The merger and acquisition (M&A) market within the ad industry is currently very active and evolving as reflected by such transactions as WPPs investments in Comscore and Rentrak -- and Publicis’ acquisition of Sapient.
Now, two former MDC Partners veterans are introducing R&D Venture Partners to specialize in strategic M&A, focusing on small to mid-size companies in the marketing services, ad tech and marketing tech spaces. The firm will offer strategic planning, exit planning and M&A execution services, as well as periodically take venture investment positions in "nascent business that are poised for growth."
R&D has been founded by Rob Dickson and Donna Granato.
Dickson has over 30 years of experience in M&A, including over 15 years of dedicated M&A and business management experience in advertising and marketing services. From 2000-2011 he served as managing director at MDC Partners where he helped took the lead on numerous acquisitions including 72andSunny, Anomaly, Crispin Porter+ Bogusky (CP+B) and Kirshenbaum Bond Senecal + Partners (kbs).
It was during his tenure at MDC Partners that he began working with Granato, a seasoned finance and M&A veteran. From 2005-2012 she was a member of the management team at MDC Partners. In her role as senior vice president, corporate development, she oversaw the acquisition of over 15 marketing services companies. Throughout her over 20 year career, she has focused on managing and acquiring businesses for the world’s largest holding and media companies including Tribune Media, Interpublic and Omnicom. She also has experience as media investment banker for Citigroup.
Together these two executives will oversee a firm designed to have a "modern and flexible model built around our industry relationships to build partnerships, affiliations and specialized freelance resources to service our clients on the most effective basis," says Dickson. "We will have a low overhead model to service the mid M&A market on a competitive basis."
Dickson says his biggest challenge -- and opportunity -- is the current disruption in marketing and communications. "The industry is itself very dynamic because of the technology revolution that has led to the proliferation of data, new media platforms and new methods of creation and distribution of content. And of course mobile which transcends all," he says.
"In the M&A world, this has led to a trend whereby agency holding companies and other new entrants to the [marketing/communications] space are looking to acquire companies with specialized skills to manage and exploit technologies that can improve the efficacy of their advertising.”
R&D is based in New York and Toronto, said Dickson, because "we both worked at MDC Partners which was founded in Toronto and migrated to New York in 2003. Our practice covers North America which is essentially one market - the dominant marketing market. We are unique in our experience in cross-border M&A transactions."
The shop is already active in deal-making. Recent projects include the acquisition by Engagement Labs of specialist market research company, Keller Fay in July, as well as the company’s earlier purchase of social media specialist Entrinsic. It was also involve with the sale of digital services agency, Twist Image to the JWT Group.