the industry, changing Cannes forever, and so on. The consultancies are usually better connected to the board through a CIO or CFO, or even CEO, who wants advice on transformation and improving customer experience.  It's more tech-y and business-oriented route into the board, but it does seem to take projects, from what I've heard, to a higher level within a client.

So one can wonder aloud why the consultancies are in the position they appear to be or wonder at the same time if it's an interesting partnership opportunity. If I were a boutique agency working in customer experience or digital transformation, I have to be honest -- I'd be seeing current developments as very positive for future collaboration and maybe even an excellent new exit route for the founders. If I were a holding company, I'd probably be seeing things from a different and more concerned perspective. 

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