MDC Integrates Social Content Shop Attention Into Media Agency Assembly

CEO Martin Cass says the move stems from client demand

MDC Partners brings social media shop Attention under media agency Assembly.
Headshot of Lindsay Rittenhouse

Assembly, the MDC Partners-owned full-service media agency, announced the integration of social content shop Attention into its business, bringing creative capabilities in-house.

“There is a trend of creative agencies trying to bring media in-house, but this is completely the other way around,” Martin Cass, CEO of Assembly and MDC Media Partners, told Adweek, noting that gone are the days of “big ideas” coming only from creative agencies. Media agencies have access to the data and analytics that today fuel most creative. (To all the naysayers refuting that claim, look no further than Adweek’s 23 Best Media Plans.)

Being “able to put data and analytics into what is being produced” is “the real difference” here, Cass said, and the reasoning behind bringing Attention into Assembly. That, and both existing and “future” clients were demanding it.

Cass noted there were “frustrations” from certain clients, including potential ones, around Assembly being able to ideate innovative integrated media plans and then not having all the capabilities to fully develop them in-house.

While Attention will maintain its own brand and clients such as Constellation Brands, American Express and Nickelodeon, the shop’s 40-person team of creatives, strategists and community managers will move into Assembly’s Manhattan office to add social, content and creative capabilities to the media agency. The below 15-second spot for Attention client OtterBox, a consumer electronics accessory company, and its LifeProof brand, is an example of the sort of short-form digital videos the shop regularly produces.

“We’re thrilled to join the MDC Media Partners team, which we believe will strengthen our competitive advantage by enhancing access to audience data and technology to support our clients’ broadening needs,” Attention president Tom Buontempo said in a statement. “While traditional creative agencies try to pivot from legacy offerings with newfound claims to understand digital, social and media landscapes, this is the real deal, powered by proven infrastructure and expertise.”

According to sources familiar with the matter, today’s reported move comes after Assembly underwent significant layoffs earlier this month, cutting several department leads across strategy, new business and marketing. Cass confirmed the layoffs but said they were just a part of standard business proceedings, adding that Assembly is currently hiring across the board. Alex Witkowski, senior vice president of digital, was added to the agency’s Los Angeles office in August.

Still, one unnamed person attributed the layoffs to Assembly losing several new business pitches including for the media accounts of Revlon, which was sent to Initiative; LVMH (Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton), which went to Dentsu Aegis Network (DAN); Quicken Loans, awarded to IPG Mediabrands’ UM; and Dunkin’, which went to Publicis Media. Uncertainty around the 21st Century Fox account picked up by Assembly in 2016, as the Disney takeover looms, was another reason cited by the person for the layoffs.

MDC Partners itself, which is undergoing a review to better determine its financial stability, reported a net loss earlier this week of $18.2 million for the recent quarter ending on Sept. 30. Sources have told Adweek, including those who spoke for this story, that multiple MDC-owned agencies have discussed the possibility of buying themselves back from their parent company.

@kitten_mouse Lindsay Rittenhouse is a staff writer at Adweek, where she specializes in covering the world of agencies and their clients.