‘Today is the beginning of a new model’: How The Monkeys and Accenture plan to offer ‘the best’ customer experience

Following years of speculation about when they would sell - and who to - The Monkeys yesterday announced it had been bought by Accenture. Mumbrella’s Zoe Samios talks with The Monkeys and Accenture about their new business model, and how The Monkeys will operate under new ownership.

The announcement Accenture has bought multi-award winning creative agency The Monkeys and its design agency Maud could be considered the acquisition of the decade, but for the head of Accenture Interactive Australia New Zealand Michael Buckley, it’s the beginning of a “new model.”

Speaking with Mumbrella, Buckley says Accenture’s acquisition of The Monkeys will mean clients and chief marketing officers will now be able to create “the best customer experiences on the planet”. 

Buckley: The beginning of a “new model”

“The most important thing to say is that today is the beginning of a new model. What I mean by a new model is that it’s now part creative, part consultancy, part technology that comes together,” he says.

“What that means for our clients and the CMO is they now have the ability to create the best customer experiences on the planet, end to end.

“The combination we feel is not just ‘one plus one equals two’, but ‘one plus one equals 10’ and that combination is actually going to re-write the models that have been done today.”

The acquisition of the agency, which is now in its 11th year, marks a new stage for the three friends who began ‘Three Drunk Monkeys’ with $10,000 each.

According to The Monkeys’ CEO and co-founder Mark Green, the acquisition, which will also see the creative agency launch in Melbourne within the next six months, is part of plans to brave “the change the industry needs”.

“We kind of like the road less travelled and doing things differently, taking on the change the industry needs. We like that scale of challenge and that’s what presenting itself with this combination,” Green says.

Mark Green

Green: “We kind of like the road less travelled and doing things differently”

“It will be exciting for all of our staff, because they’ll learn new things so they can bring more innovative solutions to the table.

“We learn new things as well, we always want to keep evolving and every year we want to do something we haven’t done before on scale – and this [acquisition] represents that and that’s always been what we’ve been about.”

Commenting on what The Monkeys and Maud add to Accenture Interactive, Patricio De Matteis, managing director Asia Pacific, says the professional services firm would never have been able to deliver an “outcome-based model” without the latest acquisition.

“As we were looking at our end-to-end proposition, with our focus on delivering the best customer experiences for our clients, we couldn’t look at the whites [our clients’ eyes] without the capabilities The Monkeys and Maud bring.

“If we’re thinking about delivering and re-imagining products and services, without re-imagining and pushing the boundaries of provocative ideas at the brand level, we’re never going to be able to actually truly deliver an outcome-based model which is one of the key things that we want to explore going forward with our clients and connecting an end-to-end proposition with a sole focus on experience.”

Mumbrella understands Accenture’s proposition wasn’t the first time The Monkeys had been approached to sell, and with PWC allegedly involved in the early stages of the process this time around, there is no doubt the agency has been in high demand.

However, Justin Drape, chief creative officer and co-founder, says the reason behind the final decision was wanting to do something that “redefines the industry.”

“Whenever we were going to grow, we wanted to take what we were doing to a larger scale, and we wanted to continue to offer something that redefines the industry, because we’ve done that since day one. And this is an offering that will do exactly that from day one.

Drape: Accenture’s acquisition came from The Monkeys wanting to do something that ‘redefines the industry’

“Suddenly CMOs have the option to get a completely coherent outcome with their brands and customer experience so it was something we saw the potential in and immediately staff at both Accenture Interactive and The Monkeys have seen the potential in it.”

Scott Nowell, chief creative officer and co-founder, says an important part of the decision to become part of Accenture came down to a discussion around culture.

“From the outset it was a very different conversation, both on a business level – the strengths that we both bring to the table adds up to a lot for our clients –  but also in particular the attention that Accenture pays to staff.

“Instead of this hardcore margins conversation, the conversation is about what challenge you have, how can we add things together to make it grow for them? The culture stays the same, the culture grows and how do we grow opportunities for our staff and our talent? That was a very different conversation and immediately put us at ease.”

“By no means” the end of Accenture’s acquisition journey

While the latest purchase marks the 12th for Accenture globally, Buckley says it was “by no means” the end of the firm’s acquisition journey.

Prior to The Monkeys, the firm acquired Kunstmaan last month as well as Kamarama in late 2016.

“This is the beginning, you can’t underestimate what we’re up to. We’re a very successful business. In AI [Accenture Interactive] we’ve got up to 250 staff, and this adds to that,” he says.

“There’s so much more, I can’t tell you the passion that our clients already have for this combination.”

While The Monkeys and Accenture would not disclose the financial details of the acquisition, they revealed it does not include the agency’s ice-cream brand, Homer Hudson.

When asked what The Monkeys added to the suite of agencies acquired by Accenture since 2013, Buckley says it completed the “end-to-end customer experience” offering.

“When we now go and talk to a CMO, we can actually offer them the customer experience and improve customer experience end-to-end.

“Where the Monkeys stop, is where we begin.”

However, De Matteis points out the brand, which has a “clear acquisition strategy” locally and across the Asia Pacific, has to “play the inorganic card quite aggressively” to sustain the growth and quality Accenture seeks. 

De Matteis: Accenture to continue to “play the inorganic card aggressively”

He adds: “It is important we focus on The Monkeys and Maud and focus on the opportunities we have in the Australian market first, solidify those and then extend either with our clients, or with our growth of digital studios across Singapore, Hong Kong and Tokyo going forward.”

From The Monkeys’ perspective, Nowell says the partnership could “really change the landscape” if the full offering is connected for clients.

“You can’t make a brand with communications now, you have to be a brand with excellent customer experience and brand strategy can come out of that, or the other way.

“But the important thing is to connect the dots and we immediately saw massive advantages we could take to market.”

Nowell: Partnership could “change the landscape”

Drape agrees, adding the combination would “create the best customer experience on the planet”.

“We experienced a lot of brand transformation in what we do with our clients, and occasionally we have some platforms or tools that help with the business transformation.

“These guys are experts in complete transformation and if you combine those two things together you are going to have businesses and brand transformation that will create the best customer experience on the planet.”

As part of the acquisition, The Monkeys and Maud will retain their clients, utilising the offering Accenture provides wherever appropriate.

The agency will also look to collaborate with current Accenture clients as seeking new clients together.

“In some instances, The Monkeys and Maud will work with their existing clients as they do right now. In others, new opportunities will present themselves where the group can provide a solution,” Green explains.

“It’s finding the right opportunities and not force fit anything upon anyone but where the opportunity rises taking it.

“There’s already probably clients we can do that with together, and we talk about ‘well done’ instead of ‘well said’ and we are looking forward to doing the work and showing the world what it will bring to the table.”

Leadership, upholding culture and The Monkeys’ legacy

While there is always a debate as to whether an agency loses its culture following an acquisition, The Monkeys’ Green is adamant the agency will continue to work as they have been.

“We take pride in having grown from the three of us to what we will grow to next and the expansion that has been spoken about today is a part of that.

“I think that is a pretty good legacy. But it’s just getting started. We are at 11 years now and there’s a lot more to do on a bigger scale and we are going to be part of that future.

“We have all signed up to it and we are looking forward to remaining doing what we’re doing. Running the businesses as we run them, with the teams we run them with.”

The Monkeys currently has 130 employees and some of Australia’s biggest clients including Telstra, Qantas and Meat and Livestock Australia

Buckley adds: “The leadership team at The Monkeys and Maud does not change today or tomorrow. They just become part of the Accenture Interactive leadership team within Australia.”

He points out it was important for the new model The Monkeys’ management team remained the same.

“When I say we have a new model, this new model represents a strategy we have collectively come together to do and that new model of part creative, part consultancy and part technology is about opportunity for the staff as well as our clients.

“Based off what we saw this morning, our staff are very excited and we will see in the future how it pans out.

“What we are creating is an opportunity for this strategy to pan out and long may it last,” he says.

“The Monkeys are the best, one of the more awarded creative agencies in Australia. There are very integral reasons to why we bought them and it’s very important their management team comes as they are today and we become one big family now.”

Like Buckley, De Matteis says staying “true” to cultures would also be critical, along with getting clients involved in defining the “new new”.

However, while The Monkeys hopes to keep things running as they are, he acknowledges there will be “a huge transformation” in the way Accenture Interactive will talk to brands going forward.

“There will be a huge transformation in the way we speak to our clients going forward as AI [Accenture Interactive] holistically, and that combination between creative, management consulting and technology is critical for us to have the three Monkeys but also the broader leadership at The Monkeys and Maud to really shape our new future,” he says.

While The Monkeys and Maud may no longer be able to promote themselves as ‘independent’, Green says the agency’s proposition – “provocative thinking – will remain.

“Provocative thinking is what we do and that will remain and yeah we are looking forward to keeping that entrepreneurial type spirit alive. That’s how we are.

“We can’t change because this has happened. We are all still pretty young and hungry and the best days are ahead of us. And we are looking forward to doing cool stuff. That’s what we get out of bed to do everyday and that’s not going to change.”

On speculation that the three co-founders will depart the agency once the transition is over – as so often happens with mergers and acquisitions, Green says: “We are staying with the company for as long as we will be there.”

Nowell adds: “From a tagline perspective, The Monkeys and Maud are now a part of Accenture Interactive but that family, as I talked about the numbers before, is a lot larger. Even on an existing client we share it’s how do we make that larger.

“If we are absolutely focused on creating the best customer experiences on the planet, it’s what does that customer experience look like across every single channel now? And that’s what we can bring to our clients.”


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