An advertising company, as well as a consulting company, solve business problems of their client, however, both have different work modules, revenue system as well as separate work ethics. One of the prominent consulting industry trends is that advertising company operates to solve the audience/branding problems, whereas a consultation company solves business problems of all kinds pertaining to even marketing and branding. The market needs of brands are evolving and advertisers are increasingly seeking a one-stop company solution. Ad firms and consulting firms are virtually merging in functionality, however, there some upper hand that the latter enjoys over the other.
For example, clothing giant Accenture bought Acquity Group and Frog, and Publicis bought the technology integration marketing company- Sapient.
Difference in functionality
The main reasons for the closure or downsizing of advertising agencies are poor business management, bad economy, loss of major clients, the inability of procuring newer business, ineffective succession plans as well as when an employee breaks away to begin a competitor organization of their own. The role of an advertising agency is to bridge the communication gap between the brand and the target audience whereas that of consultancy firm is to ensure much more than that- to ideate, execute, as well as evaluate an ad campaign.
A consulting firm operates with various types and genres of clients that gives the employees a wider, more flexible knowledge pool driven with the aim of solving all comprehensive problems that arrive in acquiring an effective brand campaign. A consultancy firm is able to give 360-degree treatment to the advertiser. This gives a consultancy agency an upper edge over a regular advertising firm. A consultancy works with different clients and the people employed there are not only creative designers and publicists, but also make sure processes like lobbying, technical evaluation, data mining, research, and development is carried out by professionals.
Functions of an advertising agency and its limitations
An advertising agency measures their success in terms of CMP – Cost per Thousand impressions, i.e. the investment cost of attaining 1000 readers, viewers, or listeners. This has been countered by a more economical and practical approach by the consulting firms. A consultation firm would try to achieve the targetted number of audience with the investment cost fixed beforehand. If an ad agency puts the onus on the set number of the target audience, a consultation company puts the attention on the budget allocated to the campaign and strives to maximise the audience reach within that.
Broader aspects of marketing and advertising
A consultation firm may not be ripe with traditional and niche assistance with advertising, however, it is proven that the brands today are increasingly aspiring to break rules and get tasks done at a faster, more consistent rate. The advertising agency limits itself to designing an advertisement (or a campaign) but does little as per the branding, marketing, and public relations for the brand. The consultation services of the firm would also include various management attributes to the operations, giving the advertisers a more transparent and professional treatment. Managers at the consulting firm do not face situations of conflict of interest as they do not want to be exclusively dedicated to a single client. They can manage and provide services to competitor brands simultaneously.
For instance, Goodby Silverstein and Partners is the recent ad agency for Pepsi and would refrain from taking up Coca-Cola as their client simultaneously. Such a conflict of interest would not arise in case of a consultation agency.
Quantitative consultancies, qualitative and agencies
A popular belief dictates the fact that consultation agencies hire freelancers and in-house contractual human resources who are college graduates or freshers. This makes their team diverse in age group, skill sets, and thinking process. The consultancies are able to tap the digital-friendly skill set of handling data-driven marketing. Advertising agencies have tried hard to catch up with the technical big data demands that dictate the ideation and evaluation of a successful ad campaign but have failed due to inadequate workforce and skill set.
An advertising agency delves primarily around the qualitative aspects of an ad campaign, however, a consultation firm attends to the quantitative demand and conflicts of having a successful Integrated Marketing Strategy (IMS).
Companies like Deloitte Digital, IBM iX, and PwC Digital Services are making an impact on the reducing influence of advertising agencies as they are able to cater to the growing demands and cutting more stringent audits by advertisers. While consultants are problem-solving thinkers, ad agencies invest efforts in cultivating artists and innovators. Ad agencies aim at selling creative outputs and pay less attention to the market effectiveness. This loophole is increasingly getting filled by consultancy firms as they operate on a more action-oriented approach.