Will the Rise of Consultancies Spell the End of Advertising Agencies?

Four consultancies have made it onto Ad Age’s rankings of the 10 largest agency companies worldwide: Accenture, PwC, IBM and Deloitte. As consultancies continue to expand into the advertising space, the lines between the two are beginning to blur. Many consulting firms are entering the digital space and even acquiring advertising agencies to diversify their services. However, is it possible for a consulting company and an ad agency to mesh seamlessly?

There are major differences between consultancies and ad agencies, and it all goes back to company culture and what is deemed to be most important in the marketing process. At the heart of ad agencies lie creative ideas, as these lay the foundation for brand communications. On the other hand, consultancies focus more on leveraging data to prove points without taking the qualitative and creative aspect of advertising into consideration as much.

What each company places emphasis on and the difference in culture contributes to this gap in values and operational style. Consulting is a profession in which people tend to rationalize everything, which can, at times, put a damper on creativity. On the other hand, agency executives love getting down and dirty, following their gut feeling, while at the same time making use of qualitative and quantitative data — which makes for an environment that truly fosters creativity. It’s not just about the hard statistics when it comes to creating a message that resonates.

Several companies have considered consulting firms as an option for their advertising needs due to the data accuracy and predictive capabilities they provide. A Forrester survey even revealed that 73% of marketers are open to using consultancies for digital marketing work. However, there is no true evidence on whether these firms will eventually completely take over the work of advertising agencies as many big brands still continue to rely on advertising agencies to create and deliver campaigns.

Both kinds of businesses — agencies and consulting firms — can learn from each other. Consultancies that want to break into the advertising industry need to hone in more on the creative aspect of advertising while ad agencies should be focusing more now than ever on the integration of business analytics to remain at the top of their clients’ minds.