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
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.