Top consulting firms for antitrust & competition economics

26 January 2016

Oxera, RBB Economics, NERA Economic Consulting, The Brattle Group and Bates White Economic Consulting are globally the top consulting firms for competition economics, reveals a new study.

Every year Global Competition Review, a global platform that focuses on economics and competition law, releases its so-called ‘Economics 21’ list, a ranking of the world’s leading competition law and economics advisories. The ranking is part of its wider ‘GCR 100’ study and rates economic consulting firms on a range of factors, including reputation, size of practice, number of nominations to the International ‘Who’s Who of Competition Lawyers & Economists’ and work over the past year. The advisory firms included in the research support clients with among others economic policy setting, merger reviews, antitrust / competition policy, cartel cases, state aid, intellectual property disputes and damages litigation.

This year’s ‘Economics 21’, the 16th edition, has named Oxera the most active player in the area of Antitrust Litigation. The UK based consultancy advised on 47 antitrust litigation cases (including cases for Skyscanner, Air Cargo and MasterCard), four more than NERA Economic Consulting, the economics consultancy unit of Marsh & McLennan Companies (the parent of also Oliver Wyman, Marsh, Mercer and Guy Carpenter). Washington, D.C. based Bates White Economic Consulting holds third spot with 35 antitrust litigation cases, with The Brattle Group and Edgeworth Economics completing the top five. AlixPartners, which entered the list for the first time back in 2013, is found on the sixth spot. Also in the 10 are Frontier Economics, RBB Economics, Copenhagen Economics and Economists Incorporated.

When it comes to investigations for governments, Oxera again holds top spot, although the position is shared with RBB Economics, a London headquartered rival with eight offices globally. Both competition law consultancies completed 31 government investigations, ten more than The Brattle Group, which made the annual ranking for the ninth consecutive year. “With a team that includes two Nobel laureates, it is no surprise that The Brattle Group acts in scores of high-profile antitrust cases, mergers and government investigations,” note the researchers. AlixPartners and Bates White Economic Consulting complete the top 5, with Economists Incorporated, Frontier Economics, PwC and E.CA Economics (one of the most specialised consultancies in the field) respectively holding the positions between six and nine. The 10th spot is shared by three firms: Copenhagen Economics, Edgeworth Economics and Oslo Economics.

Besides providing excellence in their service, expertise and deliverables, the firms featured in the ‘Economics 21’ boast long-standing relationships with law firms, one of the key client service differentiators in the competition law market. Law firms typically rely on the same consultancy for a succession of cases, or on individuals who have performed well for them in previous cases, and this means that long-standing partnerships are a common good in the world of antitrust advisory. The other side of the coin, however, is that it may take some time for newcomers to establish a reputation, partly explaining why many of the major firms in the list have featured among the elite for over a decade.

Bright outlook
Looking ahead the researchers say the outlook for the market is bright. On the back of the growing economy and the buoyant M&A market – McKinsey data shows the market nearly hit $5 billion last year – significant work is expected to flow from mergers & acquisitions. These days, no important merger or investigation is without some high-level number crunching from the top economic consultancies, whether firms serve enforcers attempting to articulate how a deal might harm competition or companies defending their proposed transactions. Other antitrust demand too is forecasted to show an uptick, lifted by a changing regulatory climate and large movements in government economic policy.


Accenture's push into the creative sector is an identity crisis

18 April 2019

In its latest push into the creative sector, Accenture Interactive acquired New York and London-based ad agency Droga5 earlier this month, adding illustrious clients such as HBO, Amazon and The New York Times to its roster of clients. With the latest in a long line of similar purchases, Accenture Interactive further demonstrated its ambition of becoming the globe’s leading trusted advisor to chief marketing officers. Yet according to Ben Langdon, Chairman of Class35, Accenture’s strategy may be heading in the wrong direction.

A press release on Accenture’s website announcing the acquisition sits next to a quote stating that “brands aren’t built through advertising” – a huge contradiction from a consultancy firm hell-bent on becoming the ‘CMO agency of choice’. It’s not alone of course. The entire consulting industry wants a piece of the creative pie right now. In addition to Accenture Interactive, recent acquisitions by PwC Digital, IBM iX, and Deloitte Digital meant that in 2017, for the first time ever, four of the world’s ten largest creative agencies were consultancies.

So just what it is that Accenture wants to achieve from this? For one thing, it’s clearly trying to be a digital transformation business. A one-stop creative shop rivalling more traditional models, it wants to lure CMOs in with the promise of lower ad spend and a “more impactful customer experience”. At the same time, though, it’s still in thrall to those same slinky, shiny branding and advertising agencies it’s attempting to disrupt. The Droga5 acquisition and that of Karmarama a few years before are both testament to this.

There’s a fundamental problem with this, though. Digital transformation businesses don’t sell to CMOs. These people have enough on their plates trying to transform their own marketing skills in order to keep up with an ever-changing market – they just don’t have the time or the energy to concern themselves with digitally transforming a whole business. If Accenture’s purpose is digital transformation, then going after creative agencies is barking up the wrong tree.Is Accenture's push into the creative sector an identity crisis?

Worlds apart

Perhaps more importantly, these two industries are worlds apart in terms of the way they think. Creative agencies are all about ideas, campaigns and consumers. Digital businesses, on the other hand, are customer-driven – they think in terms such as lifetime value, measurement, and efficiency. Customer-led thinking is an entirely different beast to consumer-led thinking.

The reality is that the arrival of digital and an all-encompassing obsession with technology, measurement and social has led to the death of agencies in a reductive, zero-sum, efficiency-focused battle with brands. Indeed, agencies have become so obsessed with the latest tech fads, they’re beginning to forget how brands work. Worse still, they’re beginning to forget how brands are built. And, by forgetting, they’re destroying their own values.

Killing creativity

All things considered, it really feels to me as though Accenture is a chip leader in a game it doesn’t understand. Expensive acquisitions like these show that they’ve got the big money, but they don’t appear to have any idea what they’re doing with it. Take talent, for example. The best talent in the creative industry right now is out in the market; it’s not tied to any one agency. Both agencies might well be at the top of their game, but why would a consulting firm waste so much money on buying them when they could hire high-quality creative talent on a contingent basis instead?

As their presence in the top 10 creative agencies shows, there is a growing trend in which Accenture, like many of the other big players, are buying up agencies as if they were nothing more than keywords. What they’re really buying, though, is a collection of credentials, clients and IP. Unfortunately, the talent that created those credentials aren’t going to stay at the business, the clients that hired the agency in the first place won’t be interested in buying what is basically just another part of Accenture, and the IP never really existed to begin with.

Droga5, for example, was one of the few agencies that did great brand work the old-fashioned way – undoubtedly something that made it attractive to Accenture in the first place. The irony, though, is that by leading it further away from the way of working that made it so special, the consulting giant will kill its creativity.

“Accenture Interactive has been dazzled by its ambitions to become the CMO agency of record…. But, in flashing its cash, it is spending millions on acquiring nothing of any value.”

If pressed, the recently acquired agency staff at Accenture will tell you just how dysfunctional the new arrangement is. They’re largely unfulfilled. Rarely do they feel their work has any sort of meaning or purpose. What’s more, the different disciplines have found little or no common ground, and find it hard to work together as a cohesive whole. It’s not surprising, then, to see talented people leaving in droves.

Beyond the window dressing 

It’s clear, then, that consulting firms and creative agencies are no easy bedfellows. But in his company’s defence, Accenture Interactive’s Senior Managing Director for North America, Glen Hartman, described its culture as being “far, far away from what a stereotypical consulting firm would look like. Our office and studios look a lot like Droga5’s.”

In demonstrating a belief that office design equates to workplace culture, this statement serves as an illustration of how confused Accenture is right now. It wants to justify its new strategy so badly, it’s started dressing like a creative agency. But if you look beyond the window dressing and see that you and your partners are speaking a different language with a different purpose, selling to different people in a different market, there’s no getting away from the fact that you’re different.

Accenture Interactive has been dazzled by its ambitions to become the CMO agency of record, and it wants to dazzle others with its new direction. But, in flashing its cash, it is spending millions on acquiring nothing of any value.

Related: Space between consulting firms and creative agencies is converging.