Omnicom’s once self-described “next-generation” agency, sparks & honey, is repositioning itself as a “technology-led cultural” consultancy, as it claims to now be prepared to rival the behemoths disrupting the traditional ad space, including Accenture and Deloitte.
With the shift comes, too, a new chief strategy officer: Camilo La Cruz, who first joined the agency-turned-consultancy more than four years ago. He most recently served as executive vice president of sparks & honey’s global futures practice, where he helped clients prepare their businesses for the long haul.
La Cruz doesn’t necessarily see the pivot from agency to consultancy as a complete repositioning. He told Adweek that sparks & honey has been providing consulting services for clients “over the last five years.” That view reflects an ongoing narrative in the industry around the increasingly blurred line between agencies and consultancies, as both now tend to enter the same pitches and take on similar responsibilities.
“I would say we’re formalizing our positioning as a consultancy in the market,” La Cruz said.
Sparks & honey said La Cruz, who will report directly to founder and CEO Terry Young, is now responsible for driving the vision for the consulting services, building models that will connect market demand with product development and identifying the resources and skills needed to accomplish those goals.
It’s not clear how Omnicom might lean on sparks & honey going forward as an in-network consultancy. The holding company declined to comment.
As sparks & honey put it, the pivot reflects “the demands of global organizations that require a more comprehensive view of cultural shifts, consumer behavior and potential disruption.”
Through its daily “culture briefings,” which Adweek observed last year, sparks & honey has been attempting to break down trending topics of the past 24 hours for clients and employees. The shop said those briefings will still be “at the core” of what it does, but it will utilize more of the data points collected from them and its active learning system, called Q, to identify and address global threats and opportunities for clients in real-time.
Young told Adweek it’s these culture briefings and its strategy in “combining big data with social sciences” to understand “what makes humans tick” that differentiates it from traditional consulting firms like Bain and McKinsey (where he spent a year as a consultant in 2000).
“What anchors them is quantification … What anchors us is humans,” Young said.
Deloitte itself described sparks & honey as a “big-thinking cultural consultancy” in a study that praised its daily briefings.
As sparks & honey shifts into consulting, it will be introducing new services and products to “support [its] work in the business transformation space,” and expand its global futures, business transformation and human intelligence practices. Young declined to reveal any insight into the new services and products as they haven’t been officially launched yet.
He did note that sparks & honey wants to market itself as not just a service organization but a products company and “will be beefing up” certain skills and tools to better “understand where the world is going.”
Young said sparks & honey has the resources to fill about 10 to 12 positions to help fuel the transition.
La Cruz, who spearheaded the development of sparks & honey’s cultural forecast reports, said the traditional way consultancies and agencies have used data and analytics in the past to identify business problems is “collapsing.”
He said he sees a “future where data verticals that inform the work will grow at a level of sophistication unseen in our world,” and that data will be used to generate “a much more intimate view of consumers.” Sparks & honey aims to be at the forefront of that evolution.