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Do As We Say, Not As We Do: Accenture Takes 2 Years to Solve Tiger Woods Ad Crisis

Accenture (ACN) prides itself on the advice it gives about "world-class digital marketing capabilities" and helping clients "make better business decisions, faster." The management consultancy touts itself with the tagline, "Who says you can't be big and nimble?" So guess how long Accenture has taken to make a decision about who its new ad agency will be? Nearly a year, according to Adweek.

It's all Tiger Woods' fault -- the consultancy ditched its old campaign in December 2009 when virtually all of Accenture's ads took on a double meaning following the golfer's sex scandal. ("Go on, be a Tiger," read one.) The company now says it won't be able to get new ads from its new agency until the fourth quarter of 2011 -- two years after it took down its Tiger Woods ads.

The company got some Tiger-free ads out soon after the Woods car crash, but those appear to have been an interim effort: Accenture announced an agency review in May 2010, casting WPP (WPPGY) unit Young & Rubicam's lead role on the account into doubt. "The plan is to get the new campaign into the market for next year," Accenture said. The review is important to Accenture -- this is a company that takes advertising seriously. It advises its own clients on their marketing, and it devotes an entire web page to its own advertising.

In September, things seemed to be going smoothly. Accenture was eyeing a shortlist of five ad agencies: Y&R; Interpublic (IPG)'s The Martin Agency; WPP's JWT; Dentsu's McGarryBowen; and Omnicom (OMC)'s BBDO.

By November, Martin and JWT had either been dropped or cut and it appeared that Accenture may have been nearing a decision. But no, the client invited Saatchi & Saatchi of Publicis (PUB) to join the party.

In January, BBDO dropped out over conflict concerns and two more Omnicom shops -- DDB and TBWAChiatDay replaced them. Having once narrowed the contenders to just three shops, Accenture is now apparently choosing between six. Or something. Who knows?

The client says it is hoping to make its decision in May and get new ads on the air in Q4 2011 -- two full years following the Woods debacle that knocked its original campaign off the air. To be fair to Accenture, it has never claimed crisis response as one of its core competencies.


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