Droga5 London on Accenture deal: 'We will retain our creative culture'

Acquisition is Accenture Interactive's biggest to date.

Droga5 London: Kolbusz, Scott and Williams
Droga5 London: Kolbusz, Scott and Williams

Droga5 London has maintained that it will retain its creative culture and continue its growth trajectory following the Accenture Interactive acquisition.

The deal announced on Wednesday – Accenture’s biggest to date – has a different resonance for the London shop, chief strategy officer Dylan Williams told Campaign.

"Droga5 London is at a different stage to Droga5 New York. We’re a very young, fast-moving little company whose culture is still emerging," Williams explained. "Every single person in our office signed up to a turnaround story. There’s quite a huge appetite for ongoing transformation. It’s not like we were at a steady state anyway."

Droga5 London was named Campaign’s Independent Agency of the Year 2018. But it hasn’t been a success story from the off: after launching a London outpost in 2013, Droga5 struggled to find its feet in this market.

A new management team took over in 2016, consisting of chief executive Bill Scott, Williams and chief creative officer David Kolbusz, and it has since become one of London’s hottest shops, with work for the likes of Amazon Prime Video, Barclaycard and Uniqlo.

The agency's declared income was £6.9m in 2018, compared with £7.3m in 2017, according to figures submitted for Campaign's School Reports.

One P&L

When the deal closes, Droga5 will be part of the Accenture Interactive group, operating under the same single P&L as the consultancy’s other agencies, which include Karmarama in the UK, Rothco in Ireland and The Monkeys in Australia.

The London leadership will have "full control" of its growth plan, Glen Hartman, senior managing director at Accenture Interactive North America and global digital marketing, said. In the short term, Accenture does not plan to move Droga5 – which opened office space for its 62 staff in east London last year – to a new location.

Hartman promised to "celebrate" and preserve the culture that has allowed Droga5 to build its creative pedigree: "From a culture and business standpoint, we really want Droga5 to do its thing. The goal is we celebrate different cultures. We have a ‘culture of cultures’, with teams that have their unique perspectives. We bolster that and invest in it and scale that."

Working alongside Karmarama

Droga5 will remain separate to Karmarama, which was bought by Accenture in 2016. Hartman said the two agencies have "distinct but complementary" capabilities.

He compared Droga5 and Karmarama’s roles within the group to Accenture’s approach to design shop Fjord after buying it in 2013. At the time, Fjord operated eight studios, but today it has 29. "[Fjord] has the same culture and types of talent, but they collaborate with all parts of Accenture Interactive under one P&L. It’s the same group but still very distinct," he said.

"Their approach and methodologies are their own. That’s the approach on how Karmarama and Droga5 grows – distinct but completely connected and collaborative within our one P&L integrated model."

That approach means Droga5 and Karmarama could collaborate to serve Accenture Interactive clients.

"We have integrated teams from all agencies on one client. They sit on behalf of the clients working together," Hartman explained. "When they talk to the client, they say: ‘We’re here to help you create experiences from Accenture Interactive.’"

Droga5 and Karmarama will not compete for business, Hartman added. This model is different to traditional holding companies, in which agencies with the same owner might go up against each other in a pitch.

"That [competition] gets eliminated from the get-go. That’s always been the cancer burning away at traditional holding company models. We don’t have that," Williams said. "Our industry still has conventions around conflict we need to honour, so it makes sense to have a number of [agency] brands in different categories."

Move into brand experiences

Droga5 boosts Accenture Interactive’s creative credibility, Hartman said, but the deal might also widen the agency’s scope of work.

After announcing the acquisition to the agency’s staff, "quickly the conversation turned to how we can now work with people who can help us do the things we wanted to do and have not have been able to", Williams said.

One of those things will be brand experience, which means not just user experience or the design of a website or app, but "any way a brand could touch a customer", Hartman said.

In March, Droga5 London hired Grace Francis as its first chief experience officer to help the agency expand into experience design and brand consultancy.

"The things we need to get much better at are customer experiences, to not just offer a proposition during an ad break but to thread it through an organisation and embed it within a business model," Williams said.

"There are certain things that sit at the back of our pitch decks now that are whimsical extensions of a brand idea, but deep down we know if we get to make it we’ll have to source out three-fourths of the production to other specialists.

"That always bugs me. I’d love to actually be able to prototype and generate some of those ideas so we’re taken seriously with that stuff."

Williams cited the example of an upcoming campaign for the consumer division of Barclaycard, whose marketer said it could have been beneficial for Droga5 to have been there from the beginning and help develop the product itself. In the future, the agency wants to deliver on that potential, creating more than just "words and pictures", Williams suggested.

He continued: "That sort of stuff is what we feel will keep the best creative talent we have in the building now continuing to work with us for the next decade."

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