Accenture Interactive Gets Into Programmatic Buying

Media agencies sweating a bit more than usual

Accenture, Group M, Universal McCann, Initiative, Horizon Media

Accenture Interactive, the digital arm of the consultancy behemoth, formally jumped into the ad-buying world, causing media agencies and programmatic companies to sweat a little more than usual.

The Wall Street Journal first reported Accenture Interactive’s move, writing the company is rolling out its Programmatic Services practice, which “will also incorporate the planning, buying and management of programmatic ad campaigns.”

In general, clients are looking to “in-house” their programmatic because they’re looking to take back control of their media capabilities, said Scott Tieman, the global lead for the new Accenture Interactive unit, in an interview with Adweek.

Because brands are bringing capabilities in-house, it means they’re operating some or all of the activities related to running programmatic media campaigns. Which means instead of managing an agency, the company is now on the hook for media planning and activation and measurement and optimization. It means they’re working with different parts of the organization they haven’t worked with before.

“We’ll help them develop an operating mode,” Tieman said. “To do that, there’s quite a bit involved. It’s not an undertaking for the faint of heart. It’s something that’s fairly involved.”

Accenture Interactive helps brands develop a strategy for how to attack programmatic buying — from what the architecture look like to what the tech looks like in house. Accenture also works with brands to help develop the skill sets in order to operate these programs.

Because the ad tech Lumascape is so vast, figuring out which of those partners make sense for companies can make one’s eyes bleed. Here’s where consultancies like Accenture and Deloitte think they can help.

Accenture’s programmatic division is no real surprise, industry experts say, as the company has been building up these services through both mergers and acquisitions, and internally through hiring the right talent. But what happens next is where the path becomes less clear.

It will be interesting to see what tech they build/buy/partner [with] and what strategy they take around targeting/audience data for their clients,” said Matt Prohaska, CEO of Prohaska Consulting, a firm focused on helping brands and agencies navigate the programmatic waters. “It will be interesting to see how transparent Accenture will be with brands on their pricing model and data usage – at least now holding companies and independent agencies can formally view Accenture the way most have been assuming/fearing for a while now…as direct competitors.”

Media agencies are also not surprised. Barry Lowenthal, CEO of The Media Kitchen, said he’d expect Accenture to get involved in all biddable media channels including paid social and search.

“Data-driven media buying is a discipline that’s in their wheelhouse, along with tech stack development,” Lowenthal said. “It all goes hand in hand. It’s no surprise they’re going to get involved with all data-driven media execution. These kinds of buys lead to better insights and whoever has the most insights wins.”

And this is exactly why agencies are looking over their shoulders, as consultancies like Accenture and Deloitte start to take on roles and responsibilities that agencies used to handle.

As the competition builds up between consultancies and agencies, so too, does the chess match between consultancies. When asked about Accenture Interactive’s announcement, principal and head of Deloitte Digital’s advertising, marketing and commerce practice, Scott Mager said, “not surprised at all.”

“We already deliver the same breadth of services to our clients,” he continued. “[Programmatic] is a big and important part of the end-to-end service we provide.”

Accenture Interactive’s announcement happens at the same time the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB), released the results of a survey that found 65 percent of marketers who purchase digital ads programmatically have either completely moved programmatic buying in-house (18 percent) or have partially begun the process of internalizing the function, with plans to continue further down the path (47 percent).

“What the IAB report does, is show that each company has their own flavor of what’s best for them in their evolution to programmatic,” Tieman said. The IAB report captured the nuance for the way we’re seeing programmatic being done across the industry.”

Accenture Interactive is also the first strategic partner of the IAB Data Center of Excellence, working alongside the trade organization to help guide topics and research.

@joshsternberg Josh Sternberg is the former media and tech editor at Adweek.