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Accenture challenges media-buying agencies

News, 16 March 2017
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LONDON: Accenture, the global professional services firm, is working on helping its clients set up their own in-house, digital media-buying capabilities in a move that will be seen as a threat to media agencies.

The company's digital arm, Accenture Interactive, is already in talks with clients and the initiative follows well-publicised concerns about programmatic trading, transparency and fraud in the digital supply chain.

Joy Bhattacharya, Accenture Interactive's UK and Ireland Managing Director, revealed the plan at a breakfast briefing organised by Campaign, which reported him saying that there had been "a lot" of discussions with clients.

"We are having certain discussions with our clients" about "how can we set up in-house trading desks" for them, he said. "My view would be that's the way you can drive [a] complete level of transparency."

There has been a growing trend in recent years for management consultancies to buy up specialist agencies in a bid to help their clients deliver an end-to-end customer experience from product delivery through to execution.

Accenture Interactive, for example, has acquired ten agencies in the fields of digital, design, user experience and creative services, including Karmarama, one of the UK's largest independent ad agencies.

Bhattacharya told attendees at the Campaign event that Accenture Interactive isn't planning on getting involved in media-buying itself, but is keen to manage every other aspect of the media and marketing process for its clients.

"That's a space we think our clients should own," he said, in reference to media-buying. "We would like to help our clients build that capability in-house and drive complete transparency in that process … We'll set it up for them, we’ll help our clients man it and whatever that is required."

However, some industry observers believe it is just a matter of time before the major professional services firms start to consider moving into media-buying themselves.

Julie Langley, a partner at Results International, an M&A and fundraising advisory firm, told Adweek that Accenture's acquisition of Karmarama – and Deloitte's takeover of Heat – showed they are "serious about going after creative".

"Then, quite logically, we should ask ourselves whether they would make the move into media buying," she said. "Advertising spend represents a $500bn market annually, and that's a big pie to go after. I'd be surprised if consultancies don't have it in their sights in some shape or form."

Data sourced from Campaign, Adweek; additional content by Warc staff

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