Management consultancies 'not a material threat', says Huntsworth boss Taaffe

The CEO of comms group Huntsworth has told PRWeek that the possibility of large management consultancies muscling in onto the marcoms world is a "newsworthy threat" rather than a "material threat" to the industry.

Taaffe: relaxed about the management consultancy threat to marcoms
Taaffe: relaxed about the management consultancy threat to marcoms

Taaffe was speaking to PRWeek yesterday after the Huntsworth Health and Grayling owner acquired TCEG, the holding group for a trio of digital and experiential marketing businesses, for £24.7m.

Despite acquisitions such as Accenture buying Karmarama and its PR shop Kaper and similar deals in the US and elsewhere, Taaffe said he was not worried about the prospect of blue-chip consultancies eating the industry's lunch in a significant way.

"I would never underestimate any competitive threat, but it’s a newsworthy threat, it’s not a material threat," he said.

New York-based Taaffe said that such firms would find that their core business was far more lucrative than the work currently done by agencies. And he said another reason that they would be unlikely to move into marcoms territory was a likely culture clash when creative-minded agencies were bought by tech-focused consultancies.

"The people who work in these agencies tend to be creative people, and creative people tend to have a problem working in tech and management consultancies," he said.

Taaffe also noted that management consultancies had been talked of as a competitor of agencies for years, and that he had seen a "little trickle" of colleagues move to places such as McKinsey for at least a decade, but that this had not noticeably increased.

He acknowledged that making such a move could be an attractive prospect, joking: "It pays very well and you don’t have to work that hard."

Last year, PRWeek UK's 'Agony Uncle' Trevor Morris wrote that while "the threat of management consultants nicking PR work has been talked about for years... there are very few actual examples".

He went on to say: "PR is about persuasion, which requires empathy, emotional intelligence and sometimes creativity. These are not the strong cards of management consultants."


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