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MDC Partners Of Toronto Uses Barter To Build Expansive Advertising Network

MDC Partners, led by 47-year-old Miles Nadal, has built an interesting holding company that consists of a loosely knit network of more than thirty firms—from ad agencies and media buyers to shops specializing in everything from interactive marketing to branded entertainment.

Included in his stable of companies are Miami’s Crispin Porter & Bogusky the creator of Burger King’s notorious “subservient Chicken,” San Francisco-based agency Kirshenbaum Bond (known for its work for Hennessy, Meow Mix, and Target), and the boutique consulting Zyman Group run by legendary Coca-Cola marketing guru Sergio Zyman.

Nadal’s operational efforts are relationship-oriented, what he calls a perpetual partnership. He typically barters (his MDC stock) for a percentage of a company. Revenues last year totaled $317 million.

The new “perpetual partners” are given autonomy and are not forced to cross-sell services. But they can draw on the network’s resources if they choose.

In essence, Nadal’s business model provides an alternative that lets companies retain what’s made them successful but deals with fundamental business issues—succession, liquidity, and capital to grow.

Nadal sees himself as a single-minded venture capitalist focused on the advertising industry and marketing innovation. He claims that his company’s technology is intellectual property—cerebral, not tangible.

His goal? “If I had my way, I would own 50% of every smart firm in the world. They could be located anywhere, I don’t care. Anybody who’s brilliant, who’s working on ideas that are going to reinvent this industry—I want to own half.”

And he’ll use barter whenever possible to expand the growing company and meet his lofty ambitions.