MDC Builds Secret Security Network

As digital intelligence becomes critical to agencies and clients, MDC Partners has quietly but "aggressively" built up its security network to protect data and information from hackers, MDC Partners' CFO David Doft told UBS media conference attendees in New York on Monday.

Doft acknowledges that MDC has not talked much about this capability, but says "fear is the key data friction point" with clients. They don't want to turn over data because they fear security breaches, he says. As a result, MDC has been investing to scale its security to the "highest levels."

The threat is real, as WPP found out earlier this year, when it was targeted as part of a global ransomware attack. The company maintained that no confidential or personal information was compromised. 

Security is critical because client data will drive the next wave of industry growth, said Doft. This intelligence will be paired with media buying to enable clients to better understand customers. For instance, it will make them rethink "vanity investments" such as golf sponsorships. "Do people actually see these things?" he asked.

This "new world order" will let clients know whether every single investment justify returns, says Doft.

MDC admits the network has not succeeded as well as it would like when it comes to media-buying pitches. Clients, Doft says, seem to prefer to remain with agencies that offer scale. He doesn't really understand their mind-set since the size of media doesn't matter when programmatic enables brands to "trade media like stocks."

MDC is "watching very closely," consulting firms as they increasingly encroach on Adland turf. That said, he believes they haven't yet figured out the creative side of the business, which is more complicated.

"They are a different type of employee," he says. Plus, companies like Accenture and IBM shouldn't expect agencies to sit back and let them take business share. MDC, for instance, is currently seeking acquisitions that will enable the network to scale faster around digital capabilities, specifically within the broader digital landscape such as commerce, content and data analytics.

Yet, Doft says their interest can only be beneficial. Their involvement makes for a "bigger pie for everyone to play in."

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