MDC Partners Shuffles Media Units, Spins Off ‘Assembly’

AssemblyArtAgency holding company MDC Partners has rebranded its Maxxcom Global Media unit as MDC Media Partners.

It has also rolled two prior agency acquisitions, TargetCast and RJ Palmer, into a new, 250-person-strong media agency called Assembly, which will function as a unit within MDC Media Partners.

Assembly combines resources from independent media communications agency TargetCast and full-service midsize agency RJ Palmer and counts 80-90 clients, including Pfizer, Purdue University and Expedia.

“The ambition of this business is to grow in a way that uses technology and automation to create efficiencies so we don’t have to rely on that linear relationship between growth in billings and growth in numbers,” said Martin Cass, who was appointed CEO of Assembly and MDC Media Partners.

Besides Assembly, MDC Media Partners, which represents the media assets and interests of the MDC Partners organization, will also house MDC’s trading desk Varick Media Management, The Media Kitchen, IMS, Doner Media and TradeX.

“It’s absolutely our intention to build off and use the capability in the tech stack to power a lot of the targeting and analytics we want to do at the heart of the agency,” Cass said.

Cass, who most recently served as president of independent media-buying agency Carat USA, said the digitization of media has made it particularly challenging for creative agencies to make a product or an idea more than just a passing fad. Digital channels and mobile have rendered the core competencies of many businesses “completely obsolete,” he said.

“A lot of agencies are on a four-year program to change their business, but [with the growth of programmatic and automation] you have to change much more quickly,” Cass said. “I want to start with a blank sheet of paper, take two really good agencies and put them together and allow us to invest heavily into our tech capabilities, the technology and creative.”

Steve Farella, CEO of TargetCast (who will also serve as chairman of Assembly and MDC Media Partners), agreed that fast-moving companies tend to be able to innovate. “We’re going to use our size as an advantage and move quickly,” he said.

The ability to be nimble is a logistical challenge as well as a cultural one, Cass said.

“Five hundred people is a good 150,000 square feet of New York real estate,” he explained. “You can’t just turn that off overnight. That business model will not allow them to pivot at the speed at which the market is moving. Alot of the ability to turn on a dime is culturally bleached out at the holding companies.”

In addition to Farella and Cass’s leadership positions, Isobar’s Chief Strategy Officer Michael Nicholas has joined Assembly as chief experience officer. Peter Knobloch, former CEO of RJ Palmer, will serve as chief investment officer for the new media agency.


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