THE CONSULTANTS: CLIENTS ON CONSULTANTS - Many marketing budgets factor in consultancy fees. But is it money well spent? Three decision-makers give Claire Cozens a client-side view




In the US we use many consultants for such areas as web, promotions,

retail and e-commerce. But the US is a more developed market for us and

our needs are much broader. In the UK, we have more fundamental issues

to deal with, such as, ’is the brand relevant? If so, to whom?’

Unfortunately, we did not address the fundamental questions about the

connection between the brand and the consumer at the start. We launched

in the UK in 1997 with Otto Versand, the German catalogue company. We

had been using the promotions agency, Alcone Marketing, and the PR

agency, Edelmann, since the launch. But we realised we needed to do more


Our agency in the US is Lowe & Partners. We felt it would be ideal to

use a Lowe agency in the UK so some of the education about our business

would already be in place; so we talked to Lowe Howard-Spink and to


We decided on Interfocus because we felt that, given the multi-channel

nature of our business, brand advertising per se was not the best

communications vehicle for us.

Interfocus presented a range of work, from brochures to


We felt they had really understood the nature of the brand and that the

best way of communicating it varies from one market to another.

Interfocus also understands that we were going to them to make a call on

our brand.

They made it plain their objective was to grow our business.

We wanted to bring in an agency which understood more than advertising,

and that could really partner with us on all the components that could

potentially touch the consumer. They did a terrific job and we have

asked them to create the ability (strategic opportunity) for Eddie Bauer

in Germany.



I think strategy should be owned, managed and developed by the


The notion that you can go into a large consultancy and say, ’deliver us

our strategy’, is wrong. The danger is that they will have a vested

interest; they will favour their own specialisms.

I tend to use specialists and encourage them to stay in their boxes.

Landor, for example, has created a visual identity for the website. But

when Landor talks to us they explore the value they have to offer beyond

their original raison d’etre.

Shell uses strategic consultancies such as BCG for the bigger


BCG is good at industry analysis and at the financial dynamics within

the market.

But BCG is not so good at consumer-oriented advice - that’s where

advertising agencies come in.

I think advertising agencies often undersell what they have to


I would say that, for Shell, the contribution of J. Walter Thompson has

been of a different magnitude from agencies in the past. Agencies used

to just make the ads, but JWT is more of a strategic partner for us.

Advertising agencies still have a critical role in the development of

brand strategy and the issue for them is to assert the value they give

so the rug is not pulled from under their feet. Agencies are keen to get

to a more senior level with the client, but the initiative is always

with the account director - the salesman.

I think the account planner should be given a bigger role. They have a

less vested-interest position and a more analytical background. The top

people need to hear strategic insights and the account planner is in a

position to do so. I would give a bigger role to the planner to

establish a key relationship with senior clients.



There were too many consultants at Channel 5 - it felt consultant-ed-out

when I joined. The danger is always that the team is set up to work with

consultants and then they can’t do without them. The marketing

department sways towards being consultant-oriented, rather than


The only person I have used is Alan Morgan. His book, Eating the Big

Fish, is about challenger brands - like Virgin Mobile versus Orange, or

Oakley versus Ray Ban. Like those brands, Channel 5 is all about

attitude and irreverence. Our ideas are originated within the company

much more than in other TV channels.

We are not wealthy enough to have loads of consultants knocking


After Channel 5 launched, a lot of consultants were retained (under

David Brook, Hytner’s predecessor). When I came in, the marketing

department had become too dependent on being told how to work.

The other problem with consultants is the lack of loyalty. Wolff Olins

developed our identity, and it is now working for Sky and Channel 4.

Because consultants are also developing an identity for other channels,

they define you in relation to your competitors. Wolff Olins was still

at Channel 5 a whole year after the launch and I had to get rid of


I think a lot of marketing directors use consultants to justify their

budgets - it is reassuring to the finance director to have a consultant

saying, ’yes, that money does need to be spent’. When I took on this job

I was very clear that I did not want the marketing budget to drop below

a certain level. I did not want to constantly have to justify what I was

spending - the marketing director should be trusted to spend what needs

to be spent.

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