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MCA and VA Consulting Join Forces to Map Out a New Frontier in Italy



As MCA’s founder and CEO Pat Murphy connects with Alessandro Arbitrio’s Italian-based VA Consulting, the pair tell LBB why the move represents part of a fundamental shift in the global production landscape

MCA and VA Consulting Join Forces to Map Out a New Frontier in Italy

Trust, it’s said, can take a lifetime to earn and a second to break. Perhaps that’s why it's prized so highly by both MCA’s Pat Murphy and VA Consulting’s Alessandro Arbitrio. Trust has underpinned their professional relationship ever since it started, in the now-distant days of 2005, when the pair first met in Milan.

Fast-forward to today, and what has always been a close relationship has distilled into a more formalised meeting of minds. Going forward from this point, the pair will officially work in a partnership as part of MCA’s global network.

To find out how it all came together - as well as what it means for the industry more widely - LBB sat down with Pat and Alessandro… 

LBB> So Pat and Alessandro, how did this new merger come about? 

Pat> It’s been a busy period lately for MCA, and happily this is one of a number of good news stories I’m excited to be talking about! If I’m being honest, this partnership is many years in the making. We’ve enjoyed a great relationship historically going back to the early days of MCA, so I’m delighted to be formalising it in the way that we are. This will be the only part of MCA’s network not to formally carry the MCA branding. a testament to our respect for Alessandro and his team.

Alessandro> Yes, this is a long story of a friendship which has now been made stronger than ever before! And this has come at a very opportune time, given that clients are asking for tech applied across all areas of their businesses. The merging of our competencies and  technology means we can provide unparalleled insights to help clients better understand all categories of their marketing investments. It’s an exciting time to have made this move. 

LBB> So if you’ve been working together for a long time, why is now the right moment to make your partnership ‘official’, so to speak? 

Pat> Ten years ago our relationship existed, but it was very different. It was rooted in the old way of doing production consultancy, which I now firmly believe is a dead model. Clients are now looking for more value, more bang for their buck, and you’ll struggle to truly deliver that while working with the old model. I believe that what clients want now is a trusted production investment partner - someone who can make their budget go as far as it possibly can - and at the same time add value via the data you pick up along the way and help them look at their whole production ecosystem to be well positioned for the future. As Alessandro can attest, this partnership puts us in the ideal position to provide exactly that. 

Alessandro> It was time to transform a trusted relationship in an official way to be more transparent for our clients. We are in a stronger position now than we ever have been, and by combining our competencies and technology we will be able to offer a better framework of integrated services to our clients.

LBB> When it comes to the data that you mentioned just now, what exactly can clients be looking to use that for? 

Pat> Before we embarked on this partnership, both Alessandro and I carried out audits on our own technological capabilities as well as what we were developing. We essentially said to each other at the time, very transparently, “I’ll show you mine if you show me yours!”.  I’m happy to say that there was virtually no overlap whatsoever, and our offerings perfectly complemented one another. I see our technology platform as the way for clients to be able to make better smarter investment decisions and we will actively partner with like minded companies that can help drive better insights. The key for me is to still try and keep things simple. 

Alessandro> So to your question, a great example of what we can now do is our influencer counting system. A client can ring us up and tell us that they’re not sure how much a certain influencer should be getting paid - and we’ll input their name into a bespoke, dedicated system which generates a benchmark number. So with our new range of tech platforms - as well as all the other good news coming out of MCA right now - what we’re offering is dynamite. It’s not about the traditional, transactional production consultancy relationship anymore. It’s about insight. We have developed processes and software platforms able to drive us to another level of analysis and optimisation. We can provide clients with a picture that’s clearer than it ever has been before. I know from my own background working with IBM how powerful data can be. Without data, you can’t see what’s happening in the present - and so you cannot build the future.

LBB> Do you think the rest of the industry is going to need to catch up with this kind of capability? Are you redefining what should be expected from production consultancy? 

Pat> I have always had a problem with the whole area of production consulting to be honest, 

I am a producer at heart, and when I was given a budget to work to, I would do everything I could to spend 100% and make that budget work as hard as possible. Rarely did I EVER go over budget. If a client wants to save money, it's easy. Just take it off at the beginning and then we and the creative partners know what we have to play with. Clients today should be demanding more from their consultants: different types of inputs, an understanding of content creation, process, strategy, innovation and technology, and expertise in helping them to upskill as well as build internal capability. In addition, we should always be mindful of sustainability, and D&I as part of the production approach. These are so high on the agendas now. 

Alessandro> Sure, clients today ask for global efficiency and optimisation projects. Traditional production consulting is not a focus anymore, especially for procurement and finance departments. The different space mentioned by Pat is based on the new architecture of global clients. 

LBB> In what other ways will you be diverging from that traditional model? 

Pat> As I mentioned earlier, I think there’s a lot of value right now in being a trusted production investment partner, getting clients the biggest bang for their collective buck. If all a client wanted to do was save 10%, I can do that blindfolded. But that's not the smart approach. What’s really valuable is taking a whole budget, spending it all, and getting the absolute best possible value out of it. That is based on research, insight, and tools that map out a plan. Of course, we can still do the bread-and-butter budget negotiation work as part of the process. But if you're involved in the right place at the right time, helping the client to generate the right kind of investment choices early enough, then you are more than a production consultant. You’re a strategic partner.

LBB> And what’s the human story behind all this - how did you guys meet, and what made you decide to work together? 

Alessandro> We met a long time ago in Milan. Thanks to an international client, we were able to recognise in a very short time the values we have in common. It was during a dinner with Pat, my father (the VA Consulting founder) and my team. Yes, we consider values as the most fundamental brick in which to build a successful partnership! 

Pat> I remember having some most enjoyable meals out with Alessandro and his team - in fact, I had a really good respectful working relationship with Alessandro’s dad. Sometimes you do need to see the whites of peoples eyes to get a sense of them and build up that trust. We’re in a world now where remote communication is the norm, but I’m still a massive believer in being physically in front of someone at the right and appropriate time. Because you can read signals. And, of course, there’s nothing better than doing that over a drink at a bar or in a restaurant.

Alessandro> So when I picked up the phone last year to talk about bringing our capabilities together, it was an easy conversation. I knew that my dad had a brilliant relationship with Pat, which is one of the best recommendations you can get! So it all happened very easily and naturally, because of that trust and relationship we had already built up years ago. 

Pat> Obviously because of the pandemic it’s been so long since we did actually meet for a meal or a drink - and that needs to be fixed PDQ. Milan beckons, and Lisbon where I now live has some rather wonderful places to build on our business relationship for Alessandro.

LBB> Finally, do you guys have any parting thoughts to share? 

Alessandro> This is a great opportunity to be part of the MCA network and provide that value to our clients new and old, a really powerful opportunity for them to tap into our combined intelligence.

Pat> I feel that we’re not doing right by our clients if we’re not constantly innovating. And as part of that process I feel a sense of duty to introduce our clients who need help in the Italian market to the VA team - because I know that they’ll ‘surprise and delight’ our clients and make us proud. I am sure we can do the same for VA’s international Italian clients.

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Murphy Cobb & Associates, Thu, 04 Nov 2021 08:17:00 GMT