Accenture and Karmarama: the value isn't in the acquisition, but the integration

10 years ago, iris acquired a management consultancy called Concise.  

We knew that there was a value in understanding how our clients’ businesses worked outside of the marketing department.

Back then as now, it was the management consultancies who were having the regular board level discussions about holistically how to improve a business, while the agencies stayed well and truly in the marketing department.

One of the key requirements of the agency is to understand what makes a given audience tick. And a sharp understanding of the audience typically tends to drive the sharpest creative work.

There is a very real challenge facing the agency world at the moment – margins under pressure, more procurement, more clients in-housing, less trust in agencies…even the pressure is under pressure.

Understanding how businesses work 

Creative work that is even more amazing can only make so much difference to the value of a client company.

Understanding how consumers work is interesting…but understanding how businesses work is even more valuable. How they price, use data, distribute….use technology…train and attract talent….incentivise sales…create partnerships…seek funding…

Our mission with acquiring iris Concise was to get closer to the performance not just of marketing, but of the entire business. And more than that, gain a better understanding of how our clients’ customers were behaving and how they were spending, and how we could enhance their profitability.

And the relationship has been a huge success. iris Concise has enabled us to transform the effectiveness of marketing spend and business impact for clients like Barclays, Samsung, Domino’s…. We were able to go beyond communications to drive more value for our clients and the agency.

But it hasn’t always been an easy road. The opposite of that, in fact.

A new breed

Accenture buying Karmarama was positioned as part of a plan to create a ‘new breed of agency’ to fuse creativity with consultancy as part of expanding their global proposition.

Exciting yes, and a good decision absolutely. But new breed? Not quite.

All sorts of non-agency network businesses have been exploring the creative industries for ages.

Publishers, banks, private equity firms, clients looking to create agencies in house – the list goes on. The benefits of effectively marrying the creativity of an agency with the business mind of a consultancy are clear.

The key word there, though, is ‘effectively’.

I can tell you that having acquired and integrated an management consulting business all those years ago, that the value isn’t in the acquisition. The hard work isn’t done and dusted as soon as the dotted line is signed upon. That’s when it starts.

The value is in the integration. It takes time, blood, sweat and tears so that the client and talent experience is seemless, is motivating and clear and that the ‘oil and water’ of creative and consulting makes the whole add up to something much greater than the sum of its parts. 

The ‘new breed of agency’ will need to be set up to deal with client problems that don’t exist yet

Accenture buying Karmarama will only be valuable for both if it’s integrated effectively so that both work seamlessly as one unit. There is no magic wand to wave to make that happen.

In iris, over the last 16 years and through organic growth and expanision as well as acquisitions of the likes of Concise in 2006 and Datalytics in 2013 - we have effectively built that future agency model.

Blending communication, culture AND commerce – we are fundamentally involved in helping businesses work better, and understand and taking advantage of the opportunities of tomorrow. It creates work that is different, difficult to describe by the conventional part of the industry, and seeks to deliver through ‘participation’.

The ‘new breed of agency’ will need to be set up to deal with client problems that don’t exist yet. Good ads is no longer enough – you need to become fundamental to how the business works and its future success – in order to survive.

Ian Millner is the global chief executive of Iris.

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