Anomaly’s Carl Johnson is already putting MDC Partners’ money to work.
Days after selling a majority stake of his agency to MDC, Johnson has hired Publicis’ Alex Van Gestel in the new position of executive director of worldwide brands. Both the deal and the new post underscore Johnson’s desire to expand existing client relationships and open new offices in Brazil, China and Western Europe.
Van Gestel will be based in New York—where Anomaly launched in 2004—and will manage eight brand directors in both New York and London, where the shop opened in 2009.
To date, the agency’s relationships with global brands have been limited mainly to regional markets, with the shop, for example, working on Budweiser in the U.S. and Sony Electronics across Europe. Anomaly also handles Diageo’s Captain Morgan globally, and Nike Inc. brands Converse and Umbro in both the U.S. and Europe.
Beyond brand management, Johnson expects Van Gestel to help Anomaly lay the groundwork for opening in Brazil and China.
“Now that we have made a strategic decision to expand globally, it is critical to bring in the very best and not simply play at it,” Johnson said. “His role is to explore cross-border opportunities for each brand to develop ways to best draw out resources throughout the network—be it talent, tools, systems or processes to support client needs and deliver against their objectives for growth.”
Van Gestel, 39, has spent the past four years at Publicis Groupe’s Publicis in New York, where, as an evp and group director, he worked on brands such as Citi and, more recently, Hilton. Before Publicis, Van Gestel was a global brand director (on Volvo) at Havas’ Euro RSCG. Earlier in his career, he held account leadership roles at WPP Group’s JWT and Publicis Groupe’s Leo Burnett.
Van Gestel described his arrival at Anomaly as the “first tangible symbol” of the shop’s “new direction to go global,” adding, “They are a global brand agency and they have that vision moving forward.”
The combination of managing multiple global brands and helping to plot Anomaly’s expansion appealed to Van Gestel, who wasn’t interested in just another global account management job. And when MDC made its investment, Johnson’s vision of opening in more markets became more concrete for Van Gestel.
MDC took an estimated 60 percent stake in Anomaly, which at the end of 2010 had total revenue of about $20 million. Johnson declined to discuss the dollar amount of the investment but, in a report last week, industry analyst Matthew Chesler of Deutsche Bank said MDC “may have paid $15-20 million up front for its interest.”