Steve Farella is the Chairman and CEO of TargetCast, a full service media agency that was recently acquired by MDC Partners. Previously, Steve spent time at other notable agencies including Benton & Bowles, Y&R and MPG. We recently spoke with Steve about the beginnings at TargetCast and what they are working on now.
The Makegood: Steve, you launched Targetcast right after 9/11 and have said that you started the agency with “lunch money.” How did you endure and then prosper during that difficult period?
It’s true that Audrey Siegel and I started and grew TargetCast in one of the most difficult economic periods in recent history. In an odd way, this environment helped us succeed. First, we knew that when the business environment gets tough clients begin to question their resources. We wanted to be there whenever they were open to meeting with a new type of media agency. Secondly, we knew we need to have a laser focus on our positioning. As you know, we launched TargetCast for a sector we call “strong independent brands”. These are challenger brands that must fiercely compete for market share. As such, they need top talent, leading edge data and tools and a team driven to succeed.
The Makegood: The media agency business is very competitive but you successfully competed for clients like Pfizer, Expedia and Hotels.com. What made you think there was room for another media agency in New York?
As students of the business, we knew that the massive roll-up at the mega-media agencies created holes in their ability to service all but their largest clients. It’s just a fact, as great ideas come into these agencies, they don’t have the time to share them with all clients. We focused on the client group that viewed media and marketing as an essential element of their success and wanted to be on the leading edge. As we built our agency we kept our contacts with the media community to ensure that we would be the fastest and most effective “connector” of great ideas to strong independent brands.
The Makegood: Targetcast was recently acquired by MDC Partners, the agency holding company led by Miles Nadal. How long did that process take and what was it about MDC that made you accept the offer?
We were in discussions with MDC for quite a long time. TargetCast’s independence was very important to us yet we knew that as the communications landscape continued its fragmentation and became even more complex, there would be an even greater opportunity for disruption, benefiting us and our clients. As such, we would have to present friendly agency solutions including advanced analytics to manage, understand and model future communications solutions. MDC’s partnership proposal was very different and more intriguing than any other offer we were presented with. What we found compelling about MDC was the fact that they have a history of keeping their agencies independent, they are a “forward leaning” company and have a large number of innovative marketing services agencies in the group, as such, they have more revenue coming from the digital practice than any other holding company. Finally, we love being a challenger ourselves. What we saw in Miles was a leader that can help TargetCast improve its position as a challenger agency while in turn, we can help MDC improve its success as a challenger to the old line agency holding companies.
The Makegood: In addition to Targetcast, you will now also be leading Maxxcom Global Media, a division focused on all of MDC’s current and future media agency holdings. What are you goals for Maxxcom?
Maxxcom will become a leading edge media group where one solution does not fit all. As we know, leverage in the market is not created by scale. It’s created by information and analytic. Using strong data and technology the goal for the unit will be to help each of our agencies accelerate growth. We are fortunate to have a strong group of diversified agencies covering Communications Planning, Full Media Services, Direct Response, Digital Trading and Corporate Trade. We also have client offerings that are direct as well as fully integrated into MDC agencies. We’ll use these assets to help build a stronger offering for each of our media agency units by keeping a laser focus, once again, on our clients.
The Makegood: Thanks, Steve.