Couple-run Montreal agency lands contract with Will and Jada Pinkett Smith's entertainment studio
Ash Phillips and Miro LaFlaga founded Six Cinquieme after growing frustrated with a non-diverse creative marketing industry whose products reflected their homogeneous makeup. (Photography: Noire Mouliom; Creative direction: Marlond Samedy; Styling: Soph. “Herflysoul”; Assistant stylist: Deejah “Thatgirldeej”; Makeup: Lola “Ask4Lola”)
A small design management firm run by a couple in a LaSalle apartment is showing the marketing world that size and shine aren't essential when it comes to doing big things.
Ash Phillips and Miro Laflaga run the strategic design agency Six Cinquieme out of their apartment in southwest Montreal and recently landed a gig working with an LA entertainment company whose founders include Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith, along with Migeul Melendez and Ko Yada.
Westbrook Inc. took off after its founding in 2019, producing Academy Award winner King Richard in 2021, Bel Air in 2022 and Red Table Talk in 2018.
The company told CTV News that it brought in Six Cinquieme to "ensure that the perspectives, visions, talent, and shared inspiration of the people behind Westbrook continued to resonate externally in much the same way as we took new leaps forward."
"Things moved very quickly for them, and in the middle of that, they really didn't have time to understand what their brand is, who they were as a company, and really find a way to engage their employees to make them understand that this is something that's greater than us, this is something that we all need to be working towards," said Lafaga.
Laflaga and Phillips explained that companies are often looking for ways to ensure their employees are in tune with their owners' vision and goals.
As a multimedia and entertainment company, Westbrook wanted to ensure its many moving parts were functioning in harmony with each other.
"Having Will Smith and Jada Smith as founders is an amazing selling point, but there needs to be more to keep people engaged, keep employees engaged and really make people feel fulfilled in the company," said Phillips.
Phillips said the modern worker wants to feel as a part of the company as its owners are, no matter how big their celebrity.
"Right now, when people are looking to work at companies, they want to feel fulfilled, and they want to feel like they're working towards something concrete," said Phillips. "They want to feel like they're attached to it, so branding is just as important externally to connect with your clients as it is internally to connect with your employees."
Phillips and Laflaga's work is showing not just what the couple can do out of their apartment but also that Montreal is an attractive target for clients looking for an exciting and different perspective.
"It shows the value of Montreal," said Laflaga. "It shows that the small guys and small teams can take on bigger projects... It shows a shift that's happening, especially in our industry, where before it was very common that companies want to work with the bigger agencies, the teams of 100 and stuff like that, but also think economically people are reevaluating that, and they want to work with smaller intimate teams."
HARMONIOUS WORK CULTURE
Robert Soroka is the president of the Concordia University Part Time Faculty Association and teaches at John Molson School of Business.
He said ensuring a harmonious workplace culture is essential for any business, but particularly for ones where the company's owners, CEOs or brands have suffered damage to their image.
"[With] Will Smith, Jada Pinkett Smith, you're talking about people whose equity, whose brand has been tarnished to some degree based on the Oscar fiasco, so I would anticipate that they would be hyper-sensitive to anything that could further tarnish that image, and workplace issues are significant," he said.
Soroka said Smith's infamous "slap" of Chris Rock at the 2022 Academy Awards show means everything Smith does or is a part of is now under a microscope, including any company he owns.
"Now, everything is super analyzed," said Soroka. "Where workplace conflict that happens every day in every office all over the world would be handled quietly or dismissed, now — because it's Will Smith — there's greater attention."