In, on and around the Palais des Festivals in Cannes this year, expensive space has been occupied by companies like AccentureInteractive, IBM, Deloitte, Nielsen and Verizon Media (owners of brands like yahoo and AOL). It was clear who won the battle of the billboards, as creative agency chiefs found shade under these giant hoardings. Deloitte sort of took over the delegates swag bag too as it was the Lions’ sustainability partner. It sponsored, among other things, Closca glass water bottles for all delegates, to reduce plastic waste. Inside the Palais, sessions by Bain, Mckinsey, Adobe and the rest were generously sprinkled on the agenda across the fest’s five days. Meanwhile, as usual Facebook, Google, Spotify and Twitter claimed the Croisette and the beach. Cannes, as festival goers have been observing for a while now, barely resembles the festival of creativity it started out as. That Cannes is about meetings and pitching new business on freshly waxed yachts, villas and swanky hotel terraces, is no secret. The work that the Lions is meant to be all about is not top on the agenda. Sometimes it’s even trumped by Rose-fueled parties.
The invasion of tech and media companies and consultancies has changed Cannes. Consultancies have been aggressively pitching their marketing services at the Lions for a few years and the 2019 edition saw an acceleration of activities. Even in the awards track their showing was impressive. Accenture’s submissions went from around 150 in 2018 to 500 in 2019, and Deloitte’s increased fourfold to 202.
While the consultancies versus creative agencies doomsday narrative continues, for now, it seems that the discussion has progressed to decoding what the future face of the business would look like.
Nick Law, chief creative officer, Publicis Groupe and president, Publicis Communications made a bold start with his opening address when he called out the separation of creative and media as the ‘original sin’. The underpinning message from Law was for creatives to take the lead in designing the companies they work for. “We’re the product people after all, and therefore the ones who best understand what needs to get done,” he said.
While agencies are looking to get back to the clients’ top table by creating consultancy services, the actual consultants are seeing huge demands downstream for effective tech and digital work. The issue will be how they serve up this offering, says Poran Malani, director, S4 Capital. A corridor strategy where a suite of companies and services is offered separately, or will they try and integrate, he wonders. Arvind Gupta, partner and head, management consulting at KPMG India, says, “KPMG is also working on newer business models where it may be through partnerships, or outright acquisition of design houses, media and creative agencies. Globally there does seem to be some convergence in this space but it is not as rampant as sometimes reported. Newer business models are being experimented with for sure, and this is one of them.”
The Accentures of the world have deeper pockets and they will buy credibility in the new spaces. For cash strapped agency networks that is harder to do. The temptation is to simply rebrand some of the same people as “Management consultants”. David Droga while speaking to the media on the sidelines at the festival, made it clear that they (Droga and Accenture Interactive) are not competing and that they are one team. About the most-talked about acquisition that is Droga5’s sale to Accenture Interactive earlier this year, the founder said, “This is not a holding company situation… I don’t anticipate conflict.” He added later, “The future of creativity and ideas is not going away but no longer can we try and solve the client’s issues with two different colours and miss the other 17 – there has to be a repertoire.”
Publicis’ Rishad Tobaccowalla seems hopeful about the new direction. He tells Brand Equity, “Increasingly the ad ecosystem will become a marketing ecosystem and will have parts that consolidate with big players and still have room for lots of specialists. The commonality will be winners will be able to combine creativity, personalization at scale and help Client re-invent business models.”
“There are more clients coming to Cannes than ever before. There are management consultancies encroaching on our turf, but they are still not at the heart of the festival just like they are not at the heart of our industry, and they are trying hard.” – Mark Read, CEO, WPP