Consultants in Adland: It won’t work


I enjoyed Roger Parry’s article ‘The consultants cometh’ (Campaign 3/10/17 http://www.campaignlive.co.uk/article/consultants-cometh-means-agencies/1446269) and it’s hard to disagree with a man of his experience. In the short term, he’s probably right. In the long term I think he’s wrong.

Roger points out that “The Fitzrovia pub chats often spiral down to “consultants will never understand our unique creative culture. They will mess it all up when they integrate us.” But suggests this won’t happen because Accenture et al will never want to fully integrate agencies.

So, in this vision of the future, there won’t be much difference between the consultants and the holding companies currently running the joint, except that the consultants will charge more.

Not withstanding the fact that holding companies haven’t done a great job of it, (the last 10 years have hardly been a golden age of marketing) when the consultancies take over, it’ll be worse.

Why? Firstly because consultants can’t resist telling people what to do, which will manifest not so much in direct orders as a subtle shift into a culture where the spreadsheet is mightier than the sharpie.

Secondly because, as Parry says, ‘consultants are taught they are problem solvers’. This is the wrong approach. A good marcomms agencies should see itself as a solution creator. There’s a subtle but huge difference between the two.

Thirdly, because the marketing landscape is changing so fast, whatever McKinsey does today will be redundant in 5 years. The current rationalisation of agencies within the holding companies is evidence of that. If the consultants were so smart, they’d see this.

But they aren’t as smart as they think. Consumers are much, much smarter. No one talks about Momentum in marketing circles but I’ll throw that in as an example of what I’m talking about. Who are the Conservative Party’s consultants BTW?

Knowledge is (and always will be) power… Big data isn’t knowledge - a mistake made by, amongst others, the consultants. Great marketing comes from great creativity, which comes from adding 2 + 2 and getting 5, which is not something spreadsheets handle very well.

The future won't be the same for agencies, but I'm pretty sure consultants running those agencies are not the future.

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