Michael Spellacy has joined Interpublic Group's Hill, Holliday, Connors, Cosmopulos as evp, strategic consulting and business planning, succeeding Rob Scalea, who left in May to build a consulting practice at J. Walter Thompson, New York.
Spellacy previously was a managing director at technology consultancy Scient and has held posts at Hill, Holliday client PricewaterhouseCoopers. The immediate goal is to provide Hill, Holliday with "a vehicle to deepen and extend client relationships" with key financial companies such as FleetBoston Financial—the shop's largest account—and John Hancock Financial Services, Spellacy said.
He oversees a 10-person department, reporting to agency president Mike Sheehan. Spellacy's analytic skills and track record of building relationships with global clients such as American Express, Citibank and Merrill Lynch make him a good fit for Hill, Holliday, Sheehan said.
Hill, Holliday in Boston, JWT, Arnold, BBDO and Young & Rubicam are among the large agencies that have in recent years sought to establish consulting as a vibrant profit center in order to attract new business and expand relationships with clients.
Analysts agree that the idea of ad shops offering consulting services has great potential, especially in tough times. The success of such ventures, however, has been difficult to gauge.
"Agencies, especially the larger ones, have to get in early on that in order to compete with the McKinseys of the world," said Bill Montbleau, president of consultancy Montbleau Associates, Burlington, Mass. "For the future, this will be critical."
London-based holding company WPP Group said in its 2001 annual report that global information and consultancy businesses saw 14 percent increases in gross profit and operating margins over the previous year. Neither IPG nor Omnicom specifically addressed the performance of strategic consulting in financial statements. In May, IPG hired Kelly O'Dea from Foote, Cone & Belding to help build a strategic consulting practice inside the company's Advanced Marketing Services Group [Adweek, May 20].
Kurt Barnard, president of Barnard's Retail Consulting Group, Upper Montclair, N.J., raised the spectre of conflicts of interest arising when agencies, wishing to sell advertising to clients, also attempt to consult on financial or operational matters. Montbleau disagreed. "If they're going to that agency for consulting, they're [most likely] going to spend their money there for advertising," he said.