Will creative agencies and consultancies merge to create 'cagencies'?

Will creative agencies and consultancies merge to create 'cagencies'?

Last week, the ad industry was given a new portmeanteau to play with - "cagencies" - as Accenture Interactive predicted that big ad agencies and consultancies would end up coming together.

"There will be companies, let’s call them ‘cagencies’", the company’s EALA managing director Anatoly Roytman explained. "These are consultancies that are moving rapidly into what used to be the agency space. And also agencies are trying to acquire some business consultancy skills as well as tech."

While space would remain in the market for smaller, boutique creative shops, Roytman’s overall point was clear: "To be creative, you don’t need the infrastructure of big agency holding companies anymore". 

But then, Roytman would say that, wouldn’t he? As leader of the consulting giant’s marketing services group, he is on a mission to make it "number one" at the expense of the likes of WPP and Omnicom.

So far Accenture Interactive has acquired its way into the market – most notably by buying Karmarama in 2016 – but is now talking about re-educating clients about how they should buy marketing services. Nice work if you can get it (or rather, create it).

Writing in Campaign this week, Iris’ global chief executive Ian Millner described Roytman as being "like a Las Vegas street magician", who has over-simplified what agencies can do and will be able to do.

"In his over-simplification, he is not totally wrong – agencies will (and are) improving their strategy capability to help win more fundamental influence within client organisations," Millner said. "But Accenture et al have deliberately and specifically followed more or less the same model as the super agency networks. It’s linear, logical – and if you have plenty of cash to spend – scalable. It’ll work for a while."

So, do you believe in magic? Campaign asked industry experts whether the future is cagency-shaped.

Anna Vogt

Chief strategy officer, TBWA\London


Will they? Yes. Probably. Some will. Is it a good idea? In my opinion, agencies and consultancies are in the same business of helping clients grow, but we sell fundamentally different products to do so. At their best, agencies are single-mindedly focused to deliver great creative work. And they create cultures that attract people who are hungry to make it. Working towards any other agenda would be a distraction, and becoming a ‘cagency’ risks over-complicating something that should be incredibly simple. 

Victoria Fox

Chief executive, Lida

Shouldn’t we ask whether they should rather than are they going to? It is already happening!

The biggest challenge with this evolution is how creativity survives in a more corporate culture. Creativity is alchemy. Agencies have invested heavily in nurturing and preserving a culture where ideas can thrive. Culture doesn’t come from ‘commandments’ down but rather from people up. 

If ‘cagencies’ (shit word) can overcome this culture barrier then I agree the landscape will be made up with a few big players and some small specialist creative shops, but that is a big challenge for those few big players to get right.

David Golding

Founder, Adam & Eve/DDB

It’s undoubtedly true that there are many parts of the customer journey that management consultants will increasingly dominate, and they will buy a range of different agencies to help them do that. But there will remain a need for core brand-defining ideas and executions, those that position a brand, give it a centre of gravity, and give customers and workforces a sense of purpose and inspiration. These ideas will guide customer experiences but won’t be born from them. Rather, they will come from the small number of truly creative minds who will always choose the freedom of an advertising agency over the formulas of a consultancy.

Larissa Vince

Managing director, Saatchi & Saatchi London

I was watching Mad Men again the other day (there was nothing else on).

There’s an episode where all the creatives despair that they’re going to lose their jobs because an enormous computer arrives at the agency. 

It reminded me that confidence is often one of our biggest issues. Specifically, confidence that creativity is an essential driver of business growth for our clients. And that we do it best.

Working closely with consultants is brilliant, and it makes us all better – we work with Publicis Groupe’s Sapient all the time.

But we have different skillsets. Consultants excel at identifying business problems. We excel at unlocking creative solutions. And I know which one of those is harder to learn.

Simon Peck

Group managing director, Engine

Management consultancies are brilliant at what they do – management consultancy. But not all consultancies understand the fact that strategy is already deeply integrated within the work of forward-looking creative agencies. However, there is an opportunity to link the heart of an organisation and the way it works more closely with customer journey comms. At Engine we have housed our consulting business Transform, under the same roof as our creative agencies for more than a decade, working with them to build a culture of creativity, data and technology to produce transformational work.

The challenge for anyone combining two or more culturally different businesses is in integrating them effectively. A truly collaborative culture can’t be built overnight, and a shared profit centre alone isn’t a guarantee of success, but putting businesses physically side by side and instilling an ethos of working together can embed the right spirit and ultimately lead to better work.

Karen Byrne

Chief operating officer, Zone

Absolutely. The trend is firmly underway. Technology is undoubtedly disrupting entire business models, not just media channels and ad formats. The fight to win the customer is the key battle ground. It’s fair to say that neither consultancies nor agencies have cracked it yet.  

The winners will need to be able to combine creativity with technology as well as business consulting skills. Most importantly for me, they will need to create a culture and working model where diverse, multi-disciplinary teams are the norm.

Brands are far more complex in 2018 than they were in 2008. They have many more touch points than ever before and therefore the customer’s experience of any brand is no longer influenced just by the creative idea but is impacted too by data, analytics, search, UX, UI and technology.

Without question, the future is the marriage of both creativity and technology. It will no longer be this ‘them’ and ‘us’. There are rich opportunities to collaborate and partner. This can only be good news for our clients, our consumers and for our talented teams.

And, for the visionary, the opportunity to build a new type of business, neither agency nor consultancy, which will develop and change over time as technology continues to evolve with ever greater momentum.

Andy Sandoz 

Chief creative officer, Deloitte Digital

The trend to merge in creativity is bigger than just creative and consulting agencies. It’s impactful for every kind of business.  

The desire for creativity is being driven by the opportunity within tech disruption, its ability to better connect the customer experience and the promise it holds to free up our talent to reimagine how business can be. Creativity is an intuitive addition, moreover a necessary addition for all business transformation today. 

We’ll see creativity popping in all different shapes and sizes in all different shapes and sizes of business. As such, for Deloitte, it’s natural to our future because it’s natural to that of our clients. 

The once arcane is now open and what happens next is anyone’s to make happen. It’s such an imaginative time to be in business, for every business… welcome to the creative business.

Julie Langley 

Partner, Results International

The future of the agency model is about meshing different activities together to provide a joined-up, seamless service to their clients. Increasingly that includes consulting and broader business transformation as well creative and media services.

The days of the individual companies within the networks operating in silos, and even competing against each other, with a myriad of P&Ls is on its way out.

This isn't about size. Accenture as a whole is much larger than any of the networks and nobody is saying they need to be smaller.


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