When business management consultant firm PwC snared Channel Ten’s EGM (and media identity) Russel Howcroft (above) as its new CCO in December, many in the industry considered it as little more than a career change for the former marketer and agency man.
However, with news today that PwC has added two new media industry heavies – the AANA’s Sunita Gloster and Foxtel’s Mark Buckman – to a newly created board designed “to add further strength to PwC’s CMO advisory practice” it appears PwC is increasingly keen on playing in the space that’s typically agency territory.
Commenting on Gloster’s and Buckman’s appointments, Howcroft said: “Since announcing our plans in December, we have been overwhelmed by the response from organisations who are looking for trusted, transparent and independent advice across a range of marketing and brand activities.”
According to a statement to media, PwC’s new board has “six key areas of expertise including brand strategy, marketing strategy, market insights, marketing performance and analytics, marketing structure and operations and creative solutions.”
And if that doesn’t sound familiar to agency land, then we’re not sure what does.
Adding to PwC’s move, an article in today’s Australian Financial Review says other consulting firms – including Accenture, Deloitte, EY and KPMG – all have plans to use “their digital and data skills to win customer, marketing and brand strategy work away from incumbents in the advertising industry.”
As the AFR article also notes, consulting firms are even buying media agencies, with Accenture’s recent £50 million acquisition of UK independent Karmarama the most notable. Apparently, Accenture has told anyone who’ll listen it wants to openly play in the media space. Yet, it remains to be seen if consulting firms – who have a staid and conservative reputation – can compete against omni-channel advertising agencies who can offer brands a range of services including creative.
“Clients [say], we need to spend more [on marketing], can you help us construct the arguments, so we can spend more,” Howcroft told The AFR. “We believe there is a need in the market. It is very difficult for CMOs to know where to point their money.
“There is such a thing as return on creativity. There is a commercial return on the basis of doing things in a creative way,” he said.
However, Clemenger BBDO’s Al Crawford said these new potential players would struggle as they may be good at data, but very little else.
“The big question is where will the consultancies stop, in the end?” Crawford told the AFR. “They are good at the automatic side of things, but what about the creative? That is what makes consumers want to buy into a brand, the emotional side of it. Do the consultancies want to go there?
“Our purpose is to provide the most compelling commercial content, no matter what the distribution channel,” Crawford said.