Accenture Interactive recently turned the advertising and marketing industries on their collective heads when it announced it was acquiring independent ad agency Droga5. Consultancies like Accenture have been scooping up marketing services companies for the past few years, but none had ever acquired such a high-profile entity as Droga5.
Brian Whipple is CEO of Accenture Interactive and will be a keynote speaker at the upcoming ANA Advertising Financial Management Conference in Phoenix. In a recent interview with the Association of National Advertisers’ group executive vice president, Bill Duggan, Whipple discussed the acquisition, and the overall role Accenture plans to play in the advertising industry.
Bill Duggan: Why is Droga5 such an important acquisition for Accenture Interactive?
Brian Whipple: The acquisition is a game-changer for us. In order to create the experience agency of the future, we needed to strengthen our brand creative capabilities in North America.
With more than 450 employees in New York and an additional 50 employees in London, Droga5 will bring inspirational brand thinking to complement our already strong marketing services capabilities. Working with David Droga and his world-class team of brand strategists and creative minds will further our ambition to improve the full human experience with brands.
Duggan: Accenture Interactive is uniquely focused on the customer experience. Why have you placed a priority there?
Whipple: The marketing landscape has dramatically changed, and people expect interactions to be seamless and frictionless. There is a powerful convergence of marketing and technology, and brands are no longer built through advertising, but through experiences. The future of brand building is not just about creating great ideas — it’s about creating great experiences.
Duggan: Last year Accenture Interactive announced that it would offer marketers in-house programmatic services. The in-housing trend is huge, as confirmed by ANA’s own survey work. In what other areas are you helping marketers bring services formerly handled by agencies in-house?
Whipple: We launched [our Programmatic Services] offering with the goal of helping clients navigate the complexity of the digital media planning and buying landscape. We believe deciding what to bring in-house and what should be left to an external partner is highly dependent on the overall vision and strategy of the brand.
Duggan: Of course, your in-house programmatic offering has been criticized by some agencies and auditors who say the fact that Accenture is both an auditor and a player is a conflict of interest. What is your response?
Whipple: Managing conflicts is nothing new in the advertising world. Our clients trust Accenture to maintain buttoned-up processes, policies, and separation between potentially conflicting capabilities.
Duggan: What types of agency compensation arrangements work best for both the marketer and agency?
Whipple: With some clients, we’ve put our money where our mouth is by moving to a pay-for-performance model. For one car manufacturer client, for example, we get compensated by net new cars sold. We’d like to challenge the entire industry to better align marketing KPIs to overall business goals.
Duggan: Do you think there are trust issues between marketers and agencies in the industry?
Whipple: Our industry has reached a unique tipping point, where simple brand creative alone is not going to win in today’s digital world. Today, experience is the battleground for brands to win.
Leading brands are looking for a new type of partner that can bring together creative chops, business strategy acumen and technology prowess to transform customer experiences. CMO accountability has never been greater, and brands are looking for a partner that can deliver true value that aligns to their overall business objectives.
When brands and their partners are measured on the same goals and KPIs, there is mutual investment and trust — which is paramount to success.