Advertising Age reported MDC Partners created an “alliance” between White firms that will be led by Anomaly—a White advertising agency that insists it’s not a White advertising agency. Creating an “alliance” between enterprises within the arguably worst holding company is like fabricating a boy band comprised of American Idol first-audition rejects. It’s a smorgasbord of suck.
MDC Partners Unveils New Anomaly-Led Agency ‘Alliance’
The network, chaired by Carl Johnson, includes Y Media Labs, Mono, Hunter, Relevent and Concentric Health Experience
By Lindsay Rittenhouse
MDC Partners announced it is forming a new Anomaly-led “alliance” to house some of its digital, creative, public relations and healthcare capabilities as part of a continued effort to bring its agencies closer together.
The alliance, chaired by Anomaly Founding Partner and Executive Chairman Carl Johnson, encompasses digital innovation shop Y Media Labs; design and branding agency Mono; consumer marketing communications, PR and digital firm Hunter; creative experiences shop Relevent; and healthcare agency Concentric Health Experience.
Johnson tells Ad Age that this decision does not stem from “a desire to have an integrated offering” but it’s rather a “people- and values-driven thing.” He says bundling capabilities to “have one of them, one of them and one of them,” is an “old model” that he called “lumbering.”
“The idea behind this is to try to take advantage of experienced agency leadership to help the success of MDC,” Johnson says, noting how inefficient it is for the holding company to manage “40-plus” separate shops. “These are the agencies I chose. I started with leaders I can relate to. Who’s got ambition? Who is smart and who do I want to be in the room with? Where does the growth lie?” he adds.
Y Media Labs is based in Silicon Valley and led by Co-Founder-CEO Ashish Toshniwal and Co-Founder-President Sumit Mehra. Hunter has headquarters in New York and London and is led by CEO-Partner Grace Leong and Partners Jonathan Lyon, Donetta Allen, Gigi García Russo and Erin Hanson. Minneapolis-based Mono is headed by Founders and Chief Creative Officers Michael Hart and Chris Lange and Founder and Managing Partner Jim Scott. Relevent is located in New York and led by CEO-Founder Tony Berger.
Johnson says the agencies will all continue to operate under separate P&Ls and there are no plans at this time to consolidate offices. “Anomaly is never moving out of this building,” he adds. Anomaly was founded in New York and now houses offices in Los Angeles, Toronto, London, Amsterdam, Berlin and Shanghai.
Combined, the new network houses 1,400 employees (Anomaly staffs 850 of those people). Johnson says his role as chair of the “alliance” will be to “provide counsel, rather than getting into the details of their operations.” He says the network’s agencies will be able to lean on the talent and capabilities of each other, as needed. For example, Johnson says Anomaly partners with Hunter on its Diageo business and is working with Y Media Labs on “intellectual property development.”
The move follows MDC having combined its media, data and technology agencies under one network in July, as Adweek reported. That shift saw the merging of its data, technology, CRM and addressable content agency, Gale, with MDC Media Partners agencies Allegory, Attention, EnPlay, Trade X Partners, Unique Influence and Assembly. Media trading consultancy Varick also joined that network, according to Adweek.
In December, MDC also announced a new network led by Doner, and chaired by its CEO, David DeMuth. That network includes PR firm Veritas; shopper marketing agency 6Degrees Integrated Communications; brand and ad shop Yamamoto; creative, technology and media agency Union; brand strategy and digital PR firm KWT Global; and luxury and lifestyle PR agency HL Group. Johnson notes that the recent Anomaly-led alliance will likely not be the last.
The formation of these networks coincide with MDC Chairman and CEO Mark Penn’s grand vision to consolidate real estate and foster greater collaboration among the holding company’s various agencies that also include 72andSunny, Forsman & Bodenfors and CPB. Penn took over MDC following a $100 million equity investment by Stagwell Group—the advertising, PR and data analytics holding company Penn founded in 2015—in the holding company last March.
Penn has been tasked with reducing costs and leading a turnaround at MDC, which faces $1 billion in debt. MDC’s stock fell 12 percent after the company reported in November a decline of 8.8 percent in revenue for its most-recent third quarter and revised its organic revenue expectations for the full year to anticipate a decline of 3 percent to 5 percent. MDC has not yet announced when its fourth-quarter earnings will be released.