MDC Revamps Media Agency Operation, Hires Martin Cass to Run Combined Shop

RJ Palmer and TargetCast, Acquired in 2012, Merge to Form Assembly

By Published on .

Michael Nicholas, Martin Cass, Steve Farella
Michael Nicholas, Martin Cass, Steve Farella

MDC Partners has merged RJ Palmer and TargetCast to create a new media agency called Assembly, led by former Carat vet Martin Cass.

The Toronto-based holding company will also rebrand Maxxcom, its two-year-old media agency umbrella group, as MDC Media Partners. The network will house Assembly and MDC's other media outfits such as digital media operation Varick Media Management.

Mr. Cass, most recently president of Dentsu's Carat U.S. and the lead on the massive General Motors account, will serve as CEO of both Assembly and the agency network.

Mr. Cass graduated last month from a one-year advanced management program at The University of Pennsylvania Wharton School, where a professor introduced him to MDC Chairman and CEO Miles Nadal.

Steve Farella, who had been Maxxcom lead and TargetCast CEO, will become chairman of both Assembly and the network.

"We're looking for sufficient scale to able to compete for larger pieces of business going forward and to be able to bring the same level of sophistication, innovation and the outside-the-box thinking that we have in our creative advertising business," Mr. Nadal said.

It's also an efficiency play. "We're getting rid of the duplication of cost that you can further reinvest in better technology, tools and more talent to enhance the effectiveness of the offering," he said.

While the move should create efficiencies, MDC said it doesn't indicate any financial distress in the media operation. MDC's media agency business -- including TargetCast, RJ Palmer, Integrated Media Solutions, Varick, Media Kitchen and Doner Media -- grew both its revenue and bottom line 20% last year, Mr. Nadal said.

MDC acquired RJ Palmer in January 2012 and TargetCast only three months later.

The newly created media shop will help serve MDC's desire to create more dedicated and integrated client teams working on one P&L, according to Mr. Nadal. "We think the idea of the integration of media into our overall operation is really the future of gaining traction to enhance the effectiveness of media going forward," he said.

In addition to Mr. Cass, MDC tapped Michael Nicholas, former chief strategy officer of Isobar, to serve as Assembly's chief experience officer. Peter Knobloch, former CEO of RJ Palmer, will serve as Assembly's chief investment officer, leading all buying, while Jim Vail, former President of RJ Palmer; Audrey Siegel, former President of TargetCast; and Steve Minichini, former President of TargetCast's Interactive Marketing, will all serve as managing partners of the new agency.

The news of consolidation comes as most holding companies centralize and strengthen their digital media and data operations and invest in in technology that enables them to do more automated and targeted buys across traditional media like TV and new media like mobile and social platforms.

Those investments will be a priority for MDC, according to Mr. Cass, who said he'll have free rein to invest in the tools and ad tech partners necessary to grow the business.

MDC will continue to consider acquisitions in the media space and beyond, Mr. Nadal said.

"We have a lot in the hopper," he said. "We will be more acquisitive this year than we were last year, but not as ambitious as we were in 2009, 2010 or 2011."

Most Popular