Accenture took the top spot in R3's global M&A League Report for August, a first for the consultancy since the monthly reviews started being released four years ago.
Last month, Accenture made eight acquisitions, including SinnerSchrader, Kunstmaan, The Monkeys + MAUD, Media Hive, Intrepid, Clearhead, Brand Learning and Wire Stone, collectively valued at $671 million, according to the report. R3 reviews all public sources of M&A news across marketing and media for the reports and assumes full sale amounts of the acquisitions regardless of earnout terms.
"Accenture is continuing to show deep pockets in migrating to a true digital consultant," says Greg Paull, principal of R3. "With a headcount of 420,000 and a global footprint, they are already accessing most of the other C-suites already. Marketing is surely the next."
During August, WPP made 26 deals, according to the report, valued at a collective $602 million, keeping the holding company in the No. 2 spot from July. Dentsu, however, which was No. 1 in July, was pushed to the third slot in August, with 18 deals collectively valued at $543 million, the report states.
Brian Wieser, senior analyst at Pivotal Research, says Accenture is actively investing in the agency space, but the deals are relatively smalls. "They represent a looming competitive threat to the traditional holding companies, but aren't having a meaningful impact at the present time," he says. "That could change if they do something bigger."
He added, however, that traditional agency businesses are also "rubbing up against where Accenture is playing, though we haven't seen anything particularly large from them, either, beyond the Sapient acquisition by Publicis or WPP's investment in Globant."
Accenture Interactive Senior Managing Director Brian Whipple told Ad Age via email that the company is "not competing in the existing marketplace" but is "creating a new market."
"We're constructing a new services model for a world in which experience is the new battleground -- one that fuses equal parts creative agency, business consultancy and technology powerhouse," he says. "Clients have embraced our model which has driven tremendous organic growth for us; and, in places, we use M&A activity to complement existing capabilities with accelerated access to specialized skills in the marketplace."
Whipple also says in the note that the company is "building out this end-to-end digital customer capability all as Accenture Interactive."
Having Accenture in the top spot for M&A deals for August is "the new normal," says Flock Associates USA CEO Maarten Albarda. "They are no longer challengers, or newcomers. They are here with a global suite of potential options for marketers to consider," adds Albarda.
He believes the industry should rethink the naming convention of "agencies" and "consultancies" since the Accentures and Deloittes are no longer just consultants.
"I think the consultancies need to split their offering into distinct groupings: consulting on business transformation, and agency services on all things creative, media and digital," says Albarda. "And perhaps a third grouping of tech consulting and solutions."
On Wednesday, Ad Age reported that the 4A's is weighing whether to allow consultancies, such as Accenture and Deloitte Digital, to join the association. A move that further showcases how consultancies are creeping into the traditional advertising space.