Melancon Steps Back Into the Branding Biz

Former FutureBrand Exec Launches MDC-Backed Ito Partnership

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NEW YORK ( -- David Melancon is back to branding again.

After stepping down from his post as president of Interpublic Group of Cos.' branding agency FutureBrand last year, Mr. Melancon started quietly assembling a new business and has reemerged with his own branding shop, the Ito Partnership.

Under the radar
Mr. Melancon has kept mum about his MDC Partners-backed endeavor until now, citing a need to build the business under the radar before talking about it. But an executive familiar with the Ito Partnership, which includes Mr. Melancon's former FutureBrand colleagues Jeremy Dawkins and Kate Messenger, said he also wanted to allow some time to pass to prevent contractual conflicts with Interpublic.

Launched in January, the Ito Partnership is now up and running, doing design, brand development, and strategic planning -- "we do everything short of TV production," jokes Mr. Melancon -- for clients such as Kaiser Permanente, Carrabba's Italian Grill and Morgan Hotels. "What we do is help companies grow. We help them develop their brands as engines to build their business."

With three former senior Interpublic executives at its helm, the Ito Partnership follows MDC CEO Miles Nadal's emerging "lift-out" strategy in which he backs startups led by talent from other agencies. But Mr. Melancon said he prefers to think of it as "talent seeding" because Mr. Nadal, "looks for great talent" and allows it to grow.

Didn't poach FutureBrand
"Miles ... looks for people who are creative. He didn't poach FutureBrand," Mr. Melancon said.

Mr. Melancon says he left FutureBrand last year because he felt limited being a brand agency sandwiched in between other holding-company offerings. He expects the relationship with MDC to be different. "MDC wants to back my vision and be a part of it. They believe the way to make money is to support [our] vision."
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