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David Droga on why Accenture Song isn't competing against traditional holding companies

David Droga on why Accenture Song isn't competing against traditional holding companies

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Accenture Song isn't interested in competing against traditional holding companies. In fact, its goal is clear with "reinvention" in its sights, said CEO David Droga in a roundtable press interview last Friday in Singapore. 

According to him, while some might "pigeonhole" Accenture Song in competing with traditional holding companies, Droga said that's not what its business is built around and it is "not trying to replicate the model at all". "I think we bring something that no one else can. We are the alchemy of creativity, tech, and data, and that is an unbelievable proposition for our clients," he said, adding:

The challenge for us is to not be seduced or concerned with having to be the best in the old model. We have to be comfortable in being a leader in this new model.

"I don't think clients come to us to just sustain something or for increments, that's not what we're in the business of," he added.

The opportunities in Southeast Asia

Droga, who has settled into the CEO role for about a year now, first joined the Accenture family in 2019 when he sold his agency Droga5, taking the industry by surprise. While Accenture Song did not reveal the monetary value of the acquisition previously, AdAge estimates it to be about US$475 million. Not long after, in August 2021, Droga then took over the CEO reins from Brian Whipple who stepped down after 10 years.

In his long illustrious career in advertising, Droga also isn't a stranger to the Southeast Asia market, previously helming the role of ECD of Saatchi & Saatchi Singapore and regional creative director of Saatchi & Saatchi Asia in 1996.

"I understand the nuances, opportunities and backstories, which makes it fascinating to be here in Southeast Asia," Droga said. More importantly, being in the market also allows him to know what the company is doing first-hand, and to be able to experience it. No stranger to rolling up his sleeves, Droga added: "You don't really have a material impact on or understanding of the market until you get into it. So it's good to be here."

The pace of change in Southeast Asia is also one which has captivated Accenture Song. According to Droga, Southeast Asia is "moving faster and faster", pushing the team to remain one step ahead for its clients. This has allowed Accenture Song to tackle new challenges thrown its way as it has had to show up with different solutions for clients to execute. 

"That's the opportunity for me because if you think of some of the acquisitions we've made, and some of the skillsets we bring, this allows us to show up to a C-suite and feel confident that we are going to answer their questions," Droga explained.

Speaking of acquisitions, just this year, Accenture Song snapped up ROMP, an Indonesian independent creative agency which awed many in the market. Founded in 2019, ROMP was a relatively new agency in the market working with clients such as Telkomsel, Indofood, Danone, Kimberly-Clark Softex, Grab, Google and Godrej. The move came slightly more than a year after acquiring Entropia last June. To many in the ad ecosystem, the acquisitions marked Accenture Song's ambitions of growth across Southeast Asia. 

"There's no question that [Southeast Asia] is an important market for us. From the pace of what's happening in the market to the diversity of the talent, this might be the forward start to prove our global Accenture Song offering," he said. He added that such acquisitions were made because each of the agencies had "amazing skillset" and were "not held hostage by old models".

Entropia and ROMP were certainly deliberate acquisitions built around the talents that reside in these markets.

"Take a look at what [the individuals in Southeast Asia] are doing, their boldness and ability to see around corners and go beyond the expected," Droga said. "They are not thinking 'We have to be compliant.' They are architects who are out to prove it," he added and these include being at the forefront of trends such as social commerce and the metaverse," Droga said.

In fact, some of the innovations and best practices that are emerging from Southeast Asia are catching the attention of Accenture Song's leaders in the West. "I'm trying to catch my breath keeping up with you guys. Now, what I have to do is support them from the sidelines to ensure they have the right resources and skillsets," Droga said. 

Meanwhile, some of the other acquisitions Accenture Song made over the past year included commerce agency The Stable in the US, eCommerce CX agency Tambourine in Japan, and creative agency King James Group in South Africa. 

"No matter how good we were, being exceptional at one thing doesn't necessarily mean that you answer every problem. Being able to show up to a client that has all these different opportunities, and being able to answer them with a vast suite of capabilities when they are brought together, that is pretty unbelievable for us," he added, emphasising that Accenture Song needs to ensure that it "does not get concerned with trying to compete with the old model". 

As for Droga5, which is widely hailed as one of Accenture's biggest acquisitions, the agency has now entered markets such as Japan as part of its Asia Pacific expansion followed by Sao Paolo in February this year. While China is still on Droga5's priority list, Southeast Asia isn't.

"I want to show up as one immense, helpful and future-facing proposition for our clients. At the moment, we have two to three brands but as I said, Song is the North Star for us. In the future, my objective isn't to have multiple brands, I'd like to have one great brand," he explained. 

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More acquisitions in Southeast Asia?

While Droga did not reveal specific growth plans for Southeast Asia, the industry can still expect acquisitions by Accenture Song, as more studios across Southeast Asia remain in the works given the talent pool available in the region, shared Droga. He said:

It is very liberating when your acquisition strategy has nothing to do with revenue, buying clients or putting pieces of pins on a map.

"We are not acquiring revenue or headcount. [The acquisitions] are for a future-facing purpose. We are looking to have new, relevant models," Droga said.

But at the end of the day, it also boils down to creativity, which he believes needs to be baked into everything and is what will separate Accenture Song from the competition. "Sincere creativity that's going to manifest itself, that is going to be scalable, repeatable and accountable," he added.

Currently, Droga doesn't have plans to acquire a media buying agency either. In fact, he said it is of no interest to him.

"It's just an old model to me. It's a cents in the dollar clipping coupons type of thing. I want to show up and be more relevant to our clients in more profound ways than that, and also with new media. We can have a massive influence with media planning but that's not our play. Our job for our clients is to reinvent and find new ways for them to make money," he explained. 

Sharing his personal philosophy, he said he believes everyone must, "Prove their relevance and value and do it exceptionally well". While Accenture Song might be a creative-led company, Droga said the team is still 100% focused on the quality of its product, which is essentially what it produces for clients. "It has to be exceptional, relevant, done well and brings in all those tenants that you want to talk about," he added.

"I'm arrogant or naive enough to know that our business is going to boom. I don't want up in the middle of the night thinking: 'How do I squeeze more margin out of X? How do I squeeze efficiencies? I'm going to have my people do that.' That's not my job. My job is to make our products and what we serve our clients with be exceptional. That's why we grow and have higher margins than anyone. That's the secret sauce," he said.  

How the name Accenture Song came about

A few months after Droga took charge, the company rebranded from Accenture Interactive to Accenture Song in April, with the goal of building on its longstanding culture of change.  The company previously said that the new name conveys an enduring and universal form of human craft, connection, inspiration, technical prowess and experience —unleashing the imagination and ideas of its people to deliver tangible results, the company said in a statement.

"I liked the name 'Song' for what it potentially stands for and what we plan to do," Droga said.

While the name "Interactive" was very practical and descriptive, Droga felt it was very "generic and lacked the heart and soul of what [the company] brings" in today's world. 

According to him, the term "Song" can be inspirational and educational, which is what the company is in the business of.

"We have to create meaningful things for our clients at scale, and that's what Song is. We are part of a much bigger organisation [...] we work on the more consumer side of things where there is more humanity baked into it, so our name should reflect our personality and differentiate us," he explained.

Digital Marketing Asia is back for its 10th year! 10 years of exclusive insights, experience sharing and great success stories. Join us for three days of hyper-focused presentation topics across six tracks on 15 - 17 November. Click here to register now!

Related articles:
R/GA's Tuomas Peltoniemi heads to Accenture Song
Why Indonesia is a priority market for Accenture Song
Accenture plans another strong creative acquisition in SEA with Romp
Former 72andSunny APAC ECD Johnny Tan joins Accenture Song
Accenture Interactive rebrands to signal 'post-pandemic' journey
Accenture makes play in the metaverse scene with new biz group
Accenture Interactive hires Nick Law, promotes Droga5’s Sarah Thompson
Accenture Interactive names David Droga CEO

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