I hate that 'cagency' word

02 Jul 2018  |  Dominic Mills 
I hate that 'cagency' word

This week Dominic Mills wonders whether Accenture has the imagination to approach real client problems if it can't come up with a word less irritating than 'cagency' to describe its new business model. Plus: how indie media network Local Planet is upping the ante, and why it's about time for #timeTo

Other than to wince in an ‘oh-that’s-an-ugly-word’ manner, I confess I haven’t given the term ‘cagency’ much thought since it was first unleashed on the industry back in March this year at the ISBA conference.

But as its use has spread, so it has begun to grate on me. We’re far from peak ‘cagency’, but the number of mentions has hit new highs after Cannes last month.

And I’m not the only one. Others are finding it just as irritating. Here’s a thread started off by MGOMD’s Richard Shotton on Twitter.

For those who’ve missed it, ‘cagency’ is a term coined by Accenture Interactive chief Anatoly Roytman to describe his offering: a portmanteau word blending consultancy and agency.

Even if you accept we need one – which I don’t – it’s a term that is at best bland and at worst as ugly as sin. Nevertheless, it says something about the industry that we so blithely accept such terms.

Indeed, it doesn’t even hold up to analysis.

As it stands, the word ‘cagency’ itself is biased towards agency. Yet, at the very least, I’d say Accenture positions its offering as a 50:50 split between consultancy and agency, probably more to the consultancy end.

Thus, even if you generously apply the ‘it does what it says on the tin’ analogy, it’s a fail.

So, if Accenture thinks it needs to find a term to describe what it does, why can’t it come up with anything better (and I’m not going to volunteer)? Surely, its combination of data scientists, analysts and recently-arrived creatives can blend their various skills and come up with something catchy and original.

After all, if an attempt to define oneself reveals a lack of thought, energy and imagination, what does that say about how it approaches real client problems or a client branding issue?

But if we’re talking about portmanteau words, I heard two variations on the Accenture/Karmarama link-up last week that made me smile: ‘Accenturama’; and ‘Karmarature’.

Local Planet rising

Where there’s trouble there’s opportunity, as Accenture is finding to its benefit.

So too are the independent media agencies, who have been making hay while the sun shines, as I’ve written before here and here.

But the big problem for the indies (media and creative) has always been turning that local success into something global. The answer lies in setting up networks of the like-minded, and we have seen various incarnations over the years. For a variety of reasons, some stick and some don’t.

One that has is media grouping Local Planet, whose members include in the UK the7stars and Goodstuff, Horizon in the US, and Pilot in Germany. All told its 51 members bill a combined $14bn, a sum which gives it network-like scale.

Now, as it sniffs a weakening among the networks, it is upping the ante. You can read about it here. So far this year, Local Planet says, it has 64 approaches from clients for international business.

Why is this happening? The opportunities for Local Planet are essentially three-fold. One, as the networks consolidate, so clients that face being shoved somewhere they didn’t choose to suit a holding company agenda look for alternatives. Two, transparency – a card Local Planet plays hard and which it says increasingly resonates. And three, the ability to apply, when and where it makes a difference, a bottom-up, market-by-market approach, as opposed to the imposition of dictats from the centre.

But indie networks typically face two problems. First (for international business), they are only as good as their least good (relevant) agency. Second, the loose affiliate structure means the centre can struggle to impose uniform standards, especially in planning and strategy. (Yes, I know the same can be said for networks, but they at least can wield the big stick if one office is underperforming.)

Local Planet’s counter to these issues is to set up in each market a joint venture legal entity, co-owned by Local Planet itself and the local member, into which it will put international business, thus giving both the intermediaries and clients themselves the reassurance of a legal structure and greater consistency.

On top of this, it’s hired ex-Naked, McCann and Aegis planner Wayne Fletcher as global head of strategy. His experience will add kudos and credibility.

And then to give it all some new-business welly, it’s hired ex-PHD global business director Sandra Sydow to lead the charge internationally.

It’s difficult to say how big the prize is, but given that none of these moves come cheap, and persuading a clutch of agencies to go along with a new model can be at times like herding cats, it must see gold at the end of the rainbow.

#abouttime for #timeTo

I sometimes think the ad industry has a peculiar appetite for self-flagellation, and it is possible to see the launch of last week’s #timeTo initiative on sexual harassment by the Advertising Association in that light.

After all, what do the figures do but give the media and the public another stick with which to beat an industry it already views as something on the bottom of its shoe? Although there seems to be a certain self-selection element in the survey, the figures make grim reading and tell an ugly story. We can’t pretend it doesn’t go on, or that it’s limited to small corners of the industry.

And while there is no breakdown of the figures either by type of agency (hmm, which do you think is worst?) or by AA member (agency, media owner, advertiser), I think we can reasonably assume this is a universal problem.

But judging by what we heard about the property industry after the President’s Club furore, and the regular employment tribunal hearings featuring the City, adland is by no means an outlier sector. I would, for one, be curious to know how adland scores relative to other industries.

I have heard some people query the AA initiative. First, its resources are limited, they say. Shouldn’t it spend them on making the case for advertising? Second, why the AA rather than, say, the IPA, ISBA and the media owners. Isn’t it their responsibility to clear up their own messes?

The answer to the first is that, yes it now needs to get on with dealing with other stuff – stuff, it should be said, however, that is no more or less important than sexual harassment. And to the second, I think the answer is that this is what the AA is for: to represent the industry in its totality and not to let one part look better or worse than the others.

But given that we all know how long both casual sexism and harassment have been part of the industry, I’d say it's #abouttime for #timeTo.

Disclosure: I have previously done some editorial work with Local Planet.

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