Tech Consultants Are a New Mad Men

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Companies used to rest on ads to foster brands. Now they have some-more approach ways to rivet with customers. Luxury groups like Gucci have fast shifted their concentration from Vogue to Instagram, while consumer giants like

Unilever
,

that bought subscription-based razor businessman Dollar Shave Club, are investing heavily in e-commerce.

This accelerating change is a headache for a normal pillars of a ad industry: group holding companies like WPP and

Omnicom
.

Not usually is it tough to conduct culturally—it is easier to get would-be Mad Men encouraged by a new Super Bowl ad than a patron attribute government plan —but it has also brought them face to face with deep-pocketed new competitors, particularly consultancies

Accenture

and Deloitte.

Some group groups are bulking adult for a fight, while others are slimming down. WPP wants to combine Young Rubicam, a struggling normal ad agency, with digital counterpart VML, and might also sell Kantar, a group’s bum information business.

Interpublic Group

this year paid $2.3 billion for a offered operation of Acxiom Corp, that has a kind of individualized consumer information Kantar struggles to match. Omnicom has been offered a solid tide of underperforming businesses, while

Publicis

wants to spend between €300 million and €500 million a year on bolt-on acquisitions.

Consultants contest for vast capital-spending projects such as website redesigns rather than classical ad dollars. Accenture wouldn’t be meddlesome in pitching for a TV automobile ad, though it would be meddlesome in assisting a association reinvent a car-buying experience, says Brian Whipple, arch executive of a company’s offered business, Accenture Interactive.

This is where a expansion is. Accenture’s financial formula don’t separate out Interactive, though it substantially grew by good over 20% in a year by August. It is also where a scale is, interjection to a disposition toward large projects. Accenture comes tip of ad-industry rankings of a largest digital networks.

Consultants such as Accenture contest for large-scale capital-spending projects like website revamps, rather than classical ad dollars.

As group groups and consultancies massage shoulders, investors can design copiousness of discuss about their relations strengths. Agency executives disagree that consultancies don’t have a artistic aptitude that underpins all good marketing. Consultancies contend they are devoted advisers—a puncture during group groups, whose media-buying arms have come underneath glow from advertisers for inapt ad chain and undisclosed fees.

In further to pure corporate brands, consultancies have a advantage of relations with some-more comparison people, typically arch executives and arch financial officers. Agency groups answer to arch offered officers, who mostly have to work alongside arch buying officers looking to cut costs. Working on potency projects with a people who reason companies’ purse strings might concede consultants to cranky sell large offered projects.

From synthetic comprehension to Amazon’s Alexa, digital record has copiousness some-more ability to interrupt a approach companies rivet with consumers. It is tough to see a energy of a consultants’ tech-heavy representation removing any weaker. Agency groups have small choice though to follow where consultants lead.

Write to Stephen Wilmot during stephen.wilmot@wsj.com

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