Media agency leaders: 'Accenture can't be auditor and media buyer'

Arvind Hickman
By Arvind Hickman | 24 May 2018
Simon Ryan.

Accenture Interactive has opened a digital ad-buying division with promises of total transparency. The move has sent shockwaves throughout the industry. AdNews has spoken to industry leaders and media agency bosses alike to understand the broader impacts of the decision. See Accenture's response at the bottom of this story.

Media agency bosses have questioned Accenture’s move into programmatic buying with one holding group leader warning that it will no longer accept Accenture’s media audits.

Yesterday, Accenture's digital arm, Accenture Interactive, announced it will now offer planning, strategy, buying, management of programmatic ad campaigns and ad tech support, as well as help clients move their programmatic in-house – a service it has offered for some time.

Dentsu Aegis Network ANZ chief executive Simon Ryan tells AdNews that Accenture’s move into buying is “a huge conflict of interest”.

“They’ve got client audits going on. We won’t accept audits from Accenture anymore if they are going to start going into this space,” Ryan said.

“They need to decide whether they are an auditing business or an execution business. We as a business and our clients need to understand what they stand for because they can’t be doing both."

Ryan also questioned the ability of Accenture to excute media buying.

“I think that their capability for execution is not there,” he added. “We are driving a programmatic agenda with clients that is transparent and to do that you need to be able to have systems, approaches, the talent and scale.”

Yesterday, Omnicom boss Peter Horgan, Hyland founder Virginia Hyland and professor Mark Ritson also spoke out against the move.

GroupM ANZ CEO Mark Lollback told AdNews that Accenture’s lack of scale would be a problem.

“GroupM and its agencies invest considerable time, effort and funds into ensuring transparency across our processes so that our clients can have the utmost confidence in how we invest their media,” Lollback said.

“We are the only Australian holding company that has a full-time, in-house compliance team, which means we have the best process controls across all our agencies, giving clients a level of confidence they can’t find elsewhere."

Lollback said that Accenture’s decision to move into the programmatic ad buying after previously telling the market they had no intention to “demonstrates the constant evolution of the digital media industry”.

He added: “We believe scale still plays a role in getting the best results for clients and GroupM invest more than any other media holding company in data and technology to stay ahead and make sure our clients have the best tools and services available across the ecosystem.”

mark lollbackMark Lollback

Another media agency boss, who wished to remain anonymous, told AdNews that you can’t audit media and buy it without conflict.

“The question to be posed is – are you no longer an independent benchmarking agency,” the agency boss said.

“You can’t be both. You can’t provide independent benchmarking if you are also buying. What’s to stop them from telling clients that media agencies are non-transparent, but we’ve got this shiny toy over here. It reeks of dodgy.”

Another media buyer believes that Accenture has probably looked at the arbitrage model that some media groups previously used – but have moved away from – and thought there is money to be made.

“I don’t think they are equipped to operate in this space because I don’t think they get it enough,” the media buyer said.

“Unless you are in this environment and trading constantly, you are like a new agency starting up and you don’t have the credentials and the capability, besides the fact it is potentially biased.”

In response to the comments, an Accenture spokesperson told AdNews that its media audit business was completely separate to its programmatic media buying arm

"Our media management business is run independently and is not part of our marketing services business (Accenture Interactive) in Accenture. It is part of the Accenture operations procurement business as their offerings are aligned to the procurement client buyer profile and procurement business characteristics," the spokesperson explained.

"Media audits are conducted by a dedicated team within Accenture operations procurement and confidential data/non-disclosure protections, firewalls and policies are in place to ensure that information is not shared across other parts of the Accenture business."

Update:

Accenture has issued a statement in response to media bosses:

"Our Media Management business is run independently and is not part of our marketing services business (Accenture Interactive) in Accenture. It is part of the Accenture Operations Procurement business as their offerings are aligned to the procurement client buyer profile and procurement business characteristics," an Accenture spokesperson says.

"Media audits are conducted by a dedicated team within Accenture Operations Procurement and confidential data/non-disclosure protections, firewalls and policies are in place to ensure that information is not shared across other parts of the Accenture business."

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