Former Ikon managing partners start new family

In late November last year, Ikon restructuring led to the rather unexpected ousting of then-managing partners Lee Parkinson and Tom Davidson. And now, fewer than two months later, the pair has announced the launch of a new agency called The Family.

According to a release, the new offering will be “resolutely independent … and designed to put its clients and staff first.”

In order to achieve this business model, the agency structure has been modelled on that of the UK retailer John Lewis. “What this means,” says Parkinson “is that everyone in the business will be considered a partner, and everyone will have a stake in the business.”

“Today, the best talent is looking for more from an employer than just a paycheque. They want to be part of something that stands for more than the product or service they sell,” adds Davidson.

“It is often said that you can’t choose your family, but we beg to differ. We think, in business, you can choose who you collaborate with … and this really sums up the name for our business,” says Parkinson. 

The pair also aims to extend this philosophy to clients by providing a responsive service that’s dependent on client requirements.

“Over our extended Christmas break, we built a [business]model that’s capable of identifying what challenge the client faces, what solution is needed and how this can be communicated to the consumer,” claims Davidson.

Parkinson concedes that this might sound a little optimistic, but he points to the pair’s proven track record at Ikon as evidence that they can establish good relationships with clients while simultaneously running a profitable business.

“The new agency will focus on doing the same things well, but in a slightly different way,” he says.

According to Parkinson, The Family will employ a unique total communications model, which will serve to enhance “the big ideas that New Zealand’s creative agencies and other partners provide to clients.”

“We are a media agency, but we won’t be providing content,” says Davidson. “We will be leaving the creative aspect to the experts in agencies. Our goal will be to teach clients how to communicate more effectively in the market.” 

“At a strategic level, marketing communications can no longer be viewed in silos of activity, discipline, or channel. They are all part of a wider, connected communications ecosystem,” explains Parkinson.

In order to ensure that the agency meets the high expectations of clients, the managing partners have also adopted a collaborative approach in which they will commission the expertise of other players in the industry. They have already brought Craig Spillane and Bullseye Media on board, and this move gives the new agency immediate access to in-house planning and trading accreditation across all media.

At this stage, The Family still does not have any clients, but both partners are quick to say that the business has just been launched.

“We don’t have any clients yet, but we have started some important conversations. For now, our goal is to attract and retain big talent,” says Davidson.

Although the agency has already opened doors to its Auckland and Wellington offices, the website is still under construction. The founders claim that several pages will be published over the next few weeks, but they say that they would like to eventually turn part of the site into an open-source idea centre.

“Over the last few months, we’ve read a great deal of literature and we would like to use the website as a medium to share books, articles and web links that have helped us along the way,” says Parkinson.

And this unique web approach isn’t the only distinguishing feature about The Family. The partners have also included a charitable clause in the company’s constitution.

“Every year, a set percentage of our annual profits will be placed into an independently run trust, and these funds will then be used to help disadvantaged families in New Zealand,” says Parkinson. “And this is really a case of us establishing the type of company that we would be proud to work for.”

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