From the acquisition to the rebrand: the integration of Mashfrog Creative Solutions and Mashfrog Group, as told by Fabrizio Varrenti
Fabrizio Varrenti, CEO of Mashfrog Creative Solutions and Sales Media Director at Mashfrog Group, told us the story and evolution of the company up to the current integration within the Digital Business Unit of Mashfrog Group.
Let's start with your career path.
I come from a family of accountants, so my studies were centred around finance. After finishing high school, I enrolled at university to study Economics & Commerce and started working for the family firm. However, I soon realised that the technical side of accounting wasn't really my thing. I felt a much deeper affinity with the world of marketing and communications. At the same time, I began to explore the business start-up sector, which in 2010 was still in its very early stages. While still at university, I made contact with several business accelerators, in particular Innovation Labs (now Luiss Enlabs), and took part in various contests. By merging these two interests: marketing and communications on the one hand and the start-up sector on the other, I found a route into a communications agency, right after gaining my degree in Economics with a specialisation in marketing and communications. About two years after that, I was able to put into practice what I had learned and set up my own agency.
How did AlteraWide come about?
AlteraWide (now Mashfrog Creative Solutions) was born on 3 March 2013, as a spin-off from the agency I was working for. At first there were only two of us, and we both worked on small projects. Then came the two clients that took us to the next level. Linkem in particular was an important step for me. Thanks to this client, I realised that building a short supply chain, combining agency services with all-in-house video production, was going to be an effective business model - one that was going to allow us to offer high quality at a very competitive price.
During those years, social media was really taking off, with the transition from large-scale video broadcasts to smaller productions. We rode the wave, focusing on a vertical model that was lean, cost-effective and based on the video content strategy. This gave us a lot of market appeal, which meant we could scale up and attract other big clients such as Euronics, TicketOne and Enel. For these clients, we mainly worked on videos for their digital channels, and internal communications. The period between 2014 and 2018 was very challenging, but also exciting and rewarding. Even though we were sometimes working day and night, we always knew we were laying the foundations for our agency's solid professional growth.
When was the first meeting with Mashfrog Group?
In 2019 we started working with Enel X. Then in July 2020, we won the tender for the global internal communications contract, along with Mashfrog Group. Our partnership started from there, thanks to a client who realised that this was going to be a good working relationship, with our firm offering video content and Mashfrog dealing with the strategic side.
In the meantime, it was at this point that I had the idea of forging a partnership with a big company so we could ratchet up the concept of short supply chain, by bringing to market an integrated, complete and highly competitive offer. And so in September 2020, I and Edoardo Narduzzi, President & CEO of Mashfrog Group, began talking about a possible merger.
That was how AlteraWide came to be acquired by Mashfrog Group...
The process began at the end of 2020 and went through very quickly, as we both agreed on all the main points. The acquisition was completed in March 2021. From the outset, I brought to the table my idea of an approach based on strategy as the leading offer. It's all about listening to the customer's needs, and then putting together a solution to fit those needs from among the range of services we're able to provide, whether that's a communications plan, a website or a new salesforce solution. After a while, this became the Digital BU's approach to pitching itself to the market.
What was behind the decision to rebrand from AlteraWide to Mashfrog Creative Solutions?
We decided to change the name to give continuity to the process of integration starting from the merger, which began with the acquisition in March 2020 and continued with our collaboration on Enel X and then with other clients. What sealed it was the decision to present ourselves with a unified market offer, and that obviously called for a new name, and a coherent, well-coordinated look and feel. The change of name was just another step forward on the path towards merging our two companies.
This is also confirmed by your dual role as CEO of Mashfrog Creative Solutions and Sales Media Director (Digital). How do you manage to wear both hats?
By nature, I'm a bit of a live wire: I like to get involved, instead of sitting around spectating. From the outset, I expressed my views on the positioning of our offer, which initially only affected me indirectly. Evidently, people appreciated that approach, and I was asked to manage the whole creativity experience offer for the Digital BU. My decision to accept the role of Sales Media Director has connected seamlessly with the ongoing merger process, because the work I do for the Group also has a positive impact on Creative Solutions, and vice-versa.
As the integration proceeds, how are you managing to coordinate the teams at Mashfrog Creative Solutions and the Digital BU?
Mashfrog Creative Solutions has about 20 staff, most of whom have already met their colleagues at Mashfrog Digital. The work I'm doing now as CEO, with the collaboration of Antonio Grillo (MD of Digital), is to coordinate the relations between both sides, and exchange resources so that everyone can benefit. We're currently working on a fantastic project that perfectly encapsulates how the merger is going: the project team has members from both companies and they're getting on really well. All of us are working intensively to make sure the integration process goes as smoothly as possible.
Finally, let's take a look at the future: can you tell us something about the projects you are working on?
Over the years, we at Mashfrog Creative Solutions have built up highly vertical expertise with football clubs. One of our major clients is ACF Fiorentina, and we're working on acquiring another top club. Part of my role as Sales Media Director of the Digital BU is about exploring the many business opportunities out there, among companies in the banking, energy and gaming industries. Basically, we are doing the groundwork to make sure that our repositioning leads to an increase and diversification of our client portfolio. Early results show that we are heading in the right direction.