The Rundown: UTA buys MediaLink, signaling interest in getting deeper into brand advertising and media

With its acquisition by UTA for $125 million overnight, the not-easily-defined MediaLink (is it an agency, a consultancy, a media firm, or a matchmaker-on-steroids?) ascended to another level of power and influence that stretches beyond its media and advertising confines.

And while the sale by MediaLink’s current owner Ascential makes MediaLink founder and CEO Michael Kassan even richer and more powerful, the biggest winner is more likely UTA, which now adds a level of expertise and access in media, ad-tech, mar-tech and brand marketing to its talent and sports base.

The key details

  • Kassan, arguably one of the more powerful and influential figures in media, marketing and advertising today, remains CEO of MediaLink but also becomes a partner in UTA. His influence will ostensibly stretch into sports and movies more than it has to date.
  • MediaLink will continue to advise and consult in the media space, having had a role in several major mediapalooza part 3 deals this year. It will also absorb UTA’s marketing arm, even though the name of the merged unit will be UTA Entertainment & Culture Marketing.
  • The move also signals a greater involvement in the booming creator space, based on a quote attributed to Kassan in the press release announcing the deal. “MediaLink will be deeply immersed in a creator culture represented by UTA — one that pivots on entrepreneurship and an unwavering passion for artists, entertainment and media,” said Kassan.
  • Given that the Cannes International Festival of Creativity (aka Cannes Lions), which is an Ascential-owned event, has largely been sidelined by COVID the last two years, it’s unclear how much MediaLink’s imprimatur will remain on it. Kassan is quoted in the release as saying “We will continue our deep partnership with Cannes Lions under our new ownership.”
  • The deal, a marriage between the marketing prowess of Madison Avenue and the entertainment jugggernaut of Hollywood, is vaguely reminiscent of 1991’s shock move by Creative Artists Agency to muscle its way into marketing by wresting the Coca-Cola business away from McCann-Erickson — only this move is a bit less hostile.

The takeaway

“This deal really gives [Kassan] a lot more juice,” said the CEO of an independent agency based on the West coast, who declined to speak for attribution. “He’s surrounded by loyalists, but now he’s got access to entertainment and talent at another level.”

But it also gives UTA back-door, through-the-kitchen, table-in-the-front (think the Copacabana scene from Goodfellas) access to brands, media companies, and agencies — along with a strong advisory group.

More in Media

YouTube is under fire again, this time over child protection

Adalytics Research asks, ‘Are YouTube advertisers inadvertently harvesting data from millions of children?’

Illustration of a puzzle that spells out the word 'media.'

Media Briefing: Publishers pump up per-subscriber revenue amid ad revenue declines

Publishers’ Q2 earnings reveal digital advertising is still in a tight spot, but digital subscriptions are picking up steam.

Lessons for AI from the ad-tech era: ‘We’re living in a memory-less world’

Experts reflect how the failures of social media and online advertising can help the industry improve the next era of innovation.