Andrew Baxter joins KPMG in big four accounting firms' marketing push

The expansion of the big four ­accounting firms into marketing continues, with former Publicis Australia boss Andrew Baxter joining KPMG as a senior adviser.

Baxter, who was chief executive of Ogilvy for three years ­before taking the helm at Publicis in 2013, is an agency veteran whose CV includes campaigns such as Rhonda & Ketut for AAMI and Share a Coke for Coca-Cola.

In his new role with KPMG’s customer, brand and marketing advisory business, he will work with chief executives, chief marketing offices and boards with a view to bolstering sales without increasing their marketing spend.

“I do think marketing is the strongest growth lever that businesses have right now,” Mr Baxter told The Australian.

“Since the GFC, there’s been a huge amount of cost-cutting and efficiency drives within organisations, and now they’re looking for top line growth — and they’re looking to firms that can help them drive that growth.”

The appointment comes as rival accountancy firm Deloitte celebrates its Cannes Lions debut after picking up silver and bronze awards in the creative data category for a Great Barrier Reef Foundation campaign, in what is understood to be the first time a professional services firm has been recognised at the event.

“We couldn’t have done this if we weren’t a broadbased professional services firm — one that combines economics, business thinking and intelligence with ­inspired creativity and innovation,” Deloitte chief marketing ­officer Matt McGrath said.

KPMG launched its CBMA division last July as part of plans to aggressively expand its marketing practice, after rival PwC appointed Russel Howcroft to run its new CMO advisory practice and Accenture bought ­creative agency The Monkeys in a deal worth $63 million.

Under the leadership of Paul Howes, the division has grown to more than 100 people, including partners Lisa Bora, formerly of Google and The Australian, Acuity founder Amanda Hicks, Mark Hassell, previously of Virgin Australia, Karen Halligan, formerly of Zenith Sydney, and Louise Pogmore, who joined from One Green Bean.

For Mr Baxter, the move was a “natural progression” after seven years running communications groups and developing relationships with business leaders.

In his discussions with chief executives, he said the number one priority was a desire to maximise marketing spend in a fast-changing environment.

He added that marketing ­executives needed to step back and assess their marketing needs and identify areas for improvement, rather than rushing straight to a perceived “solution”.

“Marketing has changed so much in the past 10 years; they’re really looking to how they can ­optimise their spend,” he said.

Mr Howes, partner-in-charge of KPMG CBMA, said the division was “delivering work for some of Australia’s most forward-thinking organisations”.

He said Baxter had more than “25 years of pushing the status quo when it comes to helping brands connect with their ­customers” and would bring a “compelling lens to help our ­clients reshape their customer ­conversations”.

Mr Baxter will commence his role with KPMG later this year and will be based in Sydney.