“Even if that doesn’t occur, this was the logical next step in us going to market more effectively. We’ve created a culture of collaboration with a highly specialized, highly individualized offering,” MDC Partners chairman and CEO Mark Penn told Adweek, contrasting the hiring with holding companies that have consolidated with combined offerings, which he said lead to a loss of “expertise and culture.”
“We’re creating integrated solutions that sit on top of individual expertise,” he added, with McGlashan helping to bring those offerings together. “As [creative and media] move together, we have to have integrated up-leveled solutions, [which] Deirdre has done her entire life.”
McGlashan joins MDC Partners from GroupM agency MediaCom, recently selected as Adweek’s 2021 Global Media Agency of the Year, where she served as global chief digital officer. She said she was enticed by the unique opportunity to take on this leadership role and work with the products and capabilities of MDC Partners, particularly with the prospect of the Stagwell Partners merger.
In the new role, McGlashan will evolve MDC Partners’ global media, data and technology capabilities, working closely with leadership teams at MDC Partners media agencies and reporting directly to Penn. Acting as a central client resource, she will also be responsible for identifying emerging media platforms, partners and technology solutions, as well as leading collaborative global pitches at the network level.
A founding partner at AnalogFolk earlier in her career, she has also held leadership roles at Aegis Media, Carat and Isobar. McGlashan said her wealth of experience and longevity in the industry gave her unique insights into assessing emerging platforms and opportunities.
“I can see something new and ask if it’s really new,” she said. “Also, having come from the tech side of things, I know how a lot of things are built. I have to follow the latest trends, but my job is to find out if it’s a trend, where it’s coming from and where it’s going.”
A time of change
She arrives at MDC Partners following a transformative year not just for the network but the entire media landscape.
“This last year has been such a shakeup. Digital transformation accelerated faster than anyone could have anticipated. We as people, having lived through this pandemic, have such high expectations for companies,” McGlashan said. “What clients are looking for now is a consultative approach. There are so many different pieces that prior to the pandemic could be looked at as different silos. That doesn’t work anymore. The first touchpoint could be in any of those silos, and consumers expect it to be carried over.”
These changes have made integrating data capabilities into media offerings even more critical to clients and an important part of the chief media officer role.
Penn explained that MDC Partners is working in conjunction with Stagwell to build a proprietary data platform that would combine first party data, third party data and “millions of interviews done weekly by Stagwell Partners research companies,” something he views as a key differentiator.
“Most attempts today are combinations of first- and third-party data alone, with very little integration of research operations into audience creation, targeting and activation on a real-time basis,” he said. “There’s a simple reason for that: Most of the agencies don’t have these assets, or have these assets somewhat divorced from media operations. We’re bringing this together.”
“When I think about what consumers are looking for now … media is much more a consumer experience orchestration. That’s why you have to have all of the bits Mark’s assembled,” McGlashan said. “If you don’t understand the tech and data sciences aspect, you’re not going to be able to take full advantage of that.”
McGlashan said she anticipated 2021 to contain its own transformative changes to the consumer experience and media landscape.
“I think the next wave of this is going to be [around] how does digital work with real life. We had a different mentality of what retail looked like before this, what the consumer experience looked like before this. When we move forward [from the pandemic], real-life consumer experiences will be different,” she said. “The way they interact with digital will look different than during Covid.”