by Johanna McDowell (@jomcdowell) The fifth virtual session of the AdForum Worldwide Summit 2020 on Friday 3 July kicked off with an introduction by Ryan Linder, MDC Partners global CMO, who advised that advertising and marketing holding company, MDC Partners, is in a time of of deep strategy, planning its future and knowing that the human spirit is alive and well.

The past 17 weeks

He showed us what happened within the group over the past 17 months and over the past 17 weeks during covid-19. Its question to itself has been: how does it fight this fight quietly? What it did was to run its daily Harris Poll research on a pro bono basis throughout the 17 weeks in order to gauge consumer sentiment, societal unrest and fear of illness. The results were shared — freely — with industry, clients etc and the value of this research has been US$1.7m. The results have been regularly reported throughout its own network in order for its agencies to respond and assist their clients. Research details are at

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MDC Partners positions itself as a modern agency-holding network, with most of its agencies being “born digital”. It has 70+ of the world’s most-awarded, specialty global agency partners, such as Forsman Bodenfors, Anomaly etc. There are 9 000 people in the network, with 70 agencies across 32 countries.


Mark Penn, MDC Partners CEO, informed us about its intentions of creating a co-operative and collaborative environment, with the combination of data and creativity being at the core of the group. Penn, who’s also Stagwell Group CEO, has been merging the two groups together over the past 17 months, integrating their services and growing the business.

He posed the question: What are consumers struggling with at present? Fear and desire are the answer, and, at present, fear is trumping desire.

US consumers have two ways of getting through the crisis and about 50% is coping and 50% isn’t, according to the poll. Generations facing this crisis have the same fears and Penn remarked that the older generation is tending to face this more stoically than the younger millennials, although the fears are the same.


Whom do consumers trust?

  • The companies and corporations which have continued to deliver throughout the crisis
  • They don’t trust government at all

Eighty-two percent of US consumers fear leaving home. Imagine the impact on companies such as airlines, hotels etc. While some companies have dealt with the crisis very well, others are failing, depending on their category and their attitudes.

The now and the next:

  • How do we keep our current customers?
  • How do we get our old customers back?
  • How do we convince our customers that our product is safe?


We then went into Q&A and an interesting comment was made about data. It’s become more important than ever before and, because consumers are mainly at home working, they’re adding more and more to the “data lake”. What’s important however, is that the data is analysed by human beings to arrive at the insights needed to bring about change.

It ended its very impressive session, which was refreshingly free of jargon, with its latest reel of work.

Our next session will be with three independent agencies, as well as a feedback session with all 105 pitch consultants, today, Monday 6 July.

See also


Johanna McDowellJohanna McDowell (@jomcdowell) is MD of the Independent Agency Search and Selection Company (IAS), which is partnered with the AAR Group in the UK. Twice a year she attends AdForum Worldwide Summits. Further information and the showreel from MDC Partners will be shared at her IAS masterclasses for agencies and marketers on 14 and 21 July 2020.

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