The media landscape is experiencing a fundamental shift, Martin Sorrell has left WPP, revenues for agencies are down as more and more advertisers go directly to google and Facebook and, crucially, Accenture has forcefully entered the media agency business.
On the face of it, this can only be a good thing for advertisers, right? Increased competition generally leads to lower costs and higher client satisfaction; but, let us not forget, Accenture isn’t just a media buyer, they’re also a media auditor, with numerous clients who now find themselves in the worst possible position – their auditor is no longer independent.
We find ourselves in a marketplace where Accenture continues to advise clients on agency partners through pitches and audits, while simultaneously offering their own marketing services. Traditional agencies have started to combat this threat by setting up their own consultancy divisions, but the inherent distrust of media agencies, precipitated by the rebate scandal of recent years, has stalled their client acquisition, as clients rightly see conflicts of interest.
So, how are Accenture getting away with it in the audit and pitch management space? Ad-age now lists Accenture as the largest digital network, with 2017 billings of $6.5 billion with over 25,000 employees, they have become a significant and legitimate media buyer in a short period of time – the longest-held principle of media auditing no longer applies, agencies cannot mark their own homework.
It may be that Accenture seeks to end its relatively short run in media auditing and consulting. The auditing division is dwarfed by the media buying arm of the company, and with the clear conflicts of interest for clients, only one or other of the divisions is likely to survive as marketers begin to realize that buyers can’t be independent advisors. The divisions may be separated by Chinese walls, but the bottom line isn’t.
We may see this next fundamental media landscape shift sooner rather than later, as Accenture has just announced the launch of its Programmatic Services Practice, signaling clear intent to focus on the media buying revenue, rather than maintaining credible independence for its advisory role.
If you are concerned about how this affects your media auditing or consulting, please contact Matthew Reiss or Oliver Orchard at ami+partners – we can help you retain independence of auditing, manage pitches, and provide counsel on all areas of media buying.