CHE’s Chris Howatson: “We Can No Longer Say Consultancies Aren’t Creative”

CHE’s Chris Howatson: “We Can No Longer Say Consultancies Aren’t Creative”

The role of a consultancy is changing as agencies grapple with how to use new data and technology to benefit both clients and consumers, according to CHE Proximity CEO Chris Howatson.

Speaking with B&T, Howatson said the reason consultancies have come into adland is because advertising has “fundamentally changed”.

“Consultancies are becoming creative, look at what happened at Cannes, Accenture won a Grand Prix, Deloitte won their first ever Cannes medal.

“I don’t think we can say agencies are dumb and consultancies aren’t creative any longer.”

However, he added, “I don’t think consultancies are helping agencies in any way, they’re just presenting a threat.”

For Howatson, the reason consultancies are buying agencies is to “immediately give them a creative product”

“If you were to draw a value chain and think about the components that come into the creation of an agency or a creative product, it starts with a business case, you think about data and the audience, then you think about customer experience and their journey, and then you get to creative.

“All those steps that come before, that’s classic consultancy land and the steps that come after are classic agency land.”

Consultancies are making a play for agencies as a way of amalgamating the two “lands”, said Howatson.

“They’re buying up agencies like The Monkeys; Deloitte has basically bought all of McCann Melbourne, they just didn’t buy the agency, they bought the people to help them with the last piece of the puzzle.”

“Consultancies are doing what any disruptive force would do, they’re coming in, they’re changing an industry and any agency that hasn’t invested in those upstream strategies are finding themselves in trouble.

“But I think consultancies are really good for the industry because they’ve raised the bar.”

According to Howatson, chief marketing officers (CMOs) are also getting their boardroom seats back as a result of consultancies playing in the creative space.

“People for a long time talked about how the CMO had been kicked out of the boardroom, well not anymore.

“The CMO is now front and centre in the boardroom because the customer and the data and the expression of customer experience will become the most important things brands care about.

“There’s not one competent brand in their shareholders’ meetings who aren’t talking about improved customer experience and improved CRM (customer relationship management).

“They are the tenants of modern business strategy, in many ways, I think the consultants coming to advertising has helped legitimise what advertising agencies have done for a long time, so I think it’s a good thing.”

Looking to the future, Howatson predicts a divide in adland agencies and their offerings.

“At one end you’ll have agencies like CHE with end-to-end capabilities and at the other end there’ll be highly specialised agencies.”

“There won’t be anyone vaguely called a creative agency in the way they are today, creative agencies in the future will be big agencies who can do everything.

“PwC and Accenture will bring everything in-house to be a huge advertising house, and they’ll have the budgets to do it.

“They’re the triple threat at the moment.

“They’ll still be independents, but they’ll need to be big,” he said.

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  • Anne Miles 2 years ago

    And my personal belief is that the moment the consultancies buy into creative businesses and have a vested interest in any recommendations there goes any sense of integrity they have, and the main reason the brands trusted them in the first place.

    I stand by the belief that our industry will not be doing brands any favours unless we can remove the bias and maintain total independence and integrity in any recommendations. I used to celebrate the fact that consultancies were a fresh and independent voice but no longer can say that with confidence.

    Come on guys… brands are surely going to wake up soon. They will be better off going in house than this.

    Independent, objective, best fit, best creative, best results – that’s what really counts here. No cashing in on the back end too.

    Am I the only one ranting this call for independence and integrity any more? It’s feeling lonely here. Geez…

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