London — The Cannes Lions festival is the ad industry’s biggest annual gathering, a place where the best campaigns are honoured at glitzy ceremonies and clients are courted over chilled bottles of the local rosé. But this year you would be forgiven for thinking you’re at a 1980s accounting conference. Yachts from Accenture and PwC flanked the beach, and the biggest billboard — plastered on the side of the Palais des Festivals des Congrès de Cannes — featured IBM, the company behind mainframe computers. Deloitte hosted a full week of events on the future of marketing at the five-star Barrière Le Majestic hotel. Accenture won its first Grand Prix award for an ad it did for the Times of London. McKinsey hosted a rooftop cocktail party. Their outsize presence reflects the seismic shift confronting Madison Avenue. Traditional agencies are already under pressure as the likes of Facebook and Google pull in marketing dollars and cut out agency middlemen. But the consultants pose an even gre...

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