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Web site: www.accenture.com
I AM YOUR IDEA CAMPAIGN
Andersen Consulting, a global technology, management, and outsourcing consultancy, was forced to change its name after splitting with its sibling company, the accounting firm Arthur Andersen, in January 2001. The rebranded company, Accenture, Ltd., publicized its new name in a high-profile marketing campaign in 2001 that was widely criticized but that was effective, according to some observers, at raising awareness of the Accenture brand among corporate executives, the ultimate target of all consulting-industry advertising. Accenture and its agency, New York-based Young & Rubicam, followed up this initial effort with "I Am Your Idea," a 2002–03 campaign designed to further heighten the company's brand image among high-level executives.
"I Am Your Idea" was a global campaign employing an estimated budget of $70 million to spread the message that Accenture had the capability to turn ideas into effective business practices. TV, print, and poster executions used the notion of ideas actually addressing their owners—corporate executives—via interior voices and written messages in public areas, among other modes of communication. In each case the ideas sought to make their presence and, accordingly, their value known to their owners. Print ads and TV spots alike employed the message "It's not how many ideas you have. It's how many you make happen," along with the tagline "Innovation Delivered."
The campaign was credited with substantially increasing global awareness of the Accenture brand and with increasing the likelihood that high-level executives would consider the consulting firm for future projects. Accenture's billings during the campaign's run far exceeded the goal of $12 billion set prior to the launch. "I Am Your Idea" won a 2004 Euro EFFIE for its success in Europe.
Accenture's roots went back to the 1950s, when the Chicago-based accounting firm Arthur Andersen developed a consulting division. As this division grew, its leadership became dissatisfied with the subservient position that consulting occupied in the company's hierarchy. A new corporate structure was thus created in 1989, making Arthur Andersen and Andersen Consulting separate subsidiaries of the same parent company, but a clause in the companies' contract with one another mandated that the more lucrative of the two share its annual profits with the other. This clause resulted in increasing friction between the two entities in the context of a booming consulting industry and a flat market for accountants, and Andersen Consulting's sense of the agreement's unfairness was exacerbated when Arthur Andersen launched a competing consulting division. Andersen Consulting initiated a split with Arthur Andersen in 1997, but the split was delayed by years of legal wrangling. Andersen Consulting finally won the right to sever its ties with the accounting firm in 2000, on the conditions that it pay Arthur Andersen $1 billion and rebrand itself under a new name. Andersen Consulting was renamed Accenture in late 2000, and the company was officially relaunched on January 1, 2001.
The Accenture name was widely derided by analysts and media critics, even as the company and its agency, New York's Young & Rubicam, were setting out to imbue that name with an identity via an estimated $175 million global advertising campaign. Tagged "Now It Gets Interesting," the campaign appeared in print before making its TV debut via four spots that aired during the 2001 Super Bowl. These spots were ranked among the least-recalled of all commercials that aired on that year's broadcast, and the campaign as a whole was generally maligned by ad-industry critics. B to B magazine, however, claimed that "Now It Gets Interesting" resonated with its ultimate target: the high-level corporate executives responsible for hiring consulting firms such as Accenture.
Because they were dependent on other corporations for their business, consulting companies' fortunes were directly linked to the state of the economy at large. A cooling global economic climate in the first few years of the twenty-first century meant slowed growth for the consulting industry. Therefore, if they hoped to grow, Accenture and its competitors had to steal market share from one another. Because many competitors offered the same suite of services as Accenture—corporations typically turned to Accenture for help with technology, management, and outsourcing issues—a particular emphasis was placed on differentiating the company through marketing.
"I Am Your Idea," the follow-up to "Now It Gets Interesting," again targeted corporate decision makers—senior executives with titles such as CEO, CFO, COO, CIO, and CMO—but was not saddled with the simultaneous mainstream branding challenge of its predecessor. The campaign's goal was to make Accenture one of the companies that these executives naturally thought of when considering embarking on major projects requiring outside consultants. Young & Rubicam sought to accomplish this by addressing a negative perception that the target group often brought to its dealings with consultants: the idea that consulting firms dogmatically insisted on their own ideas without taking fully their clients' needs into consideration. As with "Now It Gets Interesting," "I Am Your Idea" was a global effort, focusing on business-oriented print and TV outlets as well as signage in airports worldwide.
WHAT'S AN "ACCENTURE"?
Andersen Consulting's lengthy and bitter effort to separate itself from its sibling, the accounting firm Arthur Andersen, was concluded in late summer 2000, when an international arbitrator ruled that the separation could proceed as long as Andersen Consulting paid Arthur Andersen $1 billion and changed its name by January 2001. The consulting company thus embarked on an intense search for a new name, hiring a leading identity-and-design agency to come up with ideas before settling on Accenture, the brainchild of Kim Peterson, an Andersen Consulting employee in Oslo, Norway. Peterson came up with the name by combining the words "accent" and "future." He told Advertising Age, "I wanted a word that had a lot of positive associations to it … and that would emphasize accomplishment and accelerated growth … as well as adventure and excitement and also the future." As compensation for his idea, Peterson was awarded a free trip to Melbourne, Australia, to attend a company-sponsored golf championship.
Accenture's most direct competitor at this time was the newly strengthened consulting division of the old-line tech giant International Business Machines Corporation (IBM). It was initially known for its computer-focused consulting, but with its July 2002 acquisition of the consulting division of accounting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers, IBM Business Consulting Services (later called IBM Global Services) doubled in size and dramatically extended its range of business expertise. IBM was thus positioned to transcend its reputation as a tech firm, and this project dictated much of its consulting-focused advertising in the following years. The IBM division's first major postacquisition campaign, for instance, used the theme "Deeper" to communicate its new strength. Released in late 2002, the $90 million print campaign employed images such as that of a jungle, with copy suggesting the immensely complex nature of thoroughly assessing a business's needs. "Everything at once?" the ad's copy read, "Who would have the depth?" Another ad in the campaign used an image of the Grand Canyon to illustrate the idea that IBM's knowledge went "deeper" than that of competitors in a long list of industries.
Another of Accenture's competitors, Electronic Data Systems (EDS), was likewise in a transitional phase that, during this time, dictated the focus and tone of its advertising. EDS broke the consulting-industry mold with an overtly zany 2000 Super Bowl commercial, via the advertising agency Fallon Worldwide, in which cowboys on horseback were shown rounding up thousands of cats, an image meant to evoke EDS's ability to impose order on a chaotic business situation. In 2001 another EDS Super Bowl spot dramatized the same idea using imagery recalling the running of the bulls in Pamplona, Spain, with a key difference: the animals chasing the frenzied participants were squirrels. The following year EDS lost market share and prestige as a result of a number of badly managed major contracts, and the company's marketing profile accordingly diminished. EDS commercials returned to TV in 2003, but the new global campaign was meant to repair the company's reputation among corporate executives and thus eschewed the attention-getting advertising concepts for which the company had become known.
The controlling idea behind the "I Am Your Idea" campaign was that Accenture could help corporate executives turn their ideas into reality. An initial set of TV spots were released at the start of the campaign in February 2002, and a second round of commercials headlined a September 2002 campaign update. Given Accenture's belief that business-oriented magazines and newspapers worldwide were the best way to reach high-level corporate executives, print executions ran throughout the campaign's cycle. Airport posters likewise were employed for the duration of the campaign, in keeping with the target group's need to travel frequently. The campaign ran through August 2003, leveraging an estimated budget of $70 million.
The TV spots all used the conceit of an idea speaking to its owner. In each case the owner of the idea was an upscale, middle-aged executive, and the idea was depicted as an admonitory voice urging the executive to act before it, the idea, disappeared. Several spots featured the idea speaking via voice-over, as though in the executive's mind. For instance, an executive was shown walking, briefcase in hand, through the deserted streets of a city at night, while his idea said, "Listen, it's me. You know, I'm your idea. You can't ignore me. I'm what keeps you up at night. I make you restless, maybe even a little nervous." Streetlights and storefront displays mysteriously lit up, as though the idea was employing supernatural force to win the executive's attention. "After all," the idea continued, proclaiming the message that ran in each of the campaign's executions, "It's not how many ideas you have. It's how many you make happen." A more humorous spot showed an idea speaking to an executive by other means. The commercial opened on the scene of a doctor entering a patient's room to explain the nature of his malady: "You seem to have one of those office sticky notes lodged in your head." The doctor displayed the incriminating X-ray, which clearly showed a yellow sticky note reading "USE ME" embedded in the man's skull. "Do something with that idea," the doctor advised, "and then it should disappear." "But what if I can't?" the patient asked. The doctor's deadpan response was, "It could develop into a notepad, a folder, possibly even a filing cabinet." Each TV spot closed with the Accenture logo and the tagline "Innovation Delivered."
Print ads used a similar concept to send the same warning about the necessity to realize the potential of one's ideas. In the ads ideas spoke through signs on airport walls, the steps of office buildings, freeway exit signs, and other backdrops typically frequented by elite businesspeople. One ad showed a rack of airport luggage carts with attached signs that read, "I am your idea. Push me." Another ad featured a close-up of a golf ball on a tee as a golfer prepared to strike it. On the ball was printed, "I am your idea. Drive me." Yet another print execution focused on a disposable coffee cup wrapped in an insulating cardboard sleeve reading, "I am your idea. I won't stay hot forever." Small copy at the bottom of each ad reiterated the message from the TV spots: "It's not how many ideas you have. It's how many you make happen. So whether it's your idea or Accenture's, we'll help you turn innovation into results." Readers were directed to the Accenture website, www.accenture.com, and the "Innovation Delivered" tagline ran underneath the Accenture logo.
The advertising was supported by a schedule of global events showcasing the Accenture brand, and dozens of case studies were made available on the corporate website, detailing the ways in which Accenture had helped prominent clients in the past.
In-house research concluded that, as a result of "I Am Your Idea," unaided global awareness of the Accenture brand grew from 29 percent to 34 percent. The company also concluded that the number of target executives who might consider Accenture as a consulting partner in the future had tripled, and Accenture generated $16.1 billion in bookings during the campaign's run, well surpassing its precampaign goal of $12 billion in bookings. For its effectiveness in the European market, the campaign won a 2004 Euro EFFIE Gold Award in the corporate category as well as the inaugural Sappi Print Media Efficiency Award at that year's Euro EFFIE ceremony (the pan-European counterpart to the New York American Marketing Association's annual EFFIE Awards).
A combination of factors, however, led Accenture to recast its marketing in 2003. For one, the sustained economic downturn had made the idea of innovation, showcased so prominently in "I Am Your Idea" television and print executions, seem outdated, according to James Murphy, Accenture's global managing director of marketing and communications. Additionally, IBM's acquisition of PricewaterhouseCoopers, coming midway through the first year of the "I Am Your Idea" campaign, heightened Accenture's need to raise its corporate profile. In October 2003, accordingly, a new campaign featuring professional-golf superstar Tiger Woods was unveiled.
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