Sandipan Bhattacharyya
Guest Article

If Theseus changed his ship’s captain, would it still be the same ship?

As Deloitte's Andy Main joins O&M as CEO, the agency versus consultancy discussion - that last gathered steam when Accenture acquired Droga5 in 2019 - resurfaces. An adman analyses the landscape... actually, seascape.

Would the new captain eclipse his plans to return to Athens, change course and take him elsewhere?

Or, would the new captain bring with him new maps that show better routes?

And, would he then change the wooden planks and replace them with metal ones?

Sandipan Bhattacharyya
Sandipan Bhattacharyya

So, the ageing ship stays fast, agile and very seaworthy.

But would it still be Theseus’ ship, after all the planks and crew members have been changed?

The answer, probably, lies in intent.

If the intent is to make creativity more relevant in a vastly more measurable world, then this infusion of consulting culture into advertising, and vice versa, is a logical evolution.

On the one hand, there are consulting companies acquiring creative agencies, design shops, digital agencies, experience, and creative tech specialists.

While on the other, agency networks are acquiring consulting company hands, and reorganising their disciplines and offerings to better reflect the needs of the modern marketer.

The former indicates that companies are getting serious about creativity in marketing, and consulting firms are rushing to fill that telling gap. They have the knowledge, but don’t know what to do with it.

The latter indicates that agencies are waking up to the urgency of serving up creativity in newer, more data-informed ways. They have the creativity, but not the knowledge to make it relevant.

Either way, creativity wins. The ship of Theseus continues to sail. Now enabled with GPS and fitted with automatic rudders and real-time course correction.

Traditionally, agencies and consulting firms have always been seen at opposite ends of the spectrum of marketing services. But the new world of marketing shifts and the complexities of platforms now demand that both move towards the centre of this spectrum.

Consulting companies adding creative firepower to their knowhow and their proximity to the C-suite. Agencies adding an integrated, consulting framework to their creativity, and also winning back some of the respect that’s eroded over time.

Blessed with business foresight, the consulting companies started the process by descending upon the French Riviera, in record numbers every year, for the world’s biggest festival of creativity.

They would silently observe the advertising industry like an aspiring actor on the sidelines of a big ticket shoot. Soaking in the work, getting to know the people behind the work, understanding the strange, and often whimsical, workings of this forceful beast called creativity. Gradually moving closer to the huddles at the Gutter Bar.

Instinctively, the agency folks would move the closed-group huddle a bit. And then a bit more. Till finally, there was no place left to do a closed-group huddle and they reluctantly started to mix with the all-knowing, data-wielding, torchbearers of transformation. Setting off a process of transformation that would change the advertising landscape forever.

So, will clients trust consulting companies more if they are creative? Or, will they trust creative agencies more if they talk consulting? They’ll probably trust the creativity, regardless of which end it comes from.

When you look at it from the marketer’s lens, the landscape is getting increasingly complex and the consistent juggling they have to do with an army of specialist agencies and consultants is the perfect recipe for inconsistency in brand communication and performance.

Dealing with this complexity, however, should not be the client’s problem.

It is our problem and, as agencies, we need to give our clients ‘clarity in diversity’.

Harnessing the power of diverse disciplines - data intelligence, brand strategy, creative content, design, commerce, tech, experience - and orchestrating the delivery of a singular idea through platforms across every touch point in the consumer journey.

Perfect orchestration is pure magic. It’s the marketing equivalent of a team of oarsmen ‘finding their swing’ in rowing. They say when you find that swing, the boat goes faster even with the same amount of effort being put in.

That’s the idea behind all these industry changes, isn’t it? Making creativity work sharper, better and more efficiently for our clients.

(Image source: Big Think)

(The author is chief creative officer and managing director, GREY Group India.)