LIVE ISSUE/MARKETING MANAGEMENT CONSULTANTS: Unloved consultants turn to advertising for a human face - The big consultancies are starting to take branding seriously

Management consultants, according to several high-ranking ad men, are ’prats who pretend to work 48 hours a day’, or ’the sort of people that borrow your watch, charge to tell you the time and then sell it back to you’.

Management consultants, according to several high-ranking ad men,

are ’prats who pretend to work 48 hours a day’, or ’the sort of people

that borrow your watch, charge to tell you the time and then sell it

back to you’.

’Very few people other than the chief executives who bring them in ever

have anything nice to say about them,’ Jerry Judge, president of Lowe &

Partners Worldwide, says. ’If they do their job properly they make

change and people hate change. If they do it badly they make change and

nothing good happens as a result.’

This doesn’t stop agencies falling over each other to sign up big-name

management consultants and investment banks as clients. Companies like

JP Morgan, PricewaterhouseCoopers, Merrill Lynch, Deloitte & Touche,

KPMG and Andersen Consulting spend consistently and look impressive on

an agency’s roster. It’s just a shame that the creative work is so often

turgid and uninspiring.

They all face the problem of how to distinguish themselves from the

competition, and advertising is one way to break through. ’People think

of management consultancies as being all the same,’ Rupert Howell,

president of the Institute of Practitioners in Advertising and chairman

of HHCL & Partners, says. ’They suffer the same problem as many of the

merchant banks - that is one of differentiation. I’m glad that they have

recognised the importance of building their own brands and that that is

what advertising agencies are good at.’

Judge disagrees. ’Consultancies look inward and advertising agencies

adopt a very outward look. This means both have different reference

points - for one it’s the company shareholders and for the other it’s

the consumer.’

Ask the same advertising people what their impression is of McKinsey,

the leading consultancy with headquarters in New York, and they’ll tell

you it has a reputation for being pricey and impossible to get rid of

once hired.

It is against this background that McKinsey or ’the Firm’, as it is

known to insiders, has appointed Ogilvy & Mather (Campaign, last week).

To do what, exactly, is still a bit of a mystery.

McKinsey is renowned for its complete devotion to the bottom line. Its

areas of expertise span overall company organisation, strategy and

policy, profit and costs and research and information. The majority of

its clients are large private companies.

With 75 offices in about 40 countries, McKinsey has a reputation for

providing reliable, objective advice but is shrouded in an extraordinary

degree of secrecy. Perhaps the biggest challenge it faces, along with

many of its competitors, is to be taken seriously as a profession rather

than just a money-spinning exercise.

Its staff are recruited from prestigious business schools and the

company operates a rigorous up-or-out policy in which those who do not

continually move up the ranks are dismissed. As one source points out:

’There are only two views on McKinsey: the people who think they’re

brilliant and the people who’ve worked for them.’

’McKinsey’s two main objectives are to recruit staff and win new

business, but the former is by far the most important,’ says Roger

Parry, chief executive at Clear Channel International, who worked at

McKinsey as a general strategy consultant in the early 80s. ’They have

more clients than they can possibly service. The selection process is

exhausting. Recruits go through more than ten interviews but people come

from every conceivable profession from rocket scientists to


The pull of potentially more lucrative industries such as new media has

made the recruiters’ job harder. The number of Harvard MBAs going into

consulting jobs has dropped 24 per cent in the last four years while the

leading choice for Harvard graduates in 1999 was technology jobs,

particularly at internet start-ups, at 18 per cent of the total.

McKinsey is keeping very quiet about what it has in store for O&M, and

vice versa. Stuart Flack, McKinsey’s director of external

communications, will only say that the agency has been hired to look at

some branding issues but that no advertising is planned.

Some say the biggest problem facing any management consultancy in an

overcrowded market is one of customer loyalty. Most companies only ever

need management consultancies once. Advertising must address the dual

dilemma of winning new business and holding on to a client once its

problems have been sorted.

Young & Rubicam has worked with Andersen Consulting since the company

formed in 1989. ’Constellations’, its current campaign, is running in 30

countries. Its aim is to position Andersen and its professionals as

’innovative, committed, results-orientated and approachable’ and

comprises TV, print, poster and internet advertising.

’Andersen is ahead of its market,’ says Bob McBrain, board account

director on the business at Rainey Kelly Campbell Roalfe/ Y&R. ’It was

the first management consultancy to advertise globally in airports and

is now sponsoring the South Bank Show and Formula One racing - the

strategy has been very effective in overall brand awareness.’

Others will argue that this degree of investment can only be foolish for

a client intending to target only a handful of very senior business

people. The question for McKinsey, Howell says, is whether advertising

alone can make any difference at all. ’What can McKinsey say that is

different about itself? Advertising will only be the solution if it has

something worth shouting about.’

Opinion, p25.