As CEO of Avidan Strategies, an agency search firm, we constantly conduct reviews for clients who wish to switch ad agencies. The reasons for conducting a search cover the span of the good, the bad, and the ugly. Sometimes clients resort to spurious explanations for a review. Sometimes, the arrival of a new chief marketing officer is enough to precipitate a review, as its ties to the CMO’s predecessor taint the incumbent agency.
Yet, the Accenture agency search, as reported in this story by Advertising Age, is appropriate and well timed. Until the wee hours of last Thanksgiving, when Tiger woods slammed his SUV into a tree, Accenture had a solid ad campaign. Using Tiger as spokesman and symbol of the consultancy dedication to excellence was effective. Although not exactly relevant to Accenture’s offerings, Tiger was magic. He was the ultimate professional, an athlete that not only transcended his sport, but one that transcended all sports. Tiger was a rock star.
To its credit, Accenture reacted fast to the unfolding scandal. Within weeks it dropped Tiger as a spokesman and launched a new campaign, featuring animals in unusual situations to illustrate aspects of its service. For example, a surfing elephant to depict nimbleness. The marketer is trying to downplay speculation that the animal campaign was a “hail Mary” pass, and suggests that it’s agency, Y&R, had pulled it out of a drawer. I doubt it. When you sign up Tiger Woods to be your spokesperson, you don’t need a Plan B. You know that this is the horse that you are going to ride.
That said, Accenture is smart to call a review. The animal campaign was a good stop gap measure, but now it is time to look beyond the horizon and come up with the next big campaign idea that can last 7,8,9 years. Y&R has been Accenture’s agency since Accenture was formed in the mid-90s. While longevity is not necessarily a bad thing, relationships can get stale. So it’s smart of Accenture to cast a wider net. As a matter of fact, more and more companies now conduct mandatory periodic reviews, previously conducted only by governmental agencies, to insure that services provided are best in class.
I hope that the winning idea will not be apologetic. Tiger’s mess has nothing to do with Accenture, and unlike Nike, they acted ethically and wisely by dumping him swiftly. The new agency should focus on Accenture leadership equity, it’s commitment to research and it’s ability to manage complicated systems. As we are coming out of the recession, glitz is being replaced by authenticity. Businessmen, Accenture’s target, are under tremendous pressure in a tough bottom-line environment. The animals campaign is funny and warm, but perhaps too cartoonish for our time. A more straightforward campaign, with Accenture traditional warmth and humanity, is more appropriate.
Avi Dan is President & CEO of Avidan Strategies, a New York based consultancy specialized in advising professional service companies on marketing and business development. Mr. Dan was previously a board member with two leading advertising agencies and managed another.