OPINION: The big, bad consultant is not such a dire threat

Management consultants have come to be seen as the ad industry’s bogeymen, creeping up to slumbering agencies like thieves in the night and stealing their clothes.

Management consultants have come to be seen as the ad industry’s

bogeymen, creeping up to slumbering agencies like thieves in the night

and stealing their clothes.



Such is the perceived malevolent influence of consultants that it

featured as the central theme of Graham Hinton’s inaugural speech as the

president of the Institute of Practitioners in Advertising 18 months

ago.



In a wake-up call to the business, he urged it to reclaim ground being

lost to the consultants and to prove its worth to clients as strategic

partners rather than mere suppliers of words and pictures.



But this fear of consultants is overplayed. Mike Sommers’ decision to

quit as the head of the marketing consultancy at PriceWaterhouseCoopers

suggests that agencies have no more reason to be scared of most big

consultants than the Cowardly Lion has of the Wizard of Oz.



The fact that Sommers’ expertise as a marketing strategist was not a

comfortable fit with Price-Waterhouse’s systems-orientated work is

indicative of the fundamental problems facing management consultants

moving into agency territory. The McKinseys of this world may be good at

setting up sales force incentivisation schemes, but offering strategic

marketing advice is a huge leap.



First-rate strategic advice, backed by outstanding creative work, is

what the best agencies have always offered and which few consultants

will ever come close to matching.



But how do those agencies bring their rewards into line with those of

consultants? With more clients wanting strategic input but with no

advertising expenditure to offset the cost, the issue of a fair

remuneration for agencies has never been more crucial.



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