In recent years, consultancy giant Accenture has accumulated a total of ten creative agencies, the most recent of which being Karmarama, which sent has ripples through the consultancy and agency worlds alike. Karmarama was once hailed as the last large creative agency, and so its acquisition caused quite the stir.
The question on everyone’s lips has been this: What does this mean for the industry at large?
The marketing industry has been finding that that despite the data-driven approach at the heart of the consultancy model, traditional consultancies still lack the injection of creativity needed to create authentic, consumer-centric experiences. And as we all know, brands that lead with experience, putting consumers at the heart of what they do, always outperform those that don’t. And that’s where our opportunity lies.
Whilst the Accenture-Karmarama union is of course a joint enterprise between the consultant and creative – marrying smart data with creative outcome – I don’t necessarily see this as a threat to the creative agency. It’s far from the truth that the consultants are going to take over, but rather that there’s an opportunity for those in the creative industry to start thinking and acting like consultants. I foresee that there will be a natural adapt-or-die evolution towards a consultancy-based model in the creative industry. Ultimately, the alignment of creative and consultant will bring about creative, meaningful and authentic brand experiences that really matter to consumers- and that’s the whole point of what we do.
The next logical question is this: how will this actually work?
The key, it would seem, is to get creatives in right at the start, from the ideation phase. This will mean having a single aim across all disciplines in a team, because this aim will clarify and inform everything that follows. And that of course means getting the right creatives in the right roles. There’s a lingering idea that creatives can’t or won’t work upstream, and yet we at Underscore are increasingly finding that this isn’t the case – far from it. If you have the right people in your team, they can be involved from the start; this translates to injecting creativity into the business strategy and marketing process, meaning all teams can collaborate effectively to produce an outcome that’s both strategically rigorous and creatively brought to life.
Secondly, it’s vital to use data to back up everything we do, and work iteratively. At Underscore we’re not above trying something new, and we always focus our efforts not on big data, but on smart data. What’s the one objective that could bring about real business change?
At Underscore we’ve been finding that clients often come to us with a pressing strategic business need, even if they may may not initially realize it – it may be disguised as the need for a simple a creative output. It’s the one key thing thing that keeps them up at night, and leads them to come knocking on the proverbial door. It may be a lack of staff engagement, a need to unify a scattered brand portfolio, or even to reach a new market altogether. We see ourselves as consultants, and it’s our job to help them identify, through workshops, interviews and sometimes sheer perseverance, what that one key thing truly is. Once this has been identified, we find that all other issues are brought into focus, and we can get on with the task at hand, and bring about real business change.
So the uptake of the Accenture/Karmarama deal? It’s this.
We should all be consultants.
In this industry, we should think of ourselves not just as marketers, strategists, creatives or account managers; but rather as consultants that have the ability to drive business change. This needs to come through in everything we do, from the processes we use in-house, to recommendations we give our clients, to the powerful, meaningful and strategically-rigorous creative outcomes. Affecting real business change is what we should all be focused on, and at Underscore it’s what we aim to deliver.