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“Assimilation is not the Goal”


Following Accenture Interactive’s acquisition of Droga5, Accenture Interactive’s Glenn Hartman talks to LBB's Laura Swinton about acquisition strategy and the challenge of balancing culture and collaboration

“Assimilation is not the Goal”
When Accenture Interactive and industry darling Droga5 last week announced that they were getting together, adland Twitter erupted in a flurry of speculation about what the future might hold for the creative hotshop. On the one hand, consultancies like Accenture are viewed with suspicion by many from the more traditional set-ups – while others saw the blend of brand Droga and Accenture’s data and tech heft as opportunity for a creative evolution.

According to Glen Hartmann, Senior Managing Director, Accenture Interactive North America and Global Digital Marketing, there’s no intention to subsume the famous Droga5 brand, Borg-like. The strategy, he says, is to double down and invest in its culture.

 “The idea is to celebrate the culture. Assimilation is not the goal,” he says. The mantra internally is that the organisation is a ‘culture of cultures’.

“We’re trying to maintain the thing that’s special about them [Droga5] as a top priority,” he continues. "Something we take pride in is doing acquisitions a little differently than other firms – we’ve done a lot of them so we’ve got some lessons learned in making sure that you can find a way to have our teams come together without taking away the unique culture and magic that they’re bringing to clients and are famous for.”

One way in which he says they achieve that is by doing everything they can to maintain a smooth transition. Disruption for disruption’s sake is not encouraged – instead newly acquired agencies focus on delivering for their existing clients while in the background the Accenture Interactive leadership look out for potential opportunities for collaboration where the a culture like Droga5 might be able to add something extra.  

Glen points to the example of Fjord, which was bought by Accenture Interactive in 2013. Since then it’s grown from nine studios to 29 around the world, and he says that each new office pulsates with the Fjord culture, from the type of talent and approach to work to the tiniest detail of the décor.
“It’s not just ‘ok, let’s let them be special’. It’s not just, ‘do no harm.’ It’s, ‘let's invest, let's double down, let’s show it with capital, with people, with hiring and attracting the right talent that fits their culture’. Now that doesn’t mean that they’re not part of Accenture Interactive and that they don’t leverage all of the people and are working together – every single one of our projects at this point has a variety of different people from different departments. But it means they don’t’ need to give up their identity and culture to do that. Yes, it’s an integrated model yes there’s one P&L, yes it drives collaboration but it doesn’t mean that it can’t be Droga5. We’re going to really bolster that.”

Indeed, one of the most important metrics for a successful acquisition is the retention of talent. With Fjord, he points to the fact that the founders and much of the leadership team are still around six years later.

It’s worth noting, however, that while the plan is to support and nurture the culture of new acquisitions, there’s no intention of leaving Droga5 to sit alone and siloed in a corner. Traditional holding companies pit their agencies against each other, driving competition – though they’re now trying to unpick all of those contradictory impulses and structures in order to encourage more streamlined collaboration. However Accenture Interactive operates on one P&L across its many brands and studios.

“The way we execute is truly as a unified global team. And if it ends up that the holding companies end up morphing into that direction, it’s only because that’s what the clients are looking for, that’s what they need,” says Glen. “They need to be able to tie marketing, branding, sales, service and every part of the experience. They need to look at new kinds of KPIs, new kinds of outcomes that are redefining performance, not in the way that agencies are used to doing it.”

In fact, says Glen, while the holding companies have been looking over their shoulder, gearing up to defend their territory against the consultancies and undergoing drastic restructuring, the team at Accenture Interactive have never considered themselves as going up against the holding companies. 
“For us, we don’t talk about the holding companies, we don’t compete with them,” he says. “It’s really just listening to our clients and helping them develop experiences. Sometimes it gets into some of the capabilities that agencies deliver but it’s not the model. The press is trying to define a fight between us, we never talk about the holding companies, it’s a different thing. It’s a different model.”

So, looking to the future, might we see Droga5 getting the Fjord treatment, with a crop of new offices popping up around the globe?

“There’s nothing specific planned right now but we are very market driven and we have global clients so it doesn’t take much to imagine that once we do something really wonderful with Droga5 in North America on a brand or in London and all of a sudden it’s working and we have the global capability of Accenture, there’s no reason not to think that we shouldn’t try to do what we’ve done for every other acquisition inside of Accenture. Which is to eventually expand that capability globally,” says Glen. “When? How are we going to do it? There’s no schedule, but when it naturally, organically happens because of client need, we will put the full weight of Accenture Interactive and Accenture behind it.”
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LBB Editorial, Tue, 09 Apr 2019 16:33:38 GMT