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
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
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.’