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News Plus 15 Feb 2021 - 4 min read

Ikon folds into AKQA Media as WPP AUNZ attempts next gen media, CX and content agency

By Josh McDonnell - Senior Writer

AKQA Media CEO Lesley Edwards (left) and National Managing Director Chris Hitchcock

WPP-owned media agency Ikon is set to become AKQA Media. The brand will be retired after more than 20 years in the market as WPP AUNZ CEO Jens Monsees attempts to build a next generation media, CX and content agency.

What you need to know:
  • WPP-owned media agency Ikon is to be merged into AKQA Media.
  • WPP AUNZ boss Jens Monsees told Mi3 the move is an attempt to build a next generation media agency that goes beyond mainstream media to link the entire customer journey - online and offline.
  • Merger expected to be completed at the conclusion of Q1 2021 creating unit with 230 staff across Sydney, Brisbane, Melbourne and Perth.
  • WPP AUNZ confirmed AKQA media will be wholly owned by the local arm of the holding group, so will have no impact on the ongoing international takeover deal.
  • Ikon CEO Lesley Edwards remains Chief Executive Officer, alongside current AKQA Media MD, Chris Hitchcock, as National MD. Both will lead the operation.
Ikon gone

Ikon is the highest profile casualty so far of WPP AUNZ's strategic overhaul led by CEO Jens Monsees. The media agency, founded in 1999 to service its longest standing client, CommBank, will become part of merged unit AKQA Media.

WPP AUNZ boss Jens Monsees told Mi3 the move is an attempt to build a next generation media agency that goes beyond mainstream media to link the entire customer journey – online and offline. The shift, he said, is what "modern advertising" requires.

AKQA Media will house 230 staff across Sydney, Brisbane, Melbourne and Perth – with the deal expected to complete by the end of March. The merged media unit will continue to work alongside AKQA Australia – which also includes creative capabilities for digital media. AKQA Media will also deliver CX, digital transformation projects, data and analytics, social media and content creation. 

"More CMOs – and CEOs – are asking for personalised, integrated solutions for advertising and media," said Monsees.

"Everybody wants to have a specific message on a specific channel at a specific time with the right pricing, offer and content. So modern advertising actually means that we are bringing our solution suite closer together [in this kind of way]."

Meanwhile, "fewer and stronger brands" is the holding group's current mantra, though Monsees would not be drawn on further consolidation, nor whether AKQA Media would become WPP AUNZ's de facto lead agency. He singled out Essence as also having strong capability when asked if AKQA Media will become a template for the future.

Local impact

WPP AUNZ confirmed AKQA Media is wholly owned by the local arm of the holding group, and the deal will have no impact on the ongoing international takeover deal.

Current Ikon CEO Lesley Edwards and AKQA Media MD Chris Hitchcock (who becomes National MD) will lead the operation together, both reporting directly into Monsees.

Edwards told Mi3 there was "little to no" crossover or duplication of roles.

"We have a strong media trading and investment reputation across all paid media, but we are stronger in offline than digital and performance media," Edwards said.

"While we have performance capabilities across Ikon, this merger will bolster them significantly due to AKQA's specialist background in the area."

CommBank consulted

Hitchcock told Mi3 the agencies will share staff and resources freely across the business, with a focus on bringing the AKQA digital offering into untapped markets, such as Brisbane.

Ikon already has a strong presence in the city, however, Hitchcock's new role will give him better insight into how both agency skillsets can be integrated for existing clients.

"Clients' needs for clear and decisive programmatic and data-based media investments have never been stronger," Hitchcock said.

"AKQA Media will be focused on content that links the owned media work we are doing across platforms and websites, through to social, digital and traditional channels.

"It's about carrying the right message across each touchpoint using our combined online and offline skillsets, as well as interactive content that targets the right consumer no matter what part of the journey they are on."

Edwards said all clients, including CommBank, had been consulted on the move and new direction.

Future model

Edwards said while the Ikon brand will be killed off, its ethos remains very much alive.

"It would be unfair to say there isn’t some sadness around a major brand like Ikon leaving the Australian market," Edwards said.

"But everyone is comfortable with the new approach."

It's also evidence of Monsees determination to overhaul the holding group in a bid to build a coherent group of agencies that go far beyond traditional media and advertising.

"We need to understand customer behaviour both on and offline, bringing together the data and analytics to engage them with the most relevant messaging," Monsees said.

"It’s part of the future model that we are working towards. It’s not about comparing this with other agencies in the group, it’s not about the best agency, it’s about finding the right one to suit changing needs."

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