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Serviceplan and Stagwell Group strike transatlantic media alliance

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By Sam Bradley, Journalist

October 13, 2021 | 5 min read

Stagwell Group and Serviceplan Group have teamed up across the Atlantic for a strategic media buying partnership. What’s behind this transatlantic team-up?

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Serviceplan and Stagwell have announced a transatlantic team-up for media buying and planning

Stagwell Group, the American ’challenger’ agency network led by former Microsoft executive Mark Penn, and Serviceplan Group, the largest independent agency network in Europe, have struck a strategic partnership across their media operations.

The alliance between the two agency groups will see Serviceplan’s Mediaplus Group work ’hand-in-hand’ with Stagwell Media Network, with the aim of expanding their respective footholds in the US and western Europe. Clients of either group will be offered services derived from the other, the groups said.

Chairman and Stagwell chief executive officer Penn said: “This strategic alliance creates a solid alternative to the legacy holding companies that until now have been a marketer’s only option when they want global scale. Collaborating with Serviceplan enhances our ability to deliver integrated customer experiences and targeted media strategies tailored to local markets in Europe and Asia-Pacific.”

Serviceplan boss Florian Heller said: ”Stagwell’s technology-first approach and deep expertise in media, creative and digital transformation are well matched to our capabilities and pave the way for rapid growth, scaled solutions and deeper local market expertise. This strategic alliance positions both companies to deliver unmatched business results for our clients.”

Why have the two groups teamed up?

The partnership will oversee some $10bn in media. Stagwell will gain access to Serviceplan’s extensive media network and its AI-based buying systems – it’s the largest indie media buyer in Europe – while the Munich-headquartered group will in turn be able to access its New York counterpart’s suite of SAAS platforms, such as Koalifyed, CUE, PRophet and Harris Brand Platform. The recently-established Stagwell Media Network includes Assembly, MMI Agency, Media Kitchen, Grason, Gale, Multiview and Locaria.

Speaking to The Drum, Deirdre McGlashan, chief media officer, Stagwell, said that the alliance will help multiply the strengths of each partner. “With Serviceplan’s strong capabilities in local markets and the cross-border approach we both take, our globally combined 15,000 team members have exactly the right mix of digital and traditional media capabilities to drive greater results for our clients.”

“Today, companies operate transcontinental, so we also have to set up the strategy, planning and buying of media across all borders. With Stagwell, we have found our counterpart as an independent yet internationally active agency network on the other side of the Atlantic,“ added Matthias Brüll, chief executive officer at Mediaplus International.

He said access to Stagwell’s SAAS platforms would provide further benefit to the company’s clients. ”This enlarges the scope of services that we can deliver for clients, not only in the US market for the future, but also in the European market. This another great benefit for us in that relationship with Stagwell.”

How did the partnership come together?

According to Brüll, the alliance has been in the works for the last six months, aided by the shared history of several Serviceplan and Stagwell executives, who all worked together at WPP’s Mediacom earlier in their careers.

”As independent players, we share some similarities. We talked about how we approach the market. What is the strength in being independent? What does the market really need? What questions do clients have today? And what were the barriers when we were on the other side?” said Brüll.

According to McGlashan, the move is about both companies gaining scale ”in the modern way.”

”Quite frankly, as integrated and complex as media has gotten, it really is about having the right skill set, leveraging the right knowledge across the markets. That’s why this coming together of these two independents – with each of our capabilities and additional ancillary capabilities – is more that we bring each other.”

Can it make Stagwell and Serviceplan more competitive?

McGlashan argues the alliance gives each group an edge over the dominant holding companies. ”With their strong capabilities, our strong capabilities in the market, and the fact that both of us take a cross-border approach ... we are going after business that would normally have gone to the traditional holding companies. We are in quite a few pitches with them,” she said.

”If you rewind ... five years ago, we were small independents that were growing. [Now] we are outpacing them in terms of growth.”

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