Deloitte Digital ‘Doubles Down' On The CMO, Acquires Seattle Agency Banyan Branch

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DeloitteArtDeloitte Digital’s acquisition today of Seattle-based digital social media marketing agency Banyan Branch is a strong indicator that the management consultancy is vying for more agency share.

Banyan’s 50-person team, which is broken down into social analytics/insights, engineering and design -- as well as audience marketing talent, which Banyan defines as advocate/influencer activation and social content management -- has joined Deloitte Digital, with more hires to come.

“When we got the call that Deloitte wanted to send five people up to Seattle to meet with us, my first reaction was, ‘What? The accounting firm?’ because I was not aware of what Deloitte Digital was doing,” said Dave Hanley, principal of Banyan Branch, although he said he was aware of Deloitte’s growing digital clout.

Founded in Australia in May 2012, Deloitte Digital operates as an independent division of Deloitte, has 2,500 team members, runs 14 digitally minded offices it deems “studios” and counts MTV and ING Direct as clients.

Shortly after its establishment, the digital outfit acquired mobile agency Übermind, which brought “creative business technology for the enterprise” to Deloitte.

“This is absolutely an area we’re going to continue to invest in -- everything surrounding marketing and digital,” Mike Brinker, US leader for Deloitte Digital and principal of Deloitte Consulting, told AdExchanger. “We’re investing heavily internally and organically opening up studios and expanding our US and global footprint. … We had a hole to fill around social capabilities at Deloitte and [Banyan Branch] was the perfect fit and match.”

Although Brinker declined to identify Deloitte Digital billings or revenues, he acknowledged that, “We are doubling down around all the capabilities around the CMO.”

According to Constellation Research Group estimates, the global advertising market is expected to hit $125 billion by 2015. Because marketing, by its very nature, sits “at the crossroads between the old analog world and the new shift to digital transformation,” there are more players who want a shiny piece of the marketing budget.

The agency, which traditionally had the coveted direct relationship with the brand and marketer, becomes increasingly attractive to the technology vendor that wants more access to decision-makers through partnerships. (Think Salesforce.com’s alliance with Omnicom.) On the flip side, a mega-vendor like IBM, with its $480 million acquisition of cloud marketing solutions provider Unica in 2010, brings not only a technology stack to the digital marketing table, but an agency/services component as well with IBM Interactive.

“I think [with] what you’re seeing with some of the consulting firms, the big driver is, ‘How do we have a conversation with the CMO?’” said Ray Wang, chairman and principal analyst at Constellation Research. “But just because you buy an agency, it doesn’t mean you’re going to have that kind of conversation. You have to buy an agency that actually is focused on building out engagement, understanding the customer journey maps, selling the concept.”

While the creative idea was traditionally born by the agency, the business process or execution belonged to the consulting firm. These worlds continue to converge. Accenture most recently acquired digital marketing services company Acquity Group to meet the demand of “chief marketing officers and brand leaders [that are] looking for a new type of service provider that can blend the creative process with analytics and enabling technologies,” Accenture noted at the time of the May acquisition.

The Acquity deal was preceded by Accenture’s acquisition of London digital consultancy Fjord, which was an investment on Accenture’s part to consistently “help our clients understand the consumer in a really holistic way,” Erik Larson, a managing director at Accenture, told AdExchanger in a recent interview.

Global management consulting firm McKinsey & Co., while seemingly not as active on the acquisitions front in the past year, did, through a joint venture with Nielsen, acquire social TV measurement, analytics and audience management solution SocialGuide last year.

Although the lines can blur between management consultancies alone, there are some distinctions, noted Brian Wieser, senior research analyst at Pivotal Research Group.

“Most of the intersection overlap between the marketing services arm of Deloitte and Accenture are somewhere between management consulting on the Deloitte side and business process outsourcing from the Accenture side,” Wieser said. “IBM (Interactive) is somewhere in the middle.”

There are two “footholds” a management consultancy typically goes after in order to drive business for the brand client, he noted. In one instance, he said the consultancy may approach it from a marketing services standpoint, “which is technically an outsourced marketing function and that makes sense if you’re a management consultancy with deep experience in business process outsourcing.”  Then, there’s the strategic context, where the synergies can be less clear, he said.

Strategic planning used to involve lesser forms of media (e.g. just TV rather than TV, social and second-screen campaigns), where “the connection between a TV campaign and a result was very noticeable,” Wieser said. “It was incumbent upon a CEO to have relationships with their agencies.”

As marketers and the CMO increasingly gain more budget control, and campaigns span a wide range of channels and devices and behaviors, the picture has completely shifted.

“It used to be about selling a product or service, but we’ve moved from selling products and services to selling business outcomes and selling an experience,” Wang added. “The agency is typically good at selling ideas and getting it out there, but the gap has traditionally been execution. Being able to merge the creative and execution process is how [an idea for selling a brand experience] becomes successful.”

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