What the advertising industry can learn from big four consultancies

By Paige Murphy | 8 July 2019

Interbrand managing director (MD) Nicola Mansfield says the big four professional services firms weren’t designed for creative services, but the consultancy model does allow for “deep and strategic partnering” with clients.

She calls out the agency model for being more passive and high risk with clients than in a consultancy where she says a “strategic partnership” is formed instead.

“Agencies take briefs, consultancies write the brief and then solve it,” Mansfield told AdNews.

“To sit passively and take a brief from a client doesn’t necessarily solve their problem. From a client's perspective, they brief, and it goes quiet.

“Then something comes back to them after a month period of isolation which may or may not be right. The risk of that is high because chances are it hasn't gone right, and you've burned through that entire creative process.”

At Interbrand, Mansfield says the consultancy works through a sprint-based methodology with clients doing a daily stand up and weekly meetings. As it is part of the DDB Group, it also has the option to co-locate with clients to work together on projects.

She recently joined the brand consultancy from Deloitte where she was director of experience design, spatial and brand for three and a half years.

While she left Deloitte for the opportunity to work at Interbrand and with former co-worker and Deloitte executive Nathan Birch, Mansfield says her time in the professional services taught her a number of skills.

“[I learnt] a lot of understanding around how we can really empathise with the client, really hear what they’re saying and sometimes the things that we’re hearing are not the words that they’re speaking,” Mansfield says.

She says this ability to understand clients better meant when writing the scope for projects, it was actually aligned with client needs.

“[Then you] get to the end where the client has anticipated along the way precisely what they’re going to get and are brought on the journey and [you have] work collaboratively to achieve that result.”

Despite learning a lot from her previous tenure, she does admit the Big Four model isn’t perfect.

She says that the overall model may work with some industries, but it wasn’t derived for creative services.

“It was derived, in fact, for accounting and audit services and that was extended into consultancy. Then, consultancy moved into creative services,” she says.

“It feels sometimes that you’re trying to get a product out of a machine that the machine was never intended for. I think that those of us across all of the Big Four who are or have been delivering those creative products out of that machine have done so in spite of the machine not the machine supporting us.”

Creatives make up a minute part of the overall business of Deloitte and the other big consultancies.

Mansfield says that none have recognised the true value of creative services which is likely to be because they have another motivation behind the acquisition of agencies.

“I think the reason that there are predominantly advertising services that have been acquired is a path into the potential for martech,” she says.

“So essentially it's still the technology play. It's still a digital play it just happens to be one through the avenue of comms. The fact that they've not been recognizing the value of brand and communication as part of the business strategy tells me it is only a road into martech.”

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