M&C Saatchi has bought a 33 per cent stake in New York agency Shepardson Stern & Kaminsky for $8m, with an option to buy the remainder in 2018. SS&K, which handles work for Wells Fargo, HBO, Starbucks and the White House, no less, and employs 60 people, claims profits of $1.8m.
SS&K founder Lenny Stern (left) says: “M&C Saatchi has been quietly turning itself into the nimble network alternative to holding company behemoths. For us, it means the chance to work internationally without losing our identity in a bureaucratic fly trap.”
This is the third foray by the Saatchi brothers into the US. When Charles and Maurice were running Saatchi & Saatchi it bought a raft of US agencies, most notably Bates for $500m, most of which withered and died. When the brothers founded M&C in 1995 they set up in New York, mainly to handle British Airways, but that operation failed to thrive as well, closing in 2007. It then tried again with Jeff Brooks as CEO but he left for a rival.
M&C is not alone in finding New York a struggle. BBH and Mother both set up in New York and, while they have won some decent business and creative renown, remain small in comparison to the established Madison Avenue giants. SS&K’s 60 people is hardly scale in US terms as 400 or so is the requirement for even medium size.
But with more than 20 offices worldwide, M&C needs a New York outpost to compete with the ‘behemoths’ Lenny Stern refers to. Most big global clients are still headquartered in the US.
It will be interesting to see if SS&K can be built into more than just an outpost.