April 09, 2019

By Gonzalo López Martí - Creative director, etc. / LMMiami.com

  • The global consulting behemoth Accenture acquired Droga5.
  • Droga5, in case it doesn’t ring a bell, is a darling of the creative firmament if there ever was one, up there with Wieden & Kennedy, 72 & Sunny and a few others.
  • On a related note, Accenture announced yesterday that it is “integrating” Shackleton into its fold
  • Shackleton is, was, a fiercely independent, midsize, highly award-winning agency in Spain.
  • It was founded in Madrid 15 years ago by two Argentines hailing from the direct marketing world and boasted a reputation as a disruptive and technologically daring idea source for clients in highly competitive categories such as banking, insurance, retail and the like.
  • Naturally, Madison Avenue is desperately trying to see the glass half full, spinning the news as a triumph of creativity.
  • It is being framed as mea culpa and an endorsement by an ad industry carpetbagger who has finally acknowledged the fact that we don’t sell “processes” in this racket, we sell ideas.
  • Sure, why not.
  • IMHO, however, it would’ve been REALLY great news if the deal had gone in the opposite direction: Droga5 gobbling up Accenture.
  • I know: in the Silicon Valley era, one of the mantras of serial entrepreneurship is that companies are built specifically to be sold off to the highest bidder, asap, no regrets, no looking back, no emotional attachment.
  • Still, these particular deals smell of capitulation to me.
  • In the ad world we pride ourselves on being expert brand builders yet we cannot seem to hold on to the very companies we christen with our own last names.
  • Mind you, I worship David Droga.
  • He is one of my idols.
  • He was a brilliant creative enfant terrible in his native Australia, reigned supreme over the international award show scene from a cushy executive post in London, reinvented himself as a swashbuckling impresario in New York and became a very rich man in the process.
  • But, still, there might be little to celebrate.
  • For one thing, nobody knows how much money changed hands in the aforementioned deals.
  • Or shares for that matter.
  • When figures are not disclosed it is usually a sign of someone trying to avoid public embarrassment.
  • Not unlike the POTUS’s obsession with hiding his tax returns.
  • What will happen to Droga5’s employees?
  • I wouldn’t pop the bubbly if I was in their shoes.
  • Expect a few rounds of what companies such as Accenture do best: cutting costs to unleash “value”.
  • Layoffs.
  • See, an agency is sold for two reasons:

A)    It is doing great and the founder/s have the luxury of flirting with lots of suitors
B)    It is not doing too well and an outside life line is needed pronto

  • Which begs for the question: what is an agency?
  • Can an entity that does NOT buy media be called an agency?
  • Wouldn’t it be more accurate to call a supplier of strategic thinking and creative executions a “boutique”?
  • Methinks that, regardless of the fact you have ten employees or a thousand, if you don’t buy media you ain’t an agency.
  • An “agency” used to be, by definition, a media brokerage firm with the added value of creative execution.
  • WPP is an agency.
  • Omnicom is an agency.
  • Not sure Ogilvy is an agency any more.
  • Or Droga5 for that matter.
  • Even if it has its own autonomous P&L, if your shop just sells timesheets, an agency it is not.
  • It is a… shop.
  • Anyhoo, how can we define this new breed of consultancies with a foot on Madison Avenue such as Accenture, PwC et al?
  • What will come out of their frenzied shopping spree of smaller shops?
  • We’ll see.

 

 

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