It’s always quite refreshing when something actually happens in the advertising industry. Aside from the usual revolving door of people and clients of course. So, seeing the news of Accenture and its purchase of Droga5 for an undisclosed sum a few weeks ago made me happy on multiple levels.
Firstly, good for David himself. As an industry leader and the founder of one of the most iconic independent agency brands, this couldn’t happen to a nicer person. Droga was always irrepressible.
Before he left Singapore for London in 1999, he was the loudest and the hardest to please of all the executive creative directors running agencies at that time. And Saatchi took a big decision to put him in charge in London.
It was a risk on several levels but they needed someone green enough, passionate enough and pushy enough to shush up the creative department at Charlotte Street. And within a year – during which he famously told the account managers that he would have their heads if they didn’t pull their socks up – he had already started to flex his muscles at Cannes.
Droga is the kind of person we would all like to be; talented, respected, a leader, an inspiration and of course, exceptionally wealthy. He has done things that so many other people wish they had done; not always by being better but by getting on and doing it.
He takes risks because he completely believes in himself. And that belief creates the kind of belief in others that acts as a magnet for the best talent in a place where everyone can and is expected to be excellent and everyone takes it personally. That then creates momentum.
And as we all know, clients (like the brands they manage) love momentum. But selling something like Droga5 to someone like Accenture is by definition, a risk. At the same time, it’s the ultimate combination of essential ingredients needed for brilliant creative work that builds brands and businesses at scale.
And who cares what DD has said in the past about whether or not he wants or is prepared to sell his agency to anyone – its none of their business. Secondly, good for Accenture. Currently, the most aggressive and progressive game changer to the ad Industry since Google, Accenture does in fact share many of the same traits as Droga5.
The guys there are focused, aggressive and they feel like they are winning. But at the same time, they are prepared – more than prepared – to take risks. The difference is that Accenture is around 250 times the size of Droga5 by revenue.
However if you look more closely at the deal, you will see something even more powerful at play, which will make this deal unique and that is the relationship between Accenture Interactive CEO Brian Whipple and David Droga. People buy people and this deal goes way beyond the transaction and the strategy behind it.
These two people want to change something and they intend to change it together. The headlines all speak of how Accenture has ‘bought’ Droga5 – the typical lingua franca of the trade and business press. The truth is that two empowered and powerful people, with a shared vision of a different future for brands and the companies that own them, have come from their respective, prescient areas of expertise to take a risk and change something. Their aim is to make things better.
The difference between this deal and other more functional deals is that this is being made by the minority of people who want change in the communications industry. Not by the majority who want things to stay the same. Or wish they could change things but can’t. It’s also not about size, for once. It’s about being good and being better. The real story has yet to begin with the marriage of clans between Droga and Whipple.
Thirdly, it’s good for clients. Big clients will finally get a solution that is structurally large enough as an alternative to the establishment. And good for smaller clients, which will shortly have a new narrative when producing content designed to engage their customers – without defaulting to the brand-destroying automation and ‘personalisation at scale’ tale.
There isn’t a brand client anywhere who wouldn’t be interested in technology with a human touch, curated automation, usable data, hands-on fast content and a frictionless creative process that can keep pace with the consumer conversation. Accenture and Droga see a future where the balance between technology, artificial intelligence and the right side of the brain can all exist together. Blended to perfection in an imperfect and fluid world.
It is possible that in getting this right, Whipple and Droga can create a blueprint for a new communications industry. If they achieve their ambition, it will mean that creativity will elbow its way back to the boardroom table and become the weapon of choice for brands looking to blaze trails and build business.
This deal will also be a potent antidote for the wallpaper we get on our feeds every time we venture near a screen and redress the ‘too much media/not enough content’ axis that fuels it. Finally, it’s good for advertising. Dear old advertising. It knows it needs to change. It knows the system is broken. It knows that it is its own disease.
This deal is the prod that it needs to spur action. Because it’s there and it’s so large so you cannot really see it, advertising agencies have allowed themselves to dismiss Accenture as something that is ‘coming but not here yet’. In the same way as all human beings accept that they will die one day, they are now being told how much time they have to live.
So watch as the behaviour of the ad industry changes more quickly now, breaking into something of a trot if we are lucky. The Droga hand on the end of the Accenture arm is not to be underestimated. On one level, it is another large business transaction that people write and talk about.
On another it’s a marriage of two very influential people. But fundamentally, it will prove to be something of an inflection point. The relationship between Droga and Accenture is idiomatic at the moment. The day will come though when one of the holding group’s top three clients opts to leave for the new agency. And when that happens, we will go from inflection point to tipping point. It’s coming soon.
David Mayo is chief growth officer at GetCraft and is based in Singapore
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