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Agencies will follow Accenture Interactive model says new boss Mark Green from The Monkeys

By Paul McIntyre - Executive Editor

2 December 2019 5min read

Mark Green

By Paul McIntyre - Executive Editor

2 December 2019 5min read

Fresh from winning Kimberly Clark's global Huggies account off WPP by combining the firepower of its tech smarts and creative shops like Droga5 and The Monkeys, Accenture Interactive's new Australian boss Mark Green opens up on his fears, internal culture clashes and plans to further push creative, media, consulting, customer experience  and tech-led business transformation together. It's where everyone wants to land, he says.

Listen to the new Accenture Interactive boss on building programmatic media muscle, the biggest difference between comms holding companies and consultants and why contrary to opinion, he believes Australia’s independent agencies are thriving. The Mi-3 podcast, it's all here.

 

Amid major changes and restructuring at Accenture, The Monkeys co-founder Mark Green last month stepped into the top job at customer experience arm, Accenture Interactive.

Putting an advertising creative guy in charge of a consulting outfit could be interpreted as a clear signal of where Accenture Interactive sees most upside. But Green says it’s not quite that binary.

“I consider myself a business person, first and foremost,” he says, referencing more than a decade at the helm of The Monkeys, the agency he launched with Justin Drape and Scott Newell in 2006, when the three quit Saatchi & Saatchi and stuck in $10,000 apiece to strike out alone. Their $30k became a $63m payday when Accenture bought the firm in 2017. Not a bad return.

“We’ve always looked at entrepreneurial endeavours and running businesses is what I've known for 13 years,” says Green. “With Scott and Justin at The Monkeys we always put brand strategy at the heart of everything we did and then used creativity to unleash great ideas that connect with customers in interesting waysWe never wanted to just do that in the area of advertising.  We wanted to do it in the area of kind of film and content, in the areas of products and services,” he explains.

“I think with the capabilities we now have, we can influence far more of what a business does and particularly in the realm of digital.”

Green says the opportunity to more deeply influence businesses helped convince the three to sell out to Accenture in 2017.

“In our minds it’s an evolution of where we have always gone: we have never not taken risks. So I think that is when you know you are onto something – when you feel pretty nervous about what you are embarking on,” he says. “Looking back over the last 13 years there were days where you go ‘we’re really onto something, this is the business model of the future.”

Other days, he says, they were wondering what they hell had they done. Taking the helm at Accenture Interactive is no different, says Green.

“I think probably even in the first two weeks of taking on this role, I’ve had that thought.  That’s when you know you’re on to something, where you are as much excited as you are fearful of what’s in front of you.

 

“There’s been an explosion of different technologies. What will set businesses apart now is how they can harness creativity to differentiate. That’s what Accenture is actually seeing and that’s what they’re buying globally. They’re making major acquisitions of creative agencies because they can see its application and what they do.”

- Mark Green, ANZ lead, Accenture Interactive

Culture clash

Two years in, how are The Monkeys warming to Accenture’s corporate consulting culture? Green, though not exactly effusive, suggests they are managing to bridge the divide. He says it’s not dissimilar to cultural friction between The Monkeys and Maud, the design agency it acquired in 2013. Divergence, he suggests, can create better outcomes.

“There is no denying there are cultural differences found within Accenture Interactive and within Accenture. But the reality is you bring those skills to bear on a project … and suddenly a lot of those things go out the door, because you are focused on solving problems or using creativity or getting [different] perspectives… and that’s actually pretty good. It gets you to more interesting answers and makes it feel new again,” says Green.

“Naturally, there are kind of predispositions to how things are within a culture of advertising or a culture of consulting.  But I think when you get the superficial stuff out of the way and start getting into the actual problems that we’re trying to solve for our clients, I think you get to good places.

 

“The CMOs we’re talking to, like Jeremy Nicholas, Brent Smart, Amber Collins, they understand this; they have seen all sides of the argument. Technology has been important, therefore, having the right kind of martech supporting activities has probably over indexed in recent times.”

- Mark Green

Creativity returns to the fore

Creativity and marketing often suffers a credibility deficit in the boardroom, foundering against hard business metrics. But Green says Accenture has realised that creativity is vital in propelling its technology and systems interventions to full effect.

“In every revolution - whether the industrial revolution or the technological revolution we are going through today - creativity can sometimes play second fiddle to the core changes that are going on,” suggests Green. “But after every sort of revolution, creativity is what takes things further [enabling a] connection with people in new and interesting ways – and actually making it real,” he adds.

“I think that’s sort of where we are right now.  There’s been an explosion of different technologies that allow us to interact in our lives with businesses, with services, with products in new and interesting ways.  I think what will set businesses apart now is how they can harness creativity to differentiate. I think that’s what Accenture is actually seeing and that’s what they’re buying globally. They’re making major acquisitions of creative agencies because they can see its application and what they do.”

Green says Accenture is not alone in reaching that conclusion.

“In major companies around the world, you’re seeing the rise of the chief creative officer come into business.  That’s good for everyone, because creative people tend to be quite intuitive and in sync with culture and what’s required to actually design something that moves people.”

Nodding to McDonald’s recent assertion that creativity is delivering the bulk of its ROI in television and video spend, Green says that realisation is also playing out locally.

“We’ve had similar experience with marketing mix modelling at Telstra highlighting the importance of brand in the ecosystem and creativity and delivering greater return on investment.  So, I think the evidence is actually starting to showcase that this art and science combination is what’s needed - but it’s not one at the expense of the other.”

The rebalancing underway suggests “common sense is prevailing,” says Green and it underlines his point that boardrooms and consultancies now recognise that creativity is required accelerate the results of technological investment.

“The CMOs we’re talking to, like Jeremy Nicholas [at Telstra] and Brent Smart [at IAG], Amber Collins at Australia Post, they understand this; they have seen all sides of the argument. Technology has been important, therefore, having the right kind of martech supporting activities has probably over indexed in recent times,” says Green.

“Now, it’s probably balancing out where the investments have been made and they’re optimising them and trying to make them work smarter.  That’s where you go, “Well, creativity is actually the message and the thing that customers connect with is what ignites the whole opportunity”.  I think that’s what everybody is starting to see through trial and error - and actually more experience.”

 

“There’s a global creative council [via] which we connect with Droga5 or Karmarama and various other agencies and we are working on projects together. I think you’ll start to see a lot more collaboration across the globe.”

- Mark Green

Accenture versus comms holding companies

Amongst a frankly frightening list of acquisitions, Accenture has amassed a suite of creative, digital and design agencies around the world, creating something of a patchwork of networks in different countries. Now it has to bring them together.

Green, however, says Accenture is further down that path than many people imagine, and points to recent major business wins as evidence that global brands believe the story it is telling.

The agencies Accenture has recently acquired, such as Droga5 and Karmarama, “are coming together, we are working as a team,” says Green. “So there’s a global creative council [via] which we connect with Droga or Karmarama and various other agencies and we are working on projects together,” he says.

Green cites the recent global Huggies win for Kimberly-Clark by way of example.  Led by Droga5, Accenture took the business from WPP. After awarding the account, Kimberley-Clark chief growth officer Alison Lewis stated that “technology without creativity or ideas doesn’t really work.” Lewis also implied that Accenture would not have won the business without Droga5 on board.

“We worked on that in APAC,” says Green. “So I think you’ll start to see a lot more collaboration across the globe. The strategy is the same no matter if we are in Australia, the UK, Ireland, wherever.”

The Huggies account, for brand, advertising and data-driven marketing, is arguably a classic piece of holding company business. Green agrees it is a strong signal of where Accenture Interactive intends to play, but suggests clients want more than the advertising-type services of old.

“It’s actually a consulting piece of business and an advertising piece of business. It’s proving out our model and it’s a differentiated answer – which is what Kimberley-Clark have received, sought and bought.”

“For as long as we can see, [The Monkey’s brand] is there. I’ve just started the job and I’m not making any changes in that respect.”

- Mark Green

Integrating agencies: A head start

Comms holding company aspiration has sometimes splintered on the rock of cultural reality when it comes to integrating acquisitions. What makes Accenture any different?

“I think Accenture have already been different for a number of years,” suggests Green, “because they’ve been getting closer to the customer through technology, content and commerce. They have been doing that for a long time. That is where the market is shifting towards and they are already playing there. They had already started to build in a closer degree of creative culture and that journey predates the Monkeys acquisition, Karmarama and Droga5.

“So they were heading down that path already and have already dealt with some of the cultural challenges in and around that.  So, I think they’re much further down the path than what everybody gives them credit for.  That has not just been a three or four-year journey.  Accenture Interactive is around 10 years old. This journey has been happening for a long time.”

Publicis Groupe’s travails integrating Sapient is a standout example of the post-acquisition cultural hangover.  Local lead Mike Rebelo says the group is now out the other side – and is putting Publicis Sapient at the top of its business pyramid, ahead of its creative shops. Meanwhile, the group has splurged $4b billion to acquire Epsilon, with CEO Arthur Sadoun touting the deal as providing the ability to best “Accenture in particular” at business transformation.

Does that suggest some comms holding companies are emulating the consultancy model of tech-consulting-brand strategy?

“I wouldn’t be surprised if the market gets closer to where we are heading, but at the same time, it’s not an either/or for me. I wouldn’t subjugate one capability over another,” says Green. “I think brand strategy can influence everything. It’s the manifestation of the business strategy and that is something that probably the best agencies have at their disposal, so I don’t think you can subjugate that capability for technological capability. [The key] is actually bringing those things together. We talk about unifying brand promise and experience to fuel growth. So it’s an and, not an or.”

 

Droga5 to replace The Monkeys?

Since the acquisition last May, speculation has been mounting that Droga5 may become Accenture’s global creative brand, potentially replacing The Monkeys brand locally. Green taking the helm at Accenture Interactive has added grist to the rumour mill.

But asked if The Monkeys brand stays in the market, Green denies there is anything imminent in play.  “Yes,” he says, “for as long as we can see, it’s there. I’ve just started the job and I’m not making any changes in that respect,” he reiterates. “Yes, we continue.”

Whether there are conversations around Droga5 becoming the lead global agency for Accenture Interactive, Green will neither confirm nor deny.

“You’d have to ask Dave Droga and the North American team.”

 

Want more?

Listen to the new Accenture Interactive boss on building programmatic media muscle, the biggest difference between comms holding companies and consultants and why contrary to opinion, he believes Australia’s independent agencies are thriving. The Mi-3 podcast, it's all here.

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