Accenture Interactive, launched in 2009, has been on a shopping spree, picking up companies that can expand its range of digital operations. In May, it completed its acquisition of Fjord, a digital design firm, and announced it would buy Acquity Group, a digital marketing and e-commerce company. Late in 2012, it acquired AvVenta Worldwide, a digital production shop.
The company says it wants to become a one-stop shop for "industrialized, scalable, end-to-end marketing services." An example of how that might look is the new engagement with BMW, also announced in May. Accenture will manage the rollout of a custom-built web platform to BMW's major markets by 2014. It will take the lead in launching BMW's global digital marketing campaigns, while working with each of 100 local markets to maintain the content. The engagement includes managing the agencies involved.
ClickZ spoke with Glen Hartman, global managing director of digital consulting at Accenture Interactive, to ask him about his company's ambitions, creative and otherwise, and whether Accenture Interactive is muscling into agency territory.
ClickZ: You lead digital consulting for Accenture. What is digital consulting?
Glen Hartman: It's not, "let me help you get your next email campaign to work better." A big marketer with lots of brands will a lot of times have lots of agencies - a mobile agency, a social agency, a search agency, media agency, email service provider, database marketing provider, and analytics packages. Because technology is inextricably linked to marketing now, the marketers have to figure this stuff out - and they start doing less marketing. We want to help them coordinate all that and bring best practices to their organization that let all these agencies work together. We don't need to replace them, we want them to work more effectively on behalf of the marketer. We bring out the best in them, and help give you the right operating model, the right organizational model, and the right way to scale globally so you can have global control over the brand with local efficiency and flexibility by market. And we want to partner with the local agencies in each market.
ClickZ: How does this address current industry trends?
GH: CMOs have a lot more influence over a variety of things in the organization and are facing a lot more complexity because of that. Technology is inextricably linked to marketing, and also to analytics and big data. They're also measuring performance in a different way. And all this is coming together around the new demand from consumers for relevant experiences in every channel they touch.
ClickZ: Is this different from what interactive agencies provide, or are you really becoming another digital agency?
GH: We compete against some agencies to some degree and marketing services companies to some degree, but we aren't going to produce a TV commercial any time soon. We partner with agencies all the time. We want them to be able to focus on what they do best and what we do best. We highly respect the creative process and we're not in that business. With some of these acquisitions we've made, we're dealing with experience design and things like that, it's about the execution of that big creative idea. So, when we're partnering with an agency, because all these lines are merging, it may seem threatening, but it's really not. They end up loving working with us, because we can make that great creative idea work across 15 countries and nine languages and seven segments and 15 brands. We can help them do that very effectively and efficiently while driving growth. But it's not just about efficiency and process, it's about understanding the customer better and making that creative idea sing.
ClickZ: What's on the horizon that has you most excited and/or worried?
GH: It's more excitement than anything else. I see a huge opportunity to really change the way people are communicating with their customers. Even just a few years ago, the technology wasn't there yet. We've been talking about this for a long time, personalization and relevance and one-to-one. Now, we're at a tipping point where companies can see that it could happen. The thing that keeps me up at night is, I want to do it faster. And I'm waiting to see, for companies and leaders, how long will it take for them to take the leap?
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Susan Kuchinskas has covered interactive advertising since its invention. The former staff writer for Adweek, Business 2.0, and M-Business covers technology, business and culture from Berkeley, CA.
March 19, 2014