Alison Weissbrot
Sep 29, 2020

MDC Partners is latest holding company to centralise tech strategy

The network is launching a global technology group to support its agencies and enable more collaboration.

MDC's centralized tech group is also working on the holding company's new headquarters at World Trade Center 1 in New York City. Source: Unsplash
MDC's centralized tech group is also working on the holding company's new headquarters at World Trade Center 1 in New York City. Source: Unsplash

MDC Partners has always leaned into agency independence. But that’s changing under the leadership of CEO Mark Penn, who wants the group (home to agencies like Anomaly, 72andSunny, and Forsman & Bodenfors) to collaborate more than in the past.

To enable that, MDC launched a global technology group on Monday to streamline pockets of technology and tech-focused talent across its agencies.

“Traditionally, the model allowed the agencies to do what they needed to do from an IT and technology perspective,” said John Georgatos, global chief information officer at MDC. “Looking across the board, we have really good talent, but they were working in a very siloed way specific to that agency.”

Technologists across MDC agencies will report up to Georgatos and into the global technology group, while continuing to work inside their firm on a day-to-day basis. The group is 65 people and growing.

“What we could have done is take people out of their environment and culture,” said Jason Cammorata, SVP and global head of operations at MDC. “But we kept them mostly aligned to their business units and created this center of excellence.”

MDC began forming the global tech group in October 2019, with a focus on the unsexy but important work of centralizing IT and cybersecurity and standardizing remote working tools. Now, the group is starting to support client work by speeding up digital asset management and production.

“We want to help on the infrastructure side to do production in a more efficient way,” Georgatos said.

But the group is focused on more than just efficiencies. To encourage more cross-agency work, MDC elevated Paul Lammert, previously business technology partner at creative shop Colle McVoy, as global head of collaboration. He will spend his first three months on the job working closely with MDC global president Julia Hammond to bring agencies together for company-led pitches.

The group will also build tools to help agencies in different regions and markets collaborate on client work. For one global client, for example, it built a central platform for local teams to access client information and make custom content requests.

“We're fine-tuning our formula to offer [more] services to larger clients, and to find the right tools to help us collaborate as a group,” Georgatos said.

MDC will also focus on equipping employees with the tools they need for the future of work. The global technology group has migrated all staffers onto laptops and moved its infrastructure into the cloud to support remote working.

However, the team hasn’t given up on office life yet. The global technology group is helping to design MDC’s new headquarters at One World Trade Center in New York City for a post-COVID world, with voice-controlled conference rooms and fully wireless connectivity.

“We live in an environment where we want more touchless things,” Georgatos said.

MDC is not the first holding company to try its hand at technology-driven collaboration -- just look to GroupM’s multiple iterations of mPlatform -- but it says it can move faster than its peers because of its smaller size. The global tech group got MDC’s entire network up and running on shared IT and security systems within four months, a process normally takes between six months and a year, Georgatos said.

The proof, of course, will be in the pudding. 

“The most important thing is being able to support our creatives to better support our clients,” Georgatos said. 

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