Will a Consulting unit work within the Advertising Agency?


Hakuhodo recently announced a consulting unit called Teko within their overall agency model, which seems like an interesting spin-off to the ad agency. Especially since recent news has stressed on the consultancy as being a threat posed to the communication groups. This is largely because the consultancy companies have been on a shopping spree these last few years, especially with regard to acquiring capabilities in digital, which everyone expects will mould the future for communication groups.

Teko will start small with just 5 people and instead of interacting with marketing and advertising wings of the clients company, will perhaps take a larger view of the company and extend itself to solving real business problems. This thinking of course is not entirely new. When account planning was first introduced in the ad agencies in the early 70s by Stephen King, Simon Broadbent and others, somewhere at the back of their minds, they were probably looking at solving business problems for their clients.

But this focus on business problems might have got waylaid by focussing on the core competence of agencies which in fact was advertising and communication. Somewhere along the way therefore agencies went back to solving communication problems which is what they were being paid for. After all strategy planning was always considered a free service although it helped agencies to differentiate from others. In fact some agencies deployed strategy planning as a tool to only help clients. Rather than the agency. While others thought that strategy planning must help to improve the main output of the agency i.e.creative.

But the approach to solving client’s business problems rather than communication problems is a unique way to look at agency business. If it works, it might just help to tide over the crisis of the advertising being seen only as a cost. Because solving business problems could bring in not only cost efficiency but also increase business efficiency.

Is this idea entirely new? Not entirely I think. In India, Contract ( a subsidiary of JWT ) set up a consulting unit called Core Consulting very early on. So did FCB-Ulka with Cogito Consulting. The only difference might well be that they still largely focussed on communication and marketing problems rather than business problems.

Of course here is the big surprise. If one expected the new consulting unit from Hakuhodo to be filled with strategic planners it is not true. Of the 5 people in the unit, 4 are creative directors and one is a marketing director.

Probably giving credence to the fact that creativity and innovation should be at the heart of every business. Who is it that said strategy might be the Bible, but creative is God?

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Prabhakar Mundkur has spent 40 years in advertising and worked in India, Africa and Asia. He is currently Chief Mentor with HGS Interactive a part of HGS in the Hinduja Group. He is on the advisory board of Sol 's Arc (solsarc.org ) an NGO dedicated to special education for intellectually challenged children. He is also a member of Whiteboard ( whiteboardindia.org ) which supports senior management of NGOs in financial management, PR, Communication and HR through pro bono expertise.

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