Accenture gobbles up innovation agency ?What If!

?What If! is the agency that helped KFC bring Popcorn Chicken to the UK.

Accenture has bought ?What If! – a British innovation agency that helped KFC bring Popcorn Chicken to the UK – in the latest marketing services acquisition for the consultancy giant.

?What If!, which uses an "experimentation-driven approach" to help clients incubate new products, will enhance Accenture’s front-end innovation capabilities, the company said today.

The agency was founded in 1992 by ex-Unilever employees Dave Allan and Matt Kingdon. It is headquartered in London, with offices in New York and Shanghai, and has 150 employees globally. 

?What If!’s client roster includes KFC, Ikea, ABInBev and easyJet. The agency specialises in creating proprietary tools and programmes to train brands on building an innovation culture.

For KFC, ?What If! said it had helped the fast-food giant launch Popcorn Chicken in the UK in 2000 to help the brand crack the daytime snacking crowd of teenagers and young adults. An original idea to create a potato-based snack was ditched in favour of launching Popcorn Chicken in the UK, having been first produced in the US in 1992. 

For Ikea, it is credited with leveraging the brand’s "Wonderful everyday" brand proposition to create a new internal working culture for staff and management.

John Zealley, who leads Accenture’s Customer Insight & Growth practice, said: "Together with ?What If!, we will help C-suite executives ask the right questions at the front end of their innovation journeys, imagine the 'art of the possible', and then reinvent themselves – a core part of Accenture’s Living Business growth proposition for clients."

Acquisitions by management consultancies appeared to have declined significantly last year compared with 2017, a report by Results International revealed last year. This was likely due to "a period of consultation and integration", Results said.

One industry observer pointed out Accenture Consulting, rather than Accenture Interactive, the company's marketing services division, has made the acquisition, which suggests it is a "crossover" deal.

Corporate finance advisory firm SI Partners advised ?What If? on its sale. 

Joe Hine, partner at SI Partners, said: "Bringing together ?What If!’s creative thinking and Accenture’s technology nous is a very powerful combination that will sustain the growth of business for the next 25 years."

Meanwhile, Accenture Interactive has hired Wunderman’s Asia-Pacific chief Caspar Schlickum to be its regional managing director for the region. Schlickum had been at Wunderman since 2016 and was previously the EMEA chief executive for the agency’s WPP stablemate Xaxis.

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