Where Consultancies Play In The Media-Buying Space

While major change-management consultancies like Deloitte, Accenture and PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) have acquired creative and digital design agencies to get closer to the CMO, they’ve haven’t purchased any media-buying agencies.

But as these consulting firms move deeper into the digital marketing arena, they’re building media-buying services as well.

Here’s how Deloitte, Accenture and PwC are stirring up the media-buying pot.

Deloitte Constructs A Consortium

Deloitte Digital’s media-buying model uses an API to tap into a consortium of media-buying agencies. This method gives the consultancy an inventory supply set aside by participating agencies based on a futures forecast.

Deloitte declined to name or number the agencies in the consortium. It also didn’t reveal how much media buying increased year on year.

“We’re doing media-mix modeling, planning and budgeting and we’re putting together business partners who hold the inventory for us,” said Andy Main, head of Deloitte Digital. “We pay them for that inventory as their slice of the deal.”

Leaving the deal-making and supply management to media agencies lets Deloitte focus on things like CRM, digital experiences and business transformation. It only buys media when it helps to meet KPIs.

The consortium model also lets Deloitte act as an objective media buyer in an age marred by transparency issues, Main said, as it doesn’t have to balance commitments to the sell side with maintaining clients’ best interests.

“Our value as a business [isn’t] best served duking it out in the media-buying industry, where there are established players, you’ve got to be at scale and the margins are pretty low,” Main said. “It’s not an industry we want to be all-in on.”

Deloitte mostly asserts its media-buying influence on a clients’ owned properties: a branded site or a social media page.

“We influence a ton of media buying based on this consortium model,” Main said. “It helps us play the market to work with the right people for the right job.”

Down the road, Deloitte Digital sees media as just another customer messaging touchpoint it can manage for the CMO.

“We want to run campaigns and make the decisions about what message gets to what customer over what touchpoint,” Main said. “We want to be the DSP.”

Accenture Interactive Runs Managed Services

Accenture Interactive also does media activation and programmatic activities, said Chief Operating Officer and General Manager Matt Gay.

Clients license DSPs, SSPs and data management platforms (DMPs) and Accenture pulls the levers in-house. Accenture also helps clients launch in-house trading desks and often runs that media as a managed service.

Gay declined to share how much media Accenture Interactive buys.

While Accenture said it doesn’t want to become a media buyer, Gay acknowledged buying more media for clients isn’t out of the question, so long as it’s providing value and it’s something clients ask for.

“Media buying is part of the overall ecosystem,” he said. “If and when it makes sense for our clients, and if they want us to be more involved in that, then we will certainly evaluate.”

PwC Helps Brands Take Media In-House

Like its competitors, PwC’s marketing services division, PwC Digital Services, does end-to-end digital transformation work for clients. While PwC doesn’t buy media like Deloitte or Accenture, it does help clients bring programmatic in-house.

“We look at it from a marketing operations perspective,” said John Swadener, who leads the experience consulting practice at PwC. “What do you need to change inside your four walls rather than relying on an external provider to buy media?”

PwC helps those clients analyze spend, hire the right talent and train the team to actually pull the levers on DSPs and manage campaigns. It then helps them create processes and implement the technology to make programmatic work.

“Most of our clients have the technology already in place, whether it’s a DMP or pieces from Oracle, Adobe or Google,” Swadener said. “Why not get better at it inside your four walls and maybe you can save some money?”

But bringing programmatic in-house is easier said than done. While 10-15% of PwC’s marketing clients, largely in the software vertical, have started the process, most haven’t fully bought into the in-house vision yet, Swadener said.

“Most are saying, ‘I’m intrigued, but I don’t know if I have the appetite to do it,’” he said.

Not every client has the resources to bring programmatic in-house, but Swadener predicts that will change with time. To get hesitant clients to pull the trigger, PwC offers a discovery project to show them how the in-housing process would work for their business.

“It’s similar to circa 2002, when people were bidding on keywords. Clients didn’t know how to do that,” he said. “Clients will get to a point where programmatic is something they can do. Just let the computer figure it out and we’ll go from there.”

Unlike Accenture, PwC doesn’t offer a managed service to run clients’ in-house trading desks. There’s no shortage of media-buying agencies who can do that. In-housing is a symptom of a larger illness around agency trust and transparency, and the best cure is to place clients fully in control of their buys, Swadener said.

“They don’t want us to compete against a thousand other companies that can buy media,” he said. “There’s something else there – the fact that they don’t trust their agency.”

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