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MDC's Nadal Uses Bigger Rivals as Foil

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Don’t call Miles Nadal an acquirer. Rather, the CEO of MDC Partners sees himself as a strategic partner to the agencies he buys.

Nadal stressed that point on Wednesday (March 9) during an interview with The New York Times’ Andrew Ross Sorkin at the 4A’s Transformation 2011 conference in Austin, Texas. Largely, the head of one of the smaller ad holding companies used his half-hour with Sorkin to distance himself from the CEOs of industry giants WPP Group, Omnicom Group and Interpublic Group, who had just left the stage.

Noting WPP CEO Martin Sorrell’s earlier point about the need for the industry to add chief talent officers on their boards, Nadal said bluntly, “Well, that’s bullshit because I am the chief talent officer. That’s my primary responsibility.”

As for clients not always thanking agencies for great work—a complaint of Omnicom CEO John Wren—Nadal said holding companies themselves don’t do enough to recognize their employees. “In our particular case, anytime there’s a birthday, somebody does anything terrific, they get an appointment, they do some phenomenal work, I am the first person to send them a note and say, ‘Congratulations on what you did. We’re very privileged by our association with you and it’s people like you that reinforce our reputation as a place where great talent lives.’”

Of course, MDC—with an annual revenue of approximately $700 million and some 14,000 employees—is a fraction of the size of the other holding companies. Nadal can afford to shower his agency leaders with affection simply because it’s a much smaller group. That said, his reputation for providing money and support to agencies like Crispin Porter + Bogusky without telling them what to do makes MDC more appealing to some shops looking to sell. He also generally doesn’t buy 100 percent of what he invests in, as was the case in his early 2011 deals with Anomaly and 72andSunny.

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