Accountancy and management consultancy giant PricewaterhouseCoopers (or PwC) has emerged as one of the leaders in digital consulting as a result of its already extensive client portfolio, which includes almost 420 of the world's Top 500 companies. PwC Digital handles a substantial amount of development for clients, but unlike rivals Accenture and Deloitte it has so far only very rarely competed directly with traditional advertising or creative agencies for any significant brief, focusing instead on business transformation, back office development and ecommerce. Despite a longstanding relationship with the IAB to measure global online advertising expenditure, first established in the UK over 20 years ago, it only officially created a separate digital marketing services division in 2013, following the acquisition of Florida-based digital agency BGT Partners. Although strongest in the B2B sector, PwC Digital also serves a broad range of consumer marketing clients, offering fully integrated end-to-end digital solutions from strategy to implementation. It might lack the creative edge of dedicated digital marketing agencies, but more than makes up for that with sheer muscle and manpower. Inevitably, key strengths are strategy, technology and analytics. PwC Digital sits within the Global Advisory division of PwC, which offers management consulting and M&A. The group has developed its digital marketing profile through a string of further acquisitions including Booz Digital, Ant's Eye View and Optimal Experience. There have been further purchases around the world but mostly small bolt-ons in digital development. Its most notable creative-led investment to-date is a minority stake in Australian start-up ThinkerBell, launched by a team from local agency Cummins & Partners. There are now more than 30 digital services offices worldwide including key hubs in London, Hong Kong, Hamburg and Melbourne, and multiple "Experience Center" physical labs for testing prototype projects. Tom Puthiyamadam is global digital services leader. For the year to Jun 2019, PwC's global revenues were $42.4bn; digital services accounted for around $5.4bn.
Capsule checked 16th March 2020
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Adbrands Weekly Update 3rd Aug 2017: The Australian arm of consultancy PwC is reported to be in negotiations to acquire Thinkerbell, the creative agency set up only two months ago by three executives from Cummins & Partners. At the beginning of this year, PwC named Russel Howcroft as chief creative officer of its Australian "CMO Advisory" unit. Howcroft was previously general manager of now-struggling local TV station Network Ten, but before that spent several years as CEO of the Y&R Brands Australia group.
Adbrands Weekly Update 5th Jun 2017: Management consultancies PwC and Deloitte took further steps to bolster their marketing offering with acquisitions of traditional agencies. Deloitte's target was design agency Market Gravity. The two companies have already been working together on the launch of Yorkshire & Clydesdale Bank's digital Studio B service. Headquartered in London, Market Gravity also has offices in Edinburgh, New York and Toronto. Earlier in the week, PwC signed a deal to add Swedish product and service design agency Pond. Deloitte and PwC currently lag behind Accenture in the acquisition-led crossover into traditional marketing services, although Deloitte has also been linked to a possible bid for WCRS parent Engine Group. However, in an interview with the WSJ, PwC's global digital chief Tom Puthiyamadam was actually rather dismissive of traditional marketing agencies. Asked his views on Sir Martin Sorrell's recent comment that WPP agencies had not generally found themselves up against consultancies in pitches, he said “You know why? He’s in the wrong pitches. He’s actually solving the wrong problem. He’s solving yesterday’s problem on driving more leads, through better campaigns and better creative." Yet, that, said, Puthiyamadam, is an area where spend is actually decreasing. Instead PwC aims to solve more fundamental problems like customer support, logistics and distribution.
Adbrands Weekly Update 4th May 2017: Some intriguing soundbites from the article in this week's AdAge about the rise of the consultancies. "We don't believe brands are built from advertising any more," says Accenture Interactive senior managing director Brian Whipple. "They are built from an amalgamation of customer experiences, so that is what we are focused on." And Leo Burnett's new North America CEO Andrew Swinand told AdAge, "I don't see my competition as WPP and Omnicom, I see my competition as the consultancies." That may certainly be the case as far as data analytics and strategic positioning is concerned, or digital services, but we haven't yet seen Leo Burnett lose a major creative pitch to a the likes of Accenture or PwC. However, admittedly, all it would take for the competition to become explicit would be another acquisition similar to Accenture's of Karmarama in the UK. Perhaps the most accurate viewpoint was that expressed by Coca-Cola's SVP strategic marketing Ivan Pollard. "The big consultancies are underestimating the value of creativity and the agencies are underestimating the value of business analytics. Someone's going to crack that soon because data plus creativity is the future." For the first time, four of the major consultancies were listed among AdAge's estimates of the top ten agency companies worldwide. Accenture, PwC, IBM and Deloitte now hold the next four slots below the traditional big five groups, ahead of challengers like Havas and Hakuhodo DY. AdAge placed Accenture as the world's biggest consolidated network, above Young & Rubicam. Agency-side executives suggested that key to the consultancies' growth has been their ability to find alternative routes into corporate marketing budgets. Rather than compete with established marketing groups by pitching to the CMO via traditional channels, they are entering the fold through direct contact with the CEO or IT director or non-executive members of the board. Another advantage, according to R/GA's CSO Barry Wackman, is that "consultant work is much less prone to being scrutinised by procurement".
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