News | April 18th 2019

MediaPost | Code and Theory Flourishes In Stagwell's 'Ark'

Code and Theory Flourishes In Stagwell's 'Ark'

by Larissa Faw via MediaPost

Three years ago, Code and Theory (C&T) founders Dan Gardner and Brandon Ralph (who left in 2017) reached that inflection point experienced by many independents: Do they stay small or continue to grow with an outside partner?

After making the rounds with the various holding companies, consultants, and even one privately held media buying shop, C&T became one of the first acquisitions under the recently formed Stagwell Group, launched by Mark Penn and Steve Ballmer.

That was in early 2016, and C&T has flourished under Stagwell's "Noah’s Ark" strategy of acquiring an array of specialist shops with different capabilities under its umbrella. The agency has grown from two people in 2001 to more than 500 working with clients including adidas, Burger King, CNN, Facebook, and JPMorgan.

In 2017, the agency, along with Stagwell’s other shops, migrated to new and expanded facilities, with panoramic views in New York’s Freedom Tower complex, though Gardner jokes it lacks the "character" of C&T's old SoHo operation, formerly Andy Warhol's Interview magazine headquarters.

Gardner says it is too soon to tell how the recent Stagwell-MDC Partners alliance, as well as Penn's elevation to CEO at MDC, will affect his agency. He says he is happy to have some of the world's most creative agencies as sibling shops.

Up till now, Gardner attributes C&T's success to a slightly paradoxical strategy that has evolved away from “all things digital,” yet has doubled down on the same expertise. While C&T can develop creative, the agency remains firmly rooted in interlinking clients across all digital footprints.

The agency is modeled on the multi-spoke hub of data/analytics/research, platforms/publishing, engineering and marketing. It's about the mind-set of the organization, says Gardner. "Digital first is really user first." Most digital agencies, Gardner, says, are really just digital production companies that use "digital as tactic" to achieve a broader marketing goal.

C&T, by comparison, examines everything in a company, from the back office and inter-agency communications to the ordering process and consumer-first communications. "Yes, we can make the app. We can do the website, but we really connect all digital to retail," says Gardner. He adds this evolution means a growing number of pitches are increasingly against consultancies for systems/platforms accounts. Still, 60% of RFPs remain against traditional agencies, like Huge and R/GA.

At the same time, unlike R/GA and its rivals, the agency isn't migrating into product innovation or launching Direct-to-Consumer practices. Instead, C&T is focused on its own core expertise.

Gardner says Penn is an ideal corporate parent. Though he isn't "in the weeds doing projects," he immediately responds to any calls and maintains an office a floor above C&T. (New York-based Stagwell agencies are all housed at 1 WTC.) He swoops in from time to time for critical pitch presentations in order to help land business, says Gardner.

Sibling agencies in the group work well together, says Gardner, often collaborating to effectively service clients.

The model appears to work, given Stagwell’s double-digit annual growth in recent years.

Continue toSays a LotNews

Says a Lot —

Latest

DECODE Square Logo 4 nocode
News — 

Digiday | C&T Launches Thought Leadership Publication, Decode

Codehealth pressasset
News — 

MM&M | Corporate Siblings C&T and Scout Health Join Forces

Healthfeature
Press — 

C&T Accelerates Innovation with Code and Theory Health

Mailchimp BTB Instagram 05
News — 

Adweek | A Literary Festival for Diverse Voices Finds a Home

Floating NYLON Orange
News — 

Communication Arts Names Nylon Webpick of the Week

Amy Carvajal hed 2020 0
News — 

Muse by Clio | 2 Minutes with Amy Carvajal, CCO at C&T

Campaign2
News — 

Campaign US | Pillow Talk with Xerox and Code and Theory

35674u 2 1
News — 

MediaPost | Theodore Roosevelt Presidential Library

Get in Touch

  • Find Us

    One World Trade Center,
    62nd Floor

    New York, NY 10007

    More Offices
  • Work With Us

  • Press

  • Careers

    See All Open Positions

Continue toAbout UsSays a Lot

We Are a Digital-First Creative Agency

What We Do

Code and Theory is a strategically driven, digital-first agency that lives at the intersection of creativity and technology. We solve consumer and business problems with end-to-end solutions that flex to meet the needs of today’s ever-changing digital landscape.

Our Services

We provide a range of offerings built to support the entire ecosystem.

  • Data, Analytics and Research

    Our data-driven approach enables us to understand every aspect of end-to-end consumer journeys, and powers our work from start to finish.

  • Business & Organizational Consulting

    We work with our clients not only to define and deliver products, services and communications, but also to design the business itself.

  • Transformational Technology

    We help our clients reinvent their technical infrastructure and roadmap in order to deliver for the needs of today and tomorrow.

  • Services, Platforms & Products

    We create best-in-class platforms built around both the user and the business goals, often extending into connected physical expressions.

  • Integrated Marketing

    We deliver the right messages to new and existing customers across the entire ecosystem.

Our Offices

We have locations around the world.

Join Our Team

We're not typical, and neither are you. We're always looking to hire smart, interesting and forward-thinking people.
See All Open Positions

Code and Theory is a proud member of The Stagwell Group, a private equity firm that manages investments in new media and digital marketing services. Its portfolio includes dozens of collaborative, digital-first agencies and over 9,000 employees around the world. Led by a group of agency and industry professionals, Stagwell is a group of leading companies that are insights-based, practitioner-led and collaborative by design. Learn more about Stagwell at www.stagwellgroup.com

Get in Touch

  • Find Us

    One World Trade Center,
    62nd Floor

    New York, NY 10007

    More Offices
  • Work With Us

  • Press

  • Careers

    See All Open Positions