Deloitte Digital: ‘We’re Setting The Tone For The Future, Not Trying To Invade And Take Over Agencies’

Andy Main, head of Deloitte Digital, is a little tired of hearing people say consultancies are trying to muscle the agencies off of Madison Avenue.

“I’d actually say the agencies are trying to copy the Deloitte Digitals of the world,” Main said. “And when someone copies you, I guess you should be flattered.”

Unlike Accenture, which launched its own programmatic services unit in May, Deloitte Digital isn’t much enamored of the media game. Leave that to the duopoly, Main said, and, well, the media agencies.

“We actually work with a ton of media agencies and placement companies, and we partner with Facebook and Google, to bring that part of the repertoire to the client,” he said. “We think that focusing on owned media is a much better use of marketing spend than paid, because you can capture first-party data and use it for personalization.”

AdExchanger chatted with Main about agency mergers, digital transformation and the changing role of the CMO.

AdExchanger: Deloitte Digital describes itself as a “creative digital consultancy.” How’s that different from, well, an agency?

ANDY MAIN: When we started, we were focused on helping businesses compete on customer experience and customer relationships. A lot of that was on the creative front-end. We bought Magnetic in September for analytics and algorithms to feed into the experience, and that required the confluence of technical design, business skills and creative. We scaled our creative and digital consulting to reflect that. It’s about business model innovation and enabling businesses to come up with new value propositions.

In a way, Martin Sorrell is copying that model with S4. He bought a programmatic business [in MightyHive], but if you look more closely, it’s really about technology plus design, marketing and experience all wrapped together.

Any plans to acquire a programmatic media company of your own or launch a programmatic service unit like Accenture?

We place media through Facebook and DoubleClick. It’s not as if we don’t do it, it just hasn’t been a focus on the business, and that’s because the margins in media are so poor. Why would I enter a market others want to get out of?

We also thoroughly believe in the notion of ecosystem. If you don’t have an asset yourself, but you have a friend who does – like media, for us – why not simply partner?

When brands bring you in, I assume you sometimes find yourself sitting around a conference room table with people from their agencies. Does that ever get awkward?

It’s usually quite friendly. We’re not really adversaries. We’ve all got one common interest and that’s to serve the client we’re working with.

There’s a narrative out there that consultancies are pretty much trying to steamroll Madison Avenue, though. Fair?

I’d actually say we’re setting the tone for the future, not trying to invade and take over agencies. The media business has essentially already been taken over by Facebook and Google, and they’re the ones eating the agencies’ lunch, not us. Agencies with a media-heavy bias to their business model are struggling to shed that as a main source of revenue, but they can’t change quickly enough.

What do you think about the recent spate of agency mergers, like Wunderman Thompson and VMLY&R?

It’s inevitable. It makes total sense to merge these assets together, and I would do the same if I were running a holding company, because the market needs greater versatility from agencies. One way to get that is by combining the bits you’ve already got.

But big companies haven’t been taught to work this way, and agencies within a holding company are often competitive on the P&Ls and generally suspicious of each other. Culturally, this sort of thing is very hard to pull off. It’s not as easy as it might sound when it’s being described in a press release.

Seems like everything’s in flux. How about the CMO role? How has that changed over the last year?

CMOs are more like chief experience officers now. Their job description is being redefined, because there has to be messaging at all touchpoints, not just when someone is buying something. Smart CMOs have realized that they need to care about the entire customer experience, not just marketing, awareness and demand generation.

We’re also seeing a trend toward more moments-based customer experience design as opposed to linear progressions and journey maps, which are outliving their usefulness. People don’t operate conveniently in sequential steps – they operate in moments that best suit their lives.

Now’s probably a good time to talk about digital transformation. How are you helping brands through that evolutionary process?

Digital transformation is about discovering unmet human needs to help a business win for the future, and that means figuring out what needs to be transformed across experience and services. Marketing agencies aren’t doing that, because they only really focus on marketing, awareness, influencing me to buy a new product.

Marketing is the thing you do at the end of business transformation, once you’ve figured out what you’re transforming to. For a life insurance company like Transamerica, that means helping them rethink the intersection between health and wealth, while for a Starbucks or a Chipotle, the unmet need might be enabling people to order ahead so they don’t have to wait in line.

Our job is to flip these unmet needs into an offering and put it into the market quickly and successfully. To do that, you need to be super adaptive and have strategy skills, innovation skills, creative skills, digital technology skills and human-centered design all under one roof. Marketing is an integral part of transforming a business, but it comes in toward the end of the journey, and it’s far from the only thing a business has to solve for.

How do you approach hiring talent?

Our hiring is tied to the agency world. A lot of people have come to us from Sapient and Razorfish, in particular, because they’re looking for more of a confluence between technology and creativity. That’s appealing to a lot of creatives.

“Cagency,” “consulgency,” “agencelcy” – all of these are terrible, but what portmanteau should we use when the line between agency and consultancy gets completely blurred?

Ha. I’ll have to get back to you on that.

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1 Comment

  1. “preferring to partner with media agencies, placement companies and the duopoly as necessary”

    So he wants to outsource the media buying component? Or doesn’t want to hire staff that can plan/buy/track? Direct media buys at outlined minimums with the duopoly lead to attractive rebates & a categorization to access products in the BETA phase.

    His perspective on owned media is spot on. Pity, being a consultant, he will never reveal the name of his clients. Having an owned media channel for branded content based on SEO data and for selling products or running contests is a must have. Outsourcing eCommerce to the Lazada/Zalora’s of the world means you lose access to customer data.

    Expensive in the short term, invaluable in the long run. Companies with owned media that is customer-centric and generates revenue often make the correct investments to shield themselves against ad fraud while focusing media on performance & direct response.