Consultancies are 'in the room, but not winning,' says WPP digital leader

Picture: Lauren De Vlaming (R to L) Lindsay Stein, Campaign US editor, WPP's Sanja Partalo, 360i's Abbey Klaassen and Doner's Eric Weisberg
Picture: Lauren De Vlaming (R to L) Lindsay Stein, Campaign US editor, WPP's Sanja Partalo, 360i's Abbey Klaassen and Doner's Eric Weisberg

But threats to the industry loom as brands take work in-house.

Consultancies, like Accenture and Deloitte, are "in the room, but they're not winning," according to WPP’s senior vice president of corporate strategy and digital development.

However, WPP's Sanja Partalo said big brands taking work in-house is a threat to agencies because "they’re poaching our best and brightest," during a panel at Social Media Week in New York City on Tuesday.

"This idea that somehow the competition is fierce is just not true," she said, adding that Accenture and Deloitte are really the only two players in the consulting-advertising space right now.

Partalo explained that agencies beat consultancies in 97 percent of pitches last year in which they went head-to-head. The type of contracts consultancies wound up picking up were for systems integration work with price tags that are "peanuts" for a WPP-sized agency. "It’s the kind of work that’s not the heart of our industry," she added.

The digital leader was joined by Abbey Klaassen, president of 360i New York, and Eric Weisberg, global chief creative officer at Doner, for a discussion hosted by Campaign US Editor Lindsay Stein.

The panel touched on a number of topics, including possible agency models of the future as brands like Procter & Gamble are pushing to dismantle silos and drive consolidation.

Partalo said taking capabilities in-house is a "mixed bag." Some aspects could be transferred, while others -- like programmatic -- are more difficult "because scale matters."

And when it comes to pressure from brands to produce more at a lower costs, she points to the start-ups who advertise in prime locations like the NYC subway. She asked: if they see the potential in buying such space, why don’t big brands?

"The narrative is always really important," she said. "We’re merchants of desire, that’s what we do for a living… We don’t get out of this place by cost-cutting and cutting out our partners-in-crime."

Meanwhile, Weisberg stressed the importance of implementing technology as a major pillar in agency strategy. "The more freaks and geeks we can bring to the table, the better," he said.

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