Return of the Big (Consultancy) Guns

You may have noticed in a marketing article near you that there has been a sudden re-emergence of the former big guns in marketing and communications consultancy. IBM (in the guise of the Interactive Experience agency), Deloitte, Accenture and Sapient (-Nitro), amongst others, have begun to appear as recent digital marketing pitch contestants. 

In the 1980’s and 90’s these types of high-end management consultancy, alongside McKinsey, Boston Consulting Group and Cap Gemini exerted a huge influence in large company marketing structures and delivery. At that point they were not competing for the end delivery of marketing programmes and campaigns, more about the infrastructure (both technical and human) and performance of marketing activities. The new incarnation seems to be much different. Although in articles they profess not to be too interested in storytelling and creativity, we’d take this with a pinch of salt. Sapient, with their fusing of creative agency Nitro into the mix in 2009, have prospered bridging the technology and creativity offering. We believe that they’ll all consider that adding on creative and comms execution is quite an easy task, especially with the deep pockets and longer term view that they have.

Is there demand for this type of offering? Over the last couple of years there have been two underlying themes for our clients when it comes to digital delivery. Firstly, how to become more of a “digital first” marketing organisation. And secondly how to “join things up” when it comes to digital infrastructure and build back into the organisation. Apart from a few, existing “digital agencies” were not felt to have the technical competencies to create an integrated digital, data, customer journey, relationship management and lead closing infrastructure. This bridges closely into the world of IT and IS; and more “heavy-lifting” expertise of back-end technical architecture creation and build. As one client recently said to us “our agency is great at the colouring-in, but is useless at bolting things together”.

The consultancies have been doing this for years and will now feel the next development frontier is to deliver digital and systematically assess performance right the way through to customer touch-points (virtual and physical). As referenced above, the creative bit in this context must seem to be relatively easy…

From those clients where digital is not still in a silo, briefs on search and selection to us at Agency Insight have become ever more integrated across channels (see “Omni-channel” article in this space) and encompass a growing emphasis on ensuring more joined up thinking on how customers (and customer information) and technologies come together. One brief had a 200 page annex constructed to ensure the agencies understood the company’s vision and capabilities in integrated systems to deliver integrated information capture and processing right across the (global) organisation. 

Navigating through the huge number of agencies claiming that they can do all of it, a sizeable part of it, or a really specialist bit of it, is becoming ever more difficult, and ever more costly to get wrong.


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