Accenture Interactive's View On Advertising And The CMO With Global MD Hartman

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accentureGlen Hartman is an Accenture Partner and serves as Global Managing Director, Digital Consulting for Accenture Interactive.

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AdExchanger.com: What's Accenture's view on the opportunities for the company in advertising and marketing?

GH Well, I imagine that when people think of Accenture, they don't necessarily think of marketing, advertising or digital media. The first things that come to mind are technology, system integration, and what we're best known for. But we've been working with marketers for quite some time, and we have a large CRM practice as well as analytics practice.

Accenture Interactive came together a few years ago when our CMO clients were starting to see the convergence of technology, data, and creative, and then they asked us to get into this business. We took the best from a variety of different areas that we're touching – i.e. the things that CMOs and brand managers care about - largely through enabling technologies, and we blew it out.

When we created Accenture Interactive, we took our offline marketing team that was doing traditional TV, print, radio, mixed‑media modeling, direct mail, etc., and made them do segmentation, econometrics, and all the things that we know and love for a given market and brought that within Accenture Interactive.

And all of this is around one key takeaway: we've found a way to bring these offerings together to help marketers and brand managers drive performance. By taking data and analytics to drive more relevant experiences across multiple channels, that's really where we see the future and most of the things that are happening for marketing and advertising - and all the media spend that we're helping advise our clients on.

Do you see Accenture replacing the agencies that marketers are enlisting these days?

It's a fair question because there's so much blur. All the agencies are talking about how they're trying to come down more on the technology side. The way that we approach it today is as a complementary position where draw the line in one place where our capabilities are. We don't do brand creative. And by not doing that, it helps us collaborate with the agencies. We often work with the incumbent agency of a client, but we do is allow the agencies to focus on what they do best, and we meet them somewhere usually around the user experience level.

Agencies focus more on the big brand idea, and then we will focus on how to take that brand idea and leverage the creative. We also understand the relationships the agencies have with the brand managers and how important that is, and we want to leverage it.

We believe that there are ways to help marketers leverage these creative ideas at-scale. One example I think of a lot is the famous and over‑quoted Old Spice campaign that everyone talks about. It's a brilliant campaign. You cannot deny the response and the hits. And to acknowledge that is important, but if you were in a conference and people are talking about it, they're all watching the videos and looking at the numbers – they are impressive. But if you raise your hand and ask, "Well, how would you do that at scale?" How would you do that for 35 different countries, in four different channels and targeted to 16 different segments.” The room gets really quiet. A lot of that stuff is manual.

There are many things that can now be automated and delivered at scale through technology. And we're bringing the science to do that. With the process, some of the not‑so‑sexy things that were associated with marketing are now becoming sexy. We joke around saying data is the new "sexy" within marketing. It's an important aspect of why the agencies like to work with us - so they get to concentrate on the creative and the big idea, and we can work on the things that help enable that at scale.

What would you say is the competitive set for Accenture Interactive?

There is competition. Everyone's talking about the same thing, right so you have the big media companies, Publicis and WPP, that are buying up digital agencies and trying to talk about analytics, data and different measurements.

You've got different technology players that are buying up analytics companies and trying to come up with a new technology stack. Then, you have the marketing services players that are trying to do that as well, and we're seeing all of them. It all comes down to the maturity of the client. Some people and clients are still beholden to their agencies. Their brand agencies do everything and others are still looking around for the best‑of‑breed solutions, like getting the best social provider or the best global provider.

What we're trying to do, with some great success, is to come up with a way to provide some end‑to‑end solutions for bringing all of those things together. It's the integration that Accenture's so well known for. But, bringing together systems or teams, that's a technology discussion. The big difference is that we're targeting the CMO. The takeaway for us is about working with them to define and drive outcomes. Instead of saying, “We'll take your best‑of‑breed technology and bring it together,” what we're doing is saying to them, "What do you want to do? Do you want to drive in‑store traffic, or are you trying to drive e‑commerce? Are you trying to get better search results? Do you want to do more engagement on Facebook or somewhere else?”

We take a step back, and then help marketers figure out all the technologies, agencies and people. Some of the tools will be our own proprietary ones - others will be other people's, or maybe leveraging investments they've already made.  In that particular area, we don't see too many competitors because everyone's pushing their own thing. We compete head‑to‑head with the digital agencies; we compete head‑to‑head with the system integrators. But they're not having this big discussion yet everyone’s coming this way. We're more concerned with the marketing outcome than we are with the technology.

Can you quantify for me how big Accenture Interactive is?

We don't give out revenue numbers. We're a public company and you can get [numbers] on the earnings calls. But, I can tell you that we have over 1000 people on the team. There are other areas within Accenture that we're leveraging so that number could actually be a bit larger, but we don't count them. It’s global team with major hubs in North America, Europe, Latin America and the Asia-Pacific regions. We have delivery in all areas, and that's from strategy all the way down to delivery. In the digital agency world, if you think of the top five that are out there, Accenture is similar in size to those. It all depends on how it’s counted.

How does Accenture Interactive participate in the world of ad networks and demand‑side platforms? For example, does Accenture Interactive own its own demand‑side platform, or do you use a partner?

We partner for the demand‑side needs. For media, we have some proprietary tools and platforms that we're using to help optimize media. It could be paid, owned, or earned; paid search, display advertising, social and the like. We're in the mix in all and focused much more on making recommendations and how to optimize those experiences through those channels, and also how to allocate spend in those channels. At the core of everything that we do is really analytics and data, and then using that to drive recommendations.

Do you ever do the buying?

Yes, we do some. What will end up happening is we'll work largely with partners on making the media buys, advising them, and then having them optimize the media buys themselves. But from time to time - and this happens a lot for us on the paid search side, too - we can get so good at the targeting with our data that clients will ask, "Why don't you make the media buy on your own?"

But, I want to be clear, we're not in the media‑buying business. It’s not our primary function, but it does end up being a result of the nature of the optimization that we do. And it's the changing world of media in a way.

The investment arm of Accenture has been active and invested in ad tech ecosystem companies like Adchemy. Will Accenture be acquisitive in the marketing technology area going forward?

Absolutely we will be. We've been doing acquisitions for a while to help us bolster our capabilities in this space. We've done a bunch over the last few years. We just did one recently, a company called CadenceQuest. They deal with Point-Of-Sale data and perform microsegmentation to connect the dots between what's happening on the web, in mobile or other different datasets, and then match that up to POS data – it’s the online/offline connection.

IBM or other companies are potentially making very high‑profile acquisitions, so ours may not be as high‑profile. But acquisitions are consistent, and they're very much a big part of our growth plan moving forward.

Do you see the mobile, video or display channels as being attractive?

For us, I can't give any specifics on any kind of companies we're looking at. But, it's important to say that our mission - around being able to drive relevant experiences and help marketers drive relevant experiences across all channels, including mobile, social, and offline as well –  is a big part of where we're headed. Any solutions that can help us do that, and more specifically, harness and use data and analytics to help do that at scale is always a big part of our agenda. And that's how we've been growing. It will continue to be a consistent theme for us.

So, would you say you are expanding services with your existing marketer clients, or are you going after new marketer clients and new brands?

It is both to some degree, but as I mentioned before, our clients have asked us to get into this business. Trying to drive relevant to scale is important to the clients that Accenture already serves because they're the large Global 2000, Fortune 100 clients.  We run most of their technology in systems in‑house, and a lot of it is around marketing. But now they're just asking us to extend a bit higher up so we're getting closer to the consumer experience.

A lot of people on our teams were former brand managers or marketers from the clients. What we're trying to do is gain credibility, in order to be able to speak that language, then connect the dots between the technology, data, and brands.

So maybe a year from now, what would you like or what would Accenture Interactive like to have accomplished a year from now which it hasn't accomplished yet?

It may sound a little clichéd, but we want to be viewed as the leader in this new space. So this space is coming together, this whole idea of data‑driven, analytics‑driven marketing across multiple channels at scale. Again there are some companies out there that have done some of this, but it's usually around campaign‑centric thinking. So what we're trying to do is move people from the campaign‑centric thinking to more consumer‑centric thinking, from episodic effectiveness to ongoing relationships. And I think if we could be known in the market as the provider to do that, but actually being known for that, where we're the company that if you want to go big on this data‑driven, multichannel thing, Accenture is the one you would call. So that's something we're close to there, and I think we're a little ahead of most of the pack, but I think that that would be the big takeaway - to be known for that. We believe that the marketing agenda and the CMO agenda is the next big thing. It's a tough environment for them to be successful, and we want to be the ones to help them connect with their consumers.

By John Ebbert

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