Campaign reported this week that Accenture Interactive has launched a new “programmatic unit in response to ‘significant’ client demand”. The unit will reportedly “help clients to manage their programmatic ad-buying in-house and serve as an agency to plan and buy programmatically on a client’s behalf”.

Ebiquity believes this announcement shows Accenture is positioning itself as a clear alternative to the established media agency groups. But more importantly from the perspective of advertisers, the news highlights serious conflicts of interest. For the company is now involved in media planning and trading, consultancy on in-housing, and auditing media performance. It is a move that compromises Accenture’s independence.

Today, Campaign broke further news with the feature ‘Accenture faces ‘conflict of interest’ questions over buying programmatic and auditing media  whereby multiple specialist consulting firms and media agencies have shared their opinions and are in agreement that there is a ‘clear conflict’.

Ebiquity and FirmDecisions, Global Chairman of Media, Alan Rutherford, comments:

Accenture’s announcement is a game-changer. Yes, it establishes them as genuine competitor to media agencies for media trading services, and it’s a clear sign that they’re after media agency business. Agency groups will understandably be unhappy with this announcement, given that Accenture already has access to confidential client and agency media data and financial information, through its legacy media auditing services.

“Brands working with Accenture should be vigilant and start asking difficult questions. No company can credibly give independent advice on media planning and media strategy – and on whether to in-house programmatic – if they’re actively involved in trading media inventory and advising brands to in-house. This latest move compromises Accenture’s ability to give unbiased advice. Given this conflicted position, we would advise advertisers, agencies, and other media supply chain vendors to interrogate the confidentiality of their media data when working with Accenture.”

Ebiquity believes that brands should always seek independent advice when considering bringing programmatic media trading in-house, as this is not always in their best interests. This is because of the complex nature of media trading and the often-significant investments required. Rutherford continues:

Advertisers should not take advice from a company that routinely recommends programmatic services are brought in-house. This Accenture’s default position, and they clearly stand to benefit from that process.”

Ebiquity further recommends that advertisers using Accenture for media measurement and auditing should question whether their data is being treated with total confidentiality. So, too, should their media agencies and other vendors in the media trading ecosystem.