Meet the People breaks out a standalone media agency, Swell Media

Meet the People, a collective of agencies across a variety of services that aspires to be a mini-holding company without the conflicts of interest, is spinning out media agency, called Swell Media, to be a standalone full-funnel shop, from an acquisition it made last fall, Digiday has learned.

The move is just the latest example of soft rebundling that’s sweeping across the independent agency landscape. 

Swell Media, part of Meet the People’s acquisition of Saltwater Collective in September 2023, had been formed in 2013 as a separate unit owned by Saltwater but in 2018 was folded back into the parent agency. It will once again be a standalone service within Meet the People (MTP), designed to give MTP’s agencies and their clients access to media expertise, while also building out Swell’s distinct media client base.

“Clients really want talk to a specialist in a moment where they need something special, but at the same time they don’t want to pay any more for the friction that is created between different agencies where you have to brief and rebrief and rebrief again,” said Tim Ringel, MTP’s CEO, a long time veteran of holding company shops who ventured out on his own with MTP in 2020. “We are a specialist for very large brands but we are also a generalist for midsize brands.”

Allison Potter, who co-founded Saltwater Collective (and Swell as part of it), will focus on broader operations within MTP, while Joseph McConellogue moves over from MTP sibling agency VSA to Swell Media as its CEO.

McConellogue also has significant media agency experience, having spent 24 years across several WPP and IPG operations before joining VSA two years ago. Like Ringel, he’s seen a lot of the cycles of media within the broader marketing economy. 

“If you look at the industry over the last 15 years, it’s been bundling, unbundling, bundling and unbundling again,” said McConellogue. “We definitely feel within the MTP portfolio, at least from a Swell Media perspective, that there is enormous opportunity that exists through our sister agencies [VSA, Public Label, Match Retail] that we wouldn’t be able to unlock unless we had our standalone dedicated media unit, that we can go to market and don’t have to break down any barriers or walls internally.”

He said Swell Media will focus on four main areas of expertise: financial, e-commerce, healthcare, and B2B. “We have everything from traditional media buying and placement right through to the most DR-focused performance digital,” he said. “So we’re not specialists at any one particular area. Our job is to really bring full-funnel media strategy and solutions to our client base.”

MTP’s client base, according to Ringel, includes IBM, Google, LVMH and Spectrum, while Swell Media’s clients include Jacuzzi, Delta Dental and Komodo Health. Ringel said he expects Swell Media to at least double in revenue this year (but he declined to offer actual revenue figures).

Ringel also said MTP continues to be on the hunt for other acquisitions, including adding more media expertise, as well as expanding its geographic reach beyond the East coast and the Midwest, where it currently operates. MTP Is financially backed by investment firm Innovatus Capital Partners.

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