MSQ buys independent MBA and merges it with Stack

MBA_Stack_2Marketing group MSQ is continuing to beef up its operations with the acquisition of independent agency MBA, which it has merged with customer acquisition and engagement business Stack.

Both MBA and Stack can trace their roots back to what is widely regarded as the second wave of independent direct marketing agencies, launched in the 1990s by the next generation of creatives and suits.

MBA was founded by former TBWA head of account management Stephen Maher in 1994 as Maher Bird Associates; its client list includes Royal Mail, Interflora, Investec, Thomas Sanderson and the Brit School.

Meanwhile, Stack was founded in 1995 by Jonathan Clark, Janet McKay and Mark Buckingham as Clark McKay Buckingham. However, it was forced into its first rebrand after just over 18 months when creative chief Buckingham quit and was replaced by Steve Walpole; it then became Clark McKay Walpole.

CMW was bought for £5m by MSQ (then Media Square) in 2004 and rebranded Stack in 2014. Its client base includes the PSA Groupe, the Government, Hertz, Mamas & Papas, vaping brand Blu, and Anusol owner Church & Dwight.

The new entity will be known as MBAstack and will have a headcount of about 50; it will fuse data insight, smart tech and creativity to drive commercial outcomes.

The agency will be led by Maher as chairman and CEO, with Stack managing director Nicola Nimmo and MBA managing partner James Middlehurst taking on the same roles at MBAstack.

The combined business will have revenue of around £6m and will have a client list that includes PSA Groupe (Peugeot, Citroen, DS), Royal Mail, the Government, Interflora, Chiltern Railways, Innovate UK, Church & Dwight and Everest.

It will be based at MSQ’s new London HQ in Covent Garden, with the group’s chief data officer Rob Goodwin working closely with MBAstack to ensure that data capabilities sit at the heart of the agency’s offer.

Maher said: “MBA has always been about driving ROI for its clients, and I’m delighted that, with this move, we’ll have even more collective firepower to generate powerful solutions for brands.

“We have been proudly independent for many years but when MSQ approached us we saw the same entrepreneurial spark, the same progressive digital and data-driven outlook and the same belief in the effectiveness of breakthrough creativity that we know is the winning combination in today’s competitive world of marketing.”

MBA is the second major acquisition made by MSQ in the past seven months, after the group bought marketing communications group Be Heard Partnership last September. The deal saw MMT Digital, Freemavens and agenda21 join the group.

MSQ executive director Kate Howe commented: “MSQ is dedicated to building emotional capital for brands, driving stronger relationships with customers at every point in the journey. That’s why having a scaled agency that can successfully combine first-party data, martech and comms expertise is so important.

“MBA brings a shared passion and perspective that makes them a perfect fit for us and in MBAstack we’ve created a business that builds nicely on both agency’s previous success.”

MSQ is now a business consisting of around 850 people, working in nine agencies across 12 global offices.

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