MDC Partners, which sold a 30 per cent stake to Stagwell Group a couple of years ago, has moved to expand through a global “affiliate” programme, forming partnerships with agencies as a way to attract larger, more integrated accounts.
Mark Penn, who founded private equity firm Stagwell and is now chairman and CEO of MDC, aims to sign up 50 agencies by the end of this year on a “try before you buy” basis, with acquisitions on the cards if the relationships go well.
MDC’s affiliate agencies are in the fast-growing regions of Latin America, India, China and Asia Pacific with a bias towards e-commerce, content creation and social media.
Stagwell invested $100 million in MDC in 2019, and the two companies are currently awaiting a merger approval. The ambition is to build a $3 billion marketing services company by 2025, creating a very different beast from the days when MDC was dominated by big characters from the agency world like Chuck Porter and Alex Bogusky.
Penn, a former senior Microsoft exec and one-time CEO of WPP’s Burson-Marsteller, said: “Through strategic partnerships and investments in markets that are poised for growth, we’re doubling down on world-class talent, enhancing our global footprint, and investing in our clients’ future. We’re building a strategic, tech-centric and scalable global model for ambitious marketers, not the duplicative brick-and-mortar infrastructures typical of the traditional players.”
Affiliates include ecommerce agency Brand New Galaxy in Eastern Europe and MENA, performance marketing specialist Beyond Media Global in East Asia and North America, and creative web agency OKC.Media in Lithuania and Russia.
Traditionally based mostly in the US and Western Europe, the affiliate programme will build out MDC from its better-known base of agencies including Anomaly, 72andSunny, Crispin Porter and Forsman & Bodenfors.
Julia Hammond, who joined MDC Global as president from Deloitte in June 2020, is also a WPP alumnus. She said: “Our international growth strategy is three-pronged: building mission-driven, global client teams, diversifying our network with talent in new markets, and investing in technology and partnerships to enhance our content and e-commerce offering. We believe these are the imperatives that modern marketers need to thrive.”