Agencies, Look Out: Accenture's Invading Your Turf in a Bigger Way Than Ever

Consultant's Buy of Design Firm Latest Evidence of Aggressive Move into Marketing Space

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Accenture is trying harder than ever to give agencies a run for their money, as evidenced by the consultant's latest buy, London-based design firm Fjord.

Terms of the deal were not disclosed. The move is part of Accenture's effort to bolster its design chops as it takes on more digital work for big marketers, such as luxury automaker BMW.

"In order to capitalize on the disruptions being created by digital, and to sustain engagement with consumers, our clients need new services and experiences that are powered by technology, analytics, mobility, and scalable marketing operations," said Brian Whipple, global managing director of Accenture Interactive, in a statement.

Olof Schybergson, Mark Curtis and Mike Beeston founded Fjord in 2001 in London and have expanded its headcount to about 200 employees. The firm has offices in the U.S. and Europe. Clients include the BBC, Citibank, Harvard Medical School, Nokia, PayPal, Qualcomm and Telefónica.

"For some time we've known that if we really want to seize the opportunity ahead of us, we need to do it in partnership with someone else," Mr. Schybergson said in a company blog post. "The need and demand for digital transformation is growing, and for some opportunities Fjord only offers part of the needed solution, not all of it. Since we're an ambitious team, we want to change the world -- we want our design and innovation to touch lots of people. To do this globally and at scale, we needed to look beyond the borders of Fjord."

The push to boost design cred comes on the heels of a marketing assignment from BMW. Accenture Interactive, the company's marketing-services arm, will manage BMW's global digital-marketing campaigns and the rollout of a web platform by 2014. The brief includes training local content managers and agencies on the platform and overseeing content distribution.

"Accenture's global presence, automotive experience and efficient delivery models were key to designing an approach that supports BMW's deployment of this market-leading website and the roll-out of future digital marketing campaigns," said Luca Mentuccia, Accenture's global managing director of automotive, in a statement.

Accenture's also been invited to participate in a number of digital agency reviews over the past year or so.

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Large consultancies are known for their relationships with chief information and technology officers, but Accenture's moves indicate a focus on forging bonds with chief marketing officers. It launched Accenture Interactive in 2009 with flagship client Procter & Gamble. In October 2012, the company acquired digital-production-services firm AvVenta.

Another way the company creeping into the marketing space: For the last few years, Accenture has been search consultant during agency reviews. Accenture issued a media request-for-information for Target last year, and it is running the search for Amazon's media-agency review.

"Marketing and digital executives are key buyers of our services, and Fjord marks our continued strategic investment in digital and marketing to better serve our clients," said Mr. Whipple said in a statement.

On the flip side, marketing-services agencies are moving into the IT-solutions and data-management space. Agencies like Fjord recognize an opportunity to align themselves with the offerings, and others are investing in IT solutions as digital marketing and customer data become overwhelming for big global marketers.

Publicis Groupe 's Razorfish last year launched Fluent, a technology platform intended to help marketers sort in-house data and connect it to ad-targeting and analytics tools. WPP's Fabric offers similar services.

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