Why Accenture Bought a Digital Ad Agency

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Never has the notion of swimming outside one’s lane been so exciting.

Accenture, the spawn of Arthur Andersen turned consultant turned marketing guru, is buying Droga5, a buzzy advertising agency. Odd fit? Maybe. But consultants increasingly have been veering into the business of marketing. Clients that need IT strategies need marketing strategies that happen to be IT strategies these days.

Incidentally, the seller of nearly half of Droga5 is Endeavor, formerly known as WME and before that William Morris Endeavor. The point is that Endeavor at its core is a master lane switcher, a TV talent agency that bought a sports agency (IMG) and a stake in an ad business, too. Endeavor is staked by private-equity firm Silver Lake and has been rumored to be plotting an IPO. It bought the Droga5 stake for a reported $115 million in 2013. Selling out now for far more than that–terms weren’t divulged, but Droga5 is said to cooking with gas–would help pay down Endeavor’s debt before an offering.

The biggest metamorphosis expert in the land, of course, is Amazon, the cloud software enterprise that also sells books and a few million other things. It was the elephant in the room all week at Fortune‘s Brainstorm Health conference in San Diego. Morgan Stanley investment banker Cheri Mowrey noted that Amazon


has been out slyly sucking up information throughout the healthcare industry and already has shown a bit of its strategy with the purchase of online pharmacy PillPack. Haven, the secretive joint venture Amazon has formed with J.P. Morgan and Berkshire Hathaway, isn’t a for-profit company–and it is scaring the daylights out of healthcare services companies anyway.

On a final note, please check out this wonderful piece in the Financial Times by onetime journalist and current Suecophile Michael Moritz. It’s about a Swedish newspaper group that has thrived not by splashing into someone else’s lane, but by getting smart about its own digital business while prudently continuing to print newspapers.