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News Plus 7 Sep 2021 - 3 min read

Commbank renews AKQA Media (Ikon) contract after 21 years, hybrid in-house programmatic and search model stays, BankWest follows with creative and media

By Paul McIntyre - Executive Editor
Commbank marketing supremo, Monique Macleod

Commbank Executive GM, Marketing and Corporate Affairs, Monique Macleod, is a backer of AKQA Media and veteran bank lead Pat Crowley

WPP’s recently merged Ikon, now AKQA Media, will see its tenure on Commbank’s master media contract touch 25 years after the current deal was extended until 2024.

What you need to know:

  • Ikon, rebadged AKQA Media earlier this year after a merger of WPP units, was first appointed in 1999 as a challenger to the media agency establishment.
  • Commbank took buying for its programatic and search media in-house about five years ago but AKQA Media handles planning. Main media planning and buying is managed by AKQA Media and was just appointed for another three years.
  • Although the hybrid in-housing model for the bank hit some turbulence in the early years, it is said to be a now well-oiled machine between the bank and AKQA Media teams. 
  • BankWest, owned by Commbank, also renewed its full service contract with AKQA Media covering creative and media duties. VMLY&R's creative boss Paul Nagy is the creative lead for BankWest but creative duties are assigned to various WPP agencies. 
  • Former Commbank CMO Monique Macleod, now heading marketing and corporate affairs, is a long-time backer of the agency and its veteran bank lead, Pat Crowley, who has worked directly on the bank's business for close to 20 years at Ikon and now AKQA Media.

Term deposit

Against a raft of rivals circling the blue chip media buying and planning contract, Commonwealth Bank has extended its term with AKQA Media for another three years.

The bank moved to a hybrid in-housing media model about five years ago when it took its programmatic ad buying and search in-house, although AKQA’s 35-head bank unit still handles planning for digital and programmatic media.

Commbank-owned BankWest also renewed its combined creative and media contract with AKQA Media in which creative resources are tapped from other agency brands in the broader WPP group. VMLY&R’s Paul Nagy acts as the creative lead on BankWest, outside his agency. 

AKQA’s integrated BankWest model was an early win in Ikon’s expanded remit to combine creative and media under Sir Martin Sorrell’s “horizontality” operating mantra at WPP before he was turfed by his board in 2018. 

After landing the Commonwealth Bank as a start-up partner in July 1999 under then marketing boss Graeme Ford, Ikon’s founders Gary Hardwick and Simon White agreed to an 18-month exclusive term for the bank and sold a majority stake in their shop to John Singleton’s STW, later WPP, in 2006 in a multi-million million windfall for the media agency founders.

Industry predictions of a break-up between the two parties have been cyclically feverish leading into each contract renewal term and under previous marketing regimes, the hold by the then Ikon on the bank business was said to be under significant pressure at certain points. 

When the bank took digital buying in-house, partly on expectations of 30-40 per cent media savings and, today, to more tightly control its first party customer data flows, many called the end of Ikon’s tenure.  

But Commbank’s Chief Marketing Officer, Monique Macleod, who just had her remit expanded to include the bank’s powerful corporate affairs remit as Group Executive, Marketing and Corporate Affairs, is a long-time backer of Ikon and veteran agency lead on the bank’s business, Pat Crowley, who’s worked on Commbank for close to 20 years.

AKQA Media and Commbank declined to comment on the renewed deal. 

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