Pearson web-overhaul by Accenture shows consulting threat to ad firms

10 October 2017 6 min. read
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Accenture have worked with global learning company Pearson to create and launch a new digital customer experience named OneDotCom. Demonstrating the growing threat of consulting firms’ design offerings to traditional marketing firms, the new holistic platform is aimed at simplifying and improving the user experience of students, educators and job seekers, while encouraging wider consumption of Pearson’s learning materials and services.

The digital design space has become increasingly populated in recent years, as companies and customers begin to increasingly leverage online products, goods and services. This has also led to a number of global consulting industry players buying into the industry, as they seek to diversify their portfolios to maintain growth, while offering clients a one stop solution across marketing, user experience and software related background. One of the names most commonly talked about in this trend has been Accenture, with the firm having continuously picked up design and marketing agencies in order to build their own advertising capacity, with pre-selected talent and ready-made teams.

Most recently, Accenture acquired design and marketing firm Brand Learning, as the consultancy spent a further portion of its much-discussed $1.8 billion war-chest, in order to bolster Accenture Interactive. Accenture Interactive – as is typically said of other industry competitors such as Deloitte Digital – is targeted at providing end-to-end marketing and sales transformations for clients, by aiming to create a seamless service spanning marketing and sales strategy, organisational design and industry-specific consulting. The deal followed shortly after the firm also acquired digital product development firm Intrepid to the same end. However, due to this being a relatively new development in consulting, while much has been made of firms investing in the industry, examples of what this new form of holistic advertising/design service provision may look like have been rare.

Pearson web-overhaul by Accenture Interactive shows consulting threat to ad firms

The story of Accenture Interactive’s work for media conglomerate-turned-publishing house Pearson has shed some light on this. Accenture Interactive, which, along with Brand, owns Karmarama and Australia’s The Monkeys among other creative agencies is now ranked as the world’s biggest digital agency, was drafted in by Pearson following declining sales in the digital era.

Digital infrastructure overhaul

Following the company’s repositioning under Marjorie Scardino, which saw Pearson retract from UK media ownership (having formerly owned the Financial Times and half of The Economist, among other famous names) and enter into education, where the company sold textbooks to schools and universities. For a while, this proved profitable for the group but – as with market incumbents across an array of industries hit by innovative disruptors – the digital era saw Pearson losing significant market share to new digital competitors, while struggling to adapt to new technology to profit from it themselves. At this point, Pearson contracted Accenture Interactive for a digital infrastructure overhaul to make the company competitive once more.

In figures provided by Accenture, following the resulting retooling of online capabilities, the firm reinforced the need for transformational change, by stating Pearson’s own university customers have shown that digital course materials can now support as much as 85-90% of undergraduate study. Pearson has subsequently seen its digital services revenue rise to more than two-thirds of its overall business – and following latest developments, it will hope to expand that further.

In order to be conducive to digital growth, Accenture Interactive created a website and content publishing platform giving customers a single ‘front door’ to access the entirety of Pearson’s products and services – named OneDotCom. The new service is said to reduce Pearson’s more than 400,000 pages of content and 15,000 domains and sites by as much as 50%, in order to help students and educators find information with greater ease. It is also claimed that the platform will cut publishing time by half, ensuring product and service information will available in a more timely fashion, which is increasingly essential in the continuously evolving world of academic information in the age of the internet.

While the solution may have been obvious to traditional ad firms considering the scale of the problem, Accenture’s substantial strength and depth of personnel – over 400,000 staff globally – undoubtedly goes a long way to persuading clients that the company is the right choice to find an innovative and value-adding solution. Added to that, while global advertising expenditure is at an all-time high, valued at more than $500 billion, the measuring and demonstration of the effectiveness of a strategy is key to ensuring both value for clients, and repeat business for firms. For advertising firms, this remains a more perplexing problem than for the multi-faceted consulting industry, where companies like Accenture can leverage high volumes of quality data relatively easily. This further enhances their potential to pick up new business, and eat into the market share of traditional advertising agencies.

Bernie Segal, managing director, Accenture Interactive, said, “What’s unique about the Pearson OneDotCom program is the creation of an inspiring digital brand experience that people love to use. This new global commercial digital organisation and new digital technology platform also creates significant productivity savings. Accenture Interactive’s fusion of creativity, business consultancy and technology shows what the new breed of experience agency looks like. We’ve been a transformation partner on Pearson’s innovation journey and improved its productivity and cost base.”

Pearson CMO Kate James meanwhile said of the development, “We operate in a world where students and educators want to quickly access and use our products and services through digital channels. We are on a continuous mission to transform our business to meet these demands and developing OneDotCom is an important step in designing a more relevant experience for learners and educators.”