Earlier this month, I noted Accenture’s words in publicly ending its relationship with Tiger Woods, having announced around December 13, 2009, that it would "immediately transition" to a new ad campaign, and then compared those words to the company’s actions in continuing to run the Tiger Woods airport ads even three weeks after their termination announcement. Right after Accenture’s announcement, Going Concern Blog asked "Who Will Replace Tiger Woods at Accenture?" They offered some possibilities, including Phil Mickelson, who is already tied to KPMG.

Accenture’s marketing team apparently spent some quality time at the zoo to come up with Tiger’s replacements, yes, that’s plural. A few days ago, in the Minneapolis airport, I saw Accenture’s answer to Going Concern’s question: Animals. Concourse G was sporting some brand new Accenture ads, one featuring an elephant balancing on a surfboard, with the tagline "Who says you can’t be big and nimble?," and another featuring some frogs hopping over one another with the tagline "Play quantum leapfrog." By the way, how nimble or quantum-oriented is a company that needs at least four weeks to have their words and actions begin to merge?

Putting aside the timing for a moment, you might ask, why animals? Clearly animal mascots and endorsers are a much safer option than human beings, for a variety of obvious reasons. Indeed, one Twitter user notes that using an elephant is "no risk." By the way, someone ought to remind Daniel Snyder of this if he ever has the wisdom to re-brand the Washington Redskins professional football team, as I have previously suggested.

Actually, the largest surprise during my experience in Concourse G, a few days ago, was seeing a lingering Accenture ad still featuring Tiger, now more than a month after Accenture’s promise of an immediate transition. The Tiger ad in question was of the thinker/doer variety, so a curious one to keep in circulation, as it appears Tiger is doing much more thinking than doing at the moment.

Given how long it has taken Accenture to "immediately transition" to new Tiger-free ads, given that it hasn’t yet successfully removed all Tiger ads from circulation, and given the damage it is believed that Tiger has caused to the Accenture brand, I’m left wondering whether companies plan for these kinds of endorsement-gone-wild contingencies as part of their crisis management planning. It would appear Accenture did not and was caught flat-footed, but who would have guessed, right? Nevertheless, Accenture’s unfortunate experience might be a good lesson to all those companies who closely link their reputation with endorsers or mascots outside of the animal kingdom. Perhaps having some pre-approved ads ready for emergencies would permit a nimbler and more quantum-like response when things go wrong.

With respect to the choice of animals, they certainly have served others well. For example, a clumsy white duck works for Aflac, and a little green reptile, seems to work pretty well for GEICO. To the extent either of those little guys offend, disgust, or embarrass anyone, at least Aflac and GEICO are in control of their words and actions, so any resulting damage is more easily considered a self-inflicted wound.

  • A useful question, Stephen.
    I expect no one @ Accenture thought they’d actually cut Tiger. Who wants to release a hero who’s done so much for so many for so long, without a snag? He was, or appeared, perfect – as long as no one saw him as he is — human. Which means, with flaws. Or whatever.
    Mesmerized by the investment they had in him — financially, promotionally, contractually, emotionally — they reacted with what all groups do – avoidance and denial. Until the last minute. With no back up plan, running around looking for a patch. I’m sure the many pre-bought ad placements took awhile to actually cease ROP. For all the talk of ‘responsiveness’, few big groups can move very fast, fewer still actually think ahead and prepare for that time when shit hits the fan. How many are actually integrated enough, or awake enough?
    The interesting point your question raises is: in an age of nano-second reaction time and press — and bigger disasters and consequences — why don’t more groups pre-plan responses to major shocks or emergencies to their brand integrity?
    I wonder what the actual Accenture client fallout (actual financial loss due to Tiger crash)was, if any?
    I guess if few communities – or even households — live in the complacent notion that “everything will always be OK because it’s OK now”, then that tells the why no one thinks ahead to Katrina or Haiti-like brand boom booms. Maybe it’s a new area for communication consultation — Brand Disaster Prep: what to do and how to prepare for when your brand goes down in flames. ( If you want to talk about that, I’m in.)

  • …..correction: “I guess if MOST communities – and households — live complacently….”

  • It seems Accenture resurrected some pre-Tiger ads. This makes perfect sense, given the “Holy crap we need to drop Tiger NOW!” panic that was probably going on behind the scenes.
    The current elephant ad with the headline “Who says you can’t be big and nimble?” was, as I recall, part of an Andersen Consulting campaign — before 01/01/01 when the name changed.
    Full disclosure: I worked on the Andersen Consulting/Accenture name change while working at Landor.

  • Pierre

    Hello Steve,
    quick question about the IP side of the Accenture ads.
    Can the idea of linking a business challenge to an animal be intellectually protected ?
    And is it actually protected ?