Accenture snaps the Jewel in the Advertising Crown

04 Apr,2019


By Prabhakar Mundkur


While the consulting and ad agency pot has been boiling for some time, some people claimed they couldn’t still see the bubbles. Now with Accenture announcing the acquisition of Droga5 the pot might well be boiling over.  This seems like a coup for Accenture. They are not only buying into a creative agency of repute, they now have one of the most celebrated creative directors in the world with David Droga.  He is the most awarded creative director at Cannes and rounded up his string of achievements by being recognised with the Lifetime Achievement award at Cannes in 2017. Also, he is the youngest person to be inducted into the New York Art Directors Club Hall of Fame.  In 2017, Adweek named him one of the top 100 most influential leaders in marketing, media and technology for the third year in a row.


Droga5 has been named Agency of the Year 13 times, recently by Ad Week and the Cannes International Festival of Creativity.  It is also one of the only agencies to be named in Fast Company’s World’s Most Innovative Companies list and the only agency to appear on Advertising Age’s A-List for over seven consecutive years.


Quite clearly Droga5 was the jewel in the crown of the ad industry as far as Accenture is concerned.  Much more attractive than buying a limping old advertising agency. With Droga5, Accenture seems to have focused on creativity rather than scale and size which is a wise move, because the consulting firm has been accused of lack of creativity more than anything else. So far, most advertising groups had been in denial about the inroads made by consulting firms, but the Droga5 acquisition will no doubt becoming a turning point.


Of course, the sad thing is that Droga5 will lose its identity and merge into Accenture Interactive, not necessarily a good thing.  While David Droga will continue to be Chairman of the combined entity, one can’t help feeling that Droga might have sold out. For Droga selling to Accenture may have been a result of his healthy disrespect for ad agencies in general. After all, when he set up Droga5, he wanted to escape the traditional ad agency model which was perhaps stifling him.


Also, Droga5 becomes a part of a fairly large unit since Accenture Interactive claims to be already a fifth of Accenture’s revenue proving that consulting firms are treating this diversification as an important one.


Of course, people are questioning the fit of the two cultures and if they are consonant with each other.  While many management scholars have eulogised on the question of culture in mergers and acquisitions, my own experience is that the excitement of acquisition or being acquired typically blinds respective owners on the question of culture fit.  There is too much money involved for merging companies to take culture seriously.  They think it is a bridge they will cross when they come to it.


In the meantime, of course, Brian Whipple of Accenture Interactive has stoutly defended any doubts about a culture fit. Although one can’t help thinking that consulting firms are essentially left-brained and creative shops like Droga5 are essentially right-brained. And the twain shall never meet.


What might be upsetting for the advertising industry might be Accenture Interactive sweeping the awards at the Cannes Lions in 2020.  With Droga’s reputation there is little doubt that he will create a dent as usual in most of the prestigious award shows around the world.  Does that mean we are now close to writing the epitaph on the advertising industry in general? We just have to wait and see, but the end does seem uncomfortably close. In the meantime, I am sure Droga’s compatriots will hate him for selling out to the enemy!



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