This week, the talk of the town in the Dublin advertising scene is the news that award-winning creative powerhouse Rothco are to be acquired by Accenture Interactive.
According to Rothco CEO Patrick Hickey, the move comes after a year of conversations with Accenture Interactive, who had initially approached the Cannes Lion-winning shop with an eye to collaborating on some projects.
“When this came about it felt like a very natural conversation to go along with and really for the last year we’ve been in the process of getting to know each other philosophically and practically,” says Patrick. “We’re in the creative business and we wanted to do something with partners that was going to give the people here a bigger stage to perform on. That’s why we ended up doing this with Accenture interactive. Their technology capabilities are world-renowned and we do great creative ideas and when you combine the two it has the potential to be magic.”
It’s a big move for the agency. Founded in 1995 by Patrick, Paul Hughes and Patrick Ronaldson, and later joined by MD Richard Carr, Rothco has grown to a 150-people powered agency with strategy, creative, technology, design, project management and production capabilities. It’s got major clients like Heineken and Tesco and while it’s an agency with Irish roots, it’s worked on global and pan-European campaigns.
And joining forces with Accenture Interactive isn’t about to dampen the fiery fighting spirit that has propelled the agency onward and upward. “We are spirited, feisty, Irish girls and boys. We’re not good at backing down; we are relentless. If we’re chasing something it better run fast. That’s what we do and what we’re going to continue to do,” says Patrick. “And on the other side Accenture Interactive have been very clear with us that that’s what they wanted.”
In fact, if you look at some of Accenture Interactive’s recent creative acquisitions around the world, Rothco’s strong personality fits the trend of vibrant creative cultures joining the family. “The Monkeys [in Australia] are punk, Karmarama [UK] have done some really creative work as well and our whole spirit is punk. We would view ourselves very much as iconoclasts and yet here we are joining a massive family structure… But I think the intention is that we don’t become them, that we are different,” explains Patrick. “Anatoly [Roytman, MD of Accenture Interactive Europe, Africa & Latin America] would talk about ‘the culture of cultures’. While that’s catchy the intention behind it is brilliant. They don’t to walk into one agency in Sydney like The Monkeys then fly to Dublin and walk into another agency and it feel like a McDonald’s experience. It is meant to feel palpably different from agency to agency, but the clients and talent can feel like there’s a home for them.”
The news also adds to Accenture Interactives recent activity in Ireland. Earlier in the year, their global design and innovation consultancy Fjord opened at Dublin base and they opened the experimental workspace The Dock by the city’s canal. All this, along with the acquisition of Rothco signals that Accenture Interactive is taking Dublin’s positioning as an important tech and creative hub seriously.
From the Rothco leadership’s point of view, the move will allow them to access greater tech expertise and power for their clients as well as helping the agency realise their creative ambition to make truly world-changing ideas.
“It was the bigger stage that we were after all along and it doesn’t get much bigger. Access to pan-European, global pitches with sisters and brothers who are technological experts, experience experts, being able to design stuff from the forecourt you drive into to the hospital bed you lie in and everything in between… that’s super exciting and it is all about the idea and the client,” enthuses Patrick.
The financial details of the deal have not been disclosed but the next step is to go to the competition authority and then ‘design’ the next two years in terms of the service offering and capitalising of the combined expertise of Rothco and Accenture Interactive.
There’s no management changes in the offing and the leadership team will be staying in place. Patrick says that there’s no need to rush into any immediate changes and from a client point of view, he expects it should be ‘business as usual for us; it’s about working with our clients and making sure we do cool stuff’. The main focus for 2018 will be on the clients. “They’re the ones who stand to benefit the most but also the ones who probably have the most questions, save our own people obviously,” he says.
As a curious aside, though Rothco have been talking to Accenture Interactive for the past year, their relationship with the consultant behemoth goes back much further. Around 15 years ago they saw that Accenture’s boardroom-level relationship with clients could create some exciting creative opportunities. Whilst certainly not claiming to predict the huge explosion of consultancies in the creative space over the past few years, they suspected that it might be something that they would explore. “I don’t credit myself with rocket science, but they had the relationships and it was a logical next step that they would move vertically,” says Patrick. “If someone trusts you in one area you start to demonstrate capability in another project, nine times out of ten they’re going to say would you work with us on X or Y project… Maybe we did predict it, I don’t know, but it was about us having much more powerful allies to realise the ideas that we had.”
For now, the news represents the culmination of a particularly successful year for Rothco, which includes winning the Irish National Lottery account in October. “As years go, it doesn’t get much better!” exclaims Patrick. “I’m going to struggle to name a better year to be honest.”