'Accenture' seemed foolish; now it seems a stroke of luck

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A year ago, when Andersen Consulting became Accenture, people lined up to deride the new moniker. Edward Saenz, founder of Gravity Branding, a San Francisco firm that comes up with new company and product names, told The Wall Street Journal that Accenture "violates so many rules: It's difficult to spell. I don't believe it's compelling. It doesn't lead us to ask more. It's so confusing that you just stop thinking about it and you shut down."

In the aftermath of the Enron scandal and the role played in it by Accenture's former sibling company, accountant Arthur Andersen, the top brass at Accenture must be thanking their lucky stars nobody is thinking about it.

Accenture is also lucky its first advertising effort, on last year's Super Bowl telecast, was such a bust that viewers had no idea what the new company was or did. USA Today, which ranks Super Bowl ads based on consumer opinion, found the Accenture commercials among the least interesting. Our own Bob Garfield called the campaign a "very expensive exercise in vanity and cluelessness."

What's most noteworthy, however, is how Accenture's mostly forgotten tagline, "Now it gets interesting," was eerily prescient. Shredding those Enron papers, as Andersen has admitted doing, is about as interesting as it gets for an accountant. It's equally interesting that Accenture's lousy Super Bowl ads forced it to take a low profile in the last year, at least with the general public. If its campaign had been a rousing success at raising its profile with the masses, the press would have rushed to link Accenture with its former partner at what was then Arthur Andersen & Co. That wouldn't have been so good for Accenture's reputation.

Luckily, Accenture is off the public's radar screen. The same thing, of course, is not true of Arthur Andersen. Maybe what Arthur Andersen needs is an ad blitz so obscure, so off-the-wall, so stupid and insipid that people will be glad to forget about them, too. I think the doggy sock puppet from Pets.com is still available.

Perhaps I'm a trifle harsh about Accenture's advertising foray. (I don't think so, but every once in a while it's good to examine one's basic premises.) After all, Ad Age's sibling publication, BtoB, named Accenture's global managing director for marketing and communications, Jim Murphy, as its "Marketer of the Year" for 2001. Said BtoB: "A marketing veteran with an iconoclastic approach, Mr. Murphy made one of the biggest gambles in consulting marketing history-a $175 million campaign to rebrand Andersen Consulting with a new name and focus-and turned it into a jackpot of epic proportions."

I take it Accenture, after the Super Bowl, concentrated on reaching top managements, using cable news networks and major business publications. Most ads continued to employ the "Now it gets interesting" tag. BtoB said Accenture "quickly became known in boardrooms throughout the world." Top managements must be more adept at dealing with obtuse notions than the rest of us.

But I'm not here to malign Accenture ads. My point is that Andersen Consulting's name change, though panned, was a colossal stroke of good luck. My vote for the real Marketer of the Year? It's the arbitrator who forced Andersen Consulting to change its name.

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