MSQ Partners is a UK-based marketing services group, whose best-known subsidiaries are corporate communications specialist The Gate, design agency Holmes & Marchant, direct marketer Stack and digital shop Twentysix. Until the end of 2011, the business was known as Media Square. That group ran into financial problems during 2010 resulting from a series of over-ambitious acquisitions earlier in the decade, not least the substantial marketing services division of PR group Huntsworth. This proved to be an over-ambitious gamble, leading to a complete restructuring over the following few years, and the sale or closure of all but a handful of the inherited businesses. Media Square collapsed into administration in 2011 but its seven surviving agencies were bought out by management under the new name MSQ Partners, with private equity backing. It now operates offices in the UK, US, China and Singapore. The group isn't the only entity to have changed its name. The Gate was originally known as Citigate Albert Frank, and later as CST:The Gate after its merger with creative agency Chick Smith Trott. It took its current name in 2012. Stack was originally Clark McKay & Walpole. Media Square co-founder Peter Reid remains CEO; former MEC media chief Charles Courtier took over from the other co-founder Roger Parry as chairman in 2019. Parent entity Ensco 1314 reported revenues of £65.8m in the year to Feb 2020, but a net loss of £3.9m. In 2020, MSQ agreed the acquisition of smaller roll-up Be Heard, adding another small collection of agencies to its portfolio, perhaps most notably digital agency MMT and researcher Freemavens. Increasingly, the enlarged MSQ operates as a single integrated unit, combining resources from across its collection of agencies, although these still retain their own standalone branding. MSQ B2B was launched in 2021 as an integrated B2B offering, led by the group's corporate communications agency SteinIAS but drawing upon the expertise of all the other agencies in the portfolio.
Capsule checked 24th June 2020
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Adbrands Daily Update 16th Mar 2021: MSQ Partners added to its collection of agencies with the acquisition of MBA, more recently a digital marketing agency, but originally under the name Maher Bird Associates a more general through-the-line and CRM shop. MBA is to merge with MSQ's existing Stack agency to form the uncomfortably named MBAstack. Founder Stephen Maher becomes CEO with Stack's Nicola Nimmo as managing director.
Adbrands Daily Update 10th Nov 2020: "Nobody Is Normal". Christmas can be a difficult time for children who might not feel happy about themselves. MSQ Partners' The Gate agency has unveiled a superb campaign for children's charity NSPCC Childline that hopes to tackle some of those issues with a moody but uplifting tale from animation prodco Rowdy. Lovely character design, especially of the "revealed" kids at the end. (Which one are you?) Moral of the story is of course that, under the skin, nobody is normal. "We often hear from young people who feel like they are different," says Childline's marketing lead Grania Hyde-Smith. "This can be for a number of reasons including bullying, abuse and mental health issues but sometimes, young people just don't feel comfortable in their own skin. The Gate have done a brilliant job of bringing this story to life in a captivating animation, which shows young people that we're all different and there's no such thing as 'being normal'."
Adbrands Daily Update 24th Jun 2020: In its first sizeable aquisition for several years, MSQ Partners agreed to acquire rival group Be Heard Partnership for £6.2m. Be Heard is the marketing services roll-up launched by former WCRS CEO Peter Scott in 2015. It acquired several smaller firms including ad agency The Corner, digital agencies MMT and Agenda21 and research company Freemavens. However the group struggled to carve out a significant presence, and business was badly impacted by the Coronavirus pandemic. Most of Be Heard's management team will join MSQ, along with the majority of its agencies. However, The Corner is to be bought back by its management team and regains its independence.
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