When Andersen Consulting emerged from its bruising battle with sibling rival Arthur Andersen last year as Accenture, many industry observers scoffed.

The name meant nothing, had a strange "greater-than" symbol perched above the letter "t", and most importantly - distanced itself forever from one of the most respected names in accounting and consulting.

Most observers at the time felt that Arthur Andersen was the clear victor in this war - they kept their lucrative and growing consulting practice (the bone of contention that ultimately split the two factions apart), plus they were now the proud, sole owners of the powerful 'Andersen' brand.

While the folks at Accenture publicly crowed about their new name and independence, they were no doubt privately quaking in their boots about how the loss of the Andersen name could affect their bottom line.

To make matters worse, according to Advertising Age magazine, the Accenture brand never really caught on, despite an expensive Super Bowl ad that one of its columnists called a "very expensive exercise in vanity and cluelessness."

Accenture got the message and spent last year taking their message instead to a smaller, more targeted audience through cable TV channels and corporate boardrooms - in the process turning a shaky start into a profitable, growing enterprise.

Accenture's lower profile also serendipitously severed in the public's mind any connection between Accenture and Andersen, which, following the Enron scandal, turns out to be the best news they've had all year.

Andersen probably wishes it had the luxury to turn its public relations nightmare around and regain its good name, but has more than an advertising trade publication and fickle public to answer to these days.

The firm is now in the unenviable position of seeing and hearing its name linked to the worst and most dishonest practices in the accounting profession, while Accenture enjoys the freedom of a new, untarnished name and reputation.

It makes one wonder about Accenture's tagline for its Super Bowl campaign, which now seems strangely prescient: "Now it gets interesting."

-Tracey Miller
tracey.miller@amgpubs.com

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