Holding Company Competitor Accenture Taps Holding Company Agency UM For Media Buying

Accenture, which has crept steadily onto holding company turf in recent years, has tapped Universal McCann, part of IPG, as its global media agency of record. WPP’s MEC was the incumbent.

UM will handle cross-channel media buying across all lines of business at Accenture, including its agency brand, Accenture Interactive. Programmatic buys for Accenture will run through Cadreon.

The irony of bringing on a competitor as a client isn’t lost on UM’s employees.

“Obviously, you can imagine that was a big discussion early on,” said Scott Suky, EVP and global managing partner at UM, who led the Accenture pitch. “A lot of people had a lot of questions about that.”

Since Accenture Interactive launched in 2013, it has steadily acquired digital and design shops to bolster its agency capabilities and snag clients from major holding companies. In July, Accenture valued Accenture Interactive at $7 billion.

More quietly, Accenture is also meddling in the media-buying space.

While the consultancy claims it has no plans to become a major media-buying entity, it does help clients bring media in-house – and runs those desks for them as a managed service.

“Media buying is part of the overall ecosystem,” said Matt Gay, chief operating officer and general manager at Accenture Interactive, in a past interview with AdExchanger. “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.”

Holding companies, on the other hand, are starting to offer traditional consulting capabilities as their clients struggle with systems integration and digital transformation. Management consultancies like Accenture, however, are in a strong position to steal business from holding companies given their vertical expertise and pre-existing relationships with Fortune 100 brands.

However, the growing alignment between management consultancy and holding company business models won’t be a point of contention for UM and Accenture in their media relationship, Suky said. UM will treat Accenture like any other client.

“Accenture is not unlike any other client that we have,” he said. “We’re all trying to do the same thing, which is we’re trying to move to a more accurate way of communicating with consumers. There’s a spirit of coopetition.”

Accenture did not respond to requests for comment.

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