NEW YORK: The 4A's (American Association of Advertising Agencies) plans to discuss whether consultancies, a growing number of which now provide marketing services, should be allowed to join its ranks.

Marla Kaplowitz, President/CEO of the 4A’s, reported that consultancies and similar non-traditional operators – say, Accenture, Deloitte Digital and IBM – that are building relevant capabilities could soon be made eligible for membership to the trade body.

"It's something we're looking at given what's happening from an industry perspective," she told Advertising Age.

With more consultancies actively entering the marketing space, and offering services that have usually been the preserve of agencies, this consideration is not simply academic in nature.

"It does not go against our by-laws and as [consultancies] continue to acquire agencies, we have to figure out if it's something we address or ignore," said Kaplowitz, who joined the 4A’s earlier this year.

Some consultancies, she revealed, have already indicated a potential interest in signing up as members of the trade group, which celebrates its 100th anniversary this year.

The organisation’s final decision on the matter, Kaplowitz suggested to Ad Age, will draw in part on the feedback of existing 4A’s members, in recognition of the organisation’s community-driven ethos.

Given that many agencies regard consultancies as a major threat, there are likely to be pockets of opposition to this idea. From a pragmatic standpoint, however, it would also reflect the evolving realities of the marketing ecosystem.

Ad Age’s figures suggest the collective revenues generated by the marketing-services arms of Accenture, PwC, IBM and Deloitte hit $13.2bn in 2016.

Additionally, Ad Age asserted that no current member of the 4A’s has been purchased by a consultancy to date – an occurrence that may push the debate surrounding organisational membership forward at a more rapid pace.

Data sourced from Advertising Age; additional content by WARC staff