If Consultancies Are The Future Of Marketing, Why Are They Just Buying Agencies?

Mitch JoelPosted by

The death rattle for marketing agencies has been heard for the past few years.

Word has it that the once cool, hip and innovative hubs of creativity for brands are being pushed aside, because the large auditing and accounting firms have entered into the marketing services space. Apparently, these consultancies have a very compelling and future-focused offer. Don’t believe me? Google it! You can’t throw a creative director down a flight of stairs these days, without a business card from one of the major consulting firms’ HR departments falling out of their skinny jeans.

Accounting firms are now making billions of dollars by providing marketing agency services. 

From the accounting firms’ perspective, this all makes perfect sense. They went from helping large businesses manage their P&Ls to consulting within the CEOs office on everything from strategy to innovation. From there, it makes sense to not just tell these brands what to do, but to actually do it for them. Meaning, you can show them where they could be making more significant strides in profit, but then you can also staff that part of their accounting business (or bring the services over) to make the strategy happen. As technology, marketing and the customer experience blend into a fifth level of hell for the Chief Marketing Officer (who up until this point was primarily managing the advertising budget and agency relationship), it all seems like the perfect storm for these consultants to walk right in and take over.

Consultants? We don’t need no stinking consultants!

The news cycle is serious about the pending marketing agency apocalypse. The recent headlines say it all…

Something’s happening here. What it is ain’t exactly clear.

Here’s the thing: it doesn’t appear that these consultants are offering anything more to a brand, other than further consolidation with the promise of efficiencies. Or, in other words, the consultancies are saying to brands, “hey… work with us for all of your marketing services,” and all they’re really doing is buying agencies or hiring talent from the agencies when they convince the brands to pass that work over to them. If agencies are failing, why are they being bought at such a high velocity? If agencies don’t work anymore, why is their talent being poached on a daily basis?

The marketing agency model is not broken. How agencies are marketing themselves is broken.

That is the lesson that Google and Facebook learned, as they quietly went direct to brands and built their media empires by keeping the agencies at arm’s length (these platforms hired their own media buyers and even offered up free creative services in exchange for media spent). It’s the same lesson that companies like Adobe and Marketo are deploying these days, when it comes to marketing automation… and these bigger accounting consultancies are spinning the same narrative. When, in reality, these companies are simply building out their marketing services – that they claim are dying in the agency model – by simply buying those agencies (or the people who work at them) and bringing them inside the tent.

So, here’s the real question: what makes a consultancy any better at delivering marketing services than an agency?

What makes a consultant charge any differently than the agencies do? What makes the quality of their work (in specific, their creativity) any different? What makes a consultancy any different than the agency that they just bought?

It seems to me like they’re the exact same thing… or am I missing something?