The 4A's is slamming Accenture's entry into the ad buying business, saying the move raises conflict of interest concerns because the consultancy also audits client-agency relationships and runs agency reviews for clients.
"We find this unacceptable and are concerned about whether Accenture will be transparent in ensuring that the massive amount of information it has collected from agencies—both as auditor as well as via the agency review process—is not leveraged for the benefit of its new practice," the ad agency trade group said in a statement Tuesday.
Accenture, which has been creeping in recent years into competition with the agencies that the 4A's represents, announced the Accenture Interactive Programmatic Services unit last week. Accenture formed Accenture Interactive in 2009 to provide a range of marketing services, focused on design, content and commerce capabilities meant to enhance consumer experiences. The new programmatic services unit assists clients with bringing programmatic in-house but also with running full service global digital media campaigns for clients.
"As their experience agency, our clients have been asking us to help them drive greater efficiencies with their programmatic media spend, specifically digital media," Brian Whipple, global CEO of Accenture Interactive, said in the press release last week. "Consistent with our mission to create, build and run the best customer experiences on the planet, we are enhancing Accenture Interactive Programmatic Services to complement our full suite of experience services. We are already focused on all the pieces that are related to media placement so it was a natural extension for us to help our clients deliver more hyper-relevant customer experiences through digital media."
The 4A's today countered that the move positions Accenture to "engage in media trading and then also be responsible for auditing the trading results and processes of its competitors." The group said it will "urge all agencies to take this moment to think critically about whether they will continue participating in any review that Accenture is leading and determine if they will allow Accenture to continue auditing their media."
Accenture in a statement issued Tuesday evening said: "Media audits are conducted by a dedicated practice within Accenture Operations. Programmatic Services was designed as a separate set of capabilities, within a separate business group (Accenture Interactive) to respond to a new set of client demands. Confidential data/non-disclosure protections, firewalls and policies that adhere to recognized industry standards continue to be in place to ensure that information is maintained with the strictest levels of confidence."