The new normal: PWC acquires Fluid as the big 4 inch closer to CMO role

Just weeks out from the launch of its Experience Center in Hong Kong, Shanghai and Beijing, PWC has confirmed the acquisition of independent Hong Kong agency, Fluid.

The deal cements PWC's push into the strategy and consulting field, having acquired Booz & Co in April 2014. Under this new deal, Fluid, along with its staff and client list, will become part of PWC Experience Center and spearhead its push to engage the entire C-Suite around strategy, analytics, data, the customer journey, creative services and execution.

Colin Light (pictured), PWC Experience Center Leader, Greater China, told Marketing that PWC had been working with Fluid for the better part of a year in Hong Kong, Shanghai and Beijing, but as of today (Monday 1 Feb), that alliance had become formalised.

“PWC has an aspiration to be in what we call a ‘Category of One’, where we help our clients all the way through from strategy to execution," he said.

"We are already well-known for our management consultancy, but what was missing was the customer experience. Turning strategy into moments that matter for customers is a key creative path and this process has to be underpinned by insights, analytics and the use of data."

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Light said while Fluid had shown leadership in the areas of insights and creativity, it was the agency's culture that PWC found most attractive. Last year Fluid won Marketing Magazine's first Agency Culture Award at the annual Agency of the Year Awards.

“What was hugely important to us was culture, agility, speed and creativity. What we didn't want was just another creative agency," Light said.

Competition among traditional ad agencies will hit breaking point this year, with PWC, Ernst & Young, Deloitte, KPMG and IBM all signaling their intent to move into the digital marketing space. But Light said there was no real cause for concern.

"I know much has been made of ad agencies looking at the big four accounting firms going into this space and I think we need to be clear about the kind of work that we do. Some of it clearly overlaps and in other areas we work very closely with agencies.

“We are not doing individual campaigns. The CEO’s agenda is transformation. They are looking at things from organisational change, internal comms or launching a new part of the business. When it’s sponsored by the CEO, you need multiple parts of the C-Suite to come together and in some cases the CMO will have an agency-of-record, but we will work very closely with them.

“Is there overlap with branding, design and creative agencies? The answer is yes, but when you look at what big transformation clients are asking, it's a very strong mix of creative, analytics, technology and business strategy. The agencies have often lived in a world where they partner within that ecosystem.

“That is the new normal. We are working in a world where we have to more collaborative in how we work with clients and the problems they have."