Will GroupM Pull A McKinsey With New Consulting Practice? Not Exactly

ernie-simon-usethisWhen you think of big consulting firms operating at the intersection of technology and marketing, names like McKinsey and Deloitte come to mind. GroupM? Not so much.

But WPP Group’s media investment arm aims to change that with a new consulting unit led by Ernie Simon, previously the chief strategy officer at Omnicom’s OMD.

Unlike those management consultants, Simon said GroupM Consulting Services will focus entirely on the marketing function. It will work at both the brand and enterprise level to advise on marketing decision-making and resource needs in technology and other areas.

GCS has not yet staffed up. Simon, whose title is president, will use the coming weeks to identify priorities and plan headcount.

He spoke with AdExchanger yesterday.

When I think of big technology consultants, McKinsey, Accenture, and Deloitte come to mind. Are you competitive?

McKinsey does this as part of their larger consulting practice — where they talk about the overall way to organize change or logistics. We’re trying to keep this very tight to what we do in terms of marketing and advertising, and generating demand.

How do we help clients internally get better at what we all do for a living? It’s not just advising them in terms of how they should think about spending. But also, what kind of resources do we need on the agency side? What kind of resources do we need on the client side? There’s a symbiosis.

Will you be a “systems integrator”?

It’s a very broad and loosely defined term. It means different things in different companies. I think there are a lot of systems that we can integrate in terms of how companies’ marketing data is organized, collected, and redeployed for greater impact. That’s going to be a large part of what we do going forward.

How do you look at messaging, and how it applies to promotions and in-store? It’s taking it to the last mile with the consumer. It’s Systems with a capital “S” rather than a small “s.”

What’s the relevance to programmatic buying?

That whole area has been important for many years. A lot of companies and clients are catching up to it. It’s hard to overestimate how important it’s going to be as the world becomes more digital in the broadest sense of that term, in terms of getting ads that are served rather than trafficked. How do we think about who we serve, why we buy them? How are we going to, especially in a mobile world, connect at the right time, the right place, the right context?

What’s a use case for how GroupM Consulting Services might work with a client?

Instead of working at a brand manager level, we’d be talking more to a division president, CMO, or CEO. When you talk about that macro approach to marketing, you’re trying to understand not just how they work brand-to-brand, but what resources do they need internally to use it not just from a media perspective but from a sales perspective and a data perspective.

If you’re a Unilever you’re probably 50% of the way there. If you’re a traditional marketer you may be only 10% of the way there. How do we get them to see the possibilities of what we can do for them? A lot of them are looking at data in a traditional way – in terms of insights. Insights are important but we’re looking at more granular [uses of data].

We’ll help them understand what they need to build on their side and integrate across all these different systems.

Are there early clients you can name?

There aren’t at the moment. To be perfectly blunt we’re still building out what we want to do first. What can we offer in weeks, versus months, versus next year?

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