For almost two decades in the 1990s and 2000s, independent agency Mitchell & Partners was Australia's biggest media agency. The group's total billings broke through the A$1bn barrier in 2008, a first for any Australian media agency. In 2010, Mitchell's accepted a A$363m offer to be acquired by Aegis. It remained a separate standalone unit under the umbrella of what later became Dentsu Aegis Australia, but multiple clients were transferred after 2012 to sister agencies Carat and Vizeum, boosting their billings at Mitchell's expense. The agency rebranded in 2015 as Dentsu Mitchell Media. Two years later the Mitchell brand was dropped altogether and the agency became the local outpost of Dentsu Aegis Network's third international media strand dentsu x.
The original company was founded in Melbourne in 1976 by Harold Mitchell, formerly media director of DMB&B Australia and it gradually evolved into a broad-based group encompassing a number of other specialist units. Following the rebranding of what were previously separately branded local agencies Workhouse and The Media Shop, the main Mitchell & Partners agency expanded to four offices in Australia, as well as one in New Zealand. In 1999, its digital division was spun off as a separate company under the name emitch - though still controlled by the Mitchell family - and this entity issued an IPO on the Australian Stock Exchange in 2000.
In 2005 the group secured the contract to operate the local outposts of the global MPG and Media Contacts media networks - later Havas Media - in a joint venture with Havas, and also established an important media negotiation partnership with Interpublic's Initiative. In 2006, the Mitchell-Initiative buying group made headlines with a pioneering cross-media deal to fix rates on all traditional and online media controlled by Australia's four dominant media owners Seven Network, PBL, Fairfax Media and News Limited. In 2007, the main Mitchell & Partners agency, privately owned until that point, reversed into emitch to become a publicly quoted group in its own right, under the new name of Mitchell Communication Group.
The following year, Mitchells became the first Australian media agency to top annual billings of A$1bn. It also began to accumulate a portfolio of other marketing services agencies, offering a range of below-the-line disciplines. Among them were public affairs and promotional agency Haystac, PR agency Spark, search marketing agency Columbus, Australia's largest sports ground advertising contractor Stadia Media and technology services group Vivid. (Some of those agencies remain under the umbrella of Dentsu Aegis Australia).
In 2010, the group accepted a A$363m offer to be acquired by Aegis, which already operated offices in Australia of its own Carat and Vizeum brands. Group revenues for Mitchell's last full year as a separate company, ending June 2010, rose 16% to A$261m (US$234m) on billings of A$1.3bn (US$1.2bn). Net profits were up marginally at A$19.4m.
Harold Mitchell remained with the business as executive chairman of Aegis Media Australia; his son Stuart became deputy chairman. However, over the next few years, several of Mitchell's biggest clients were transferred across to the local outposts of Carat and Vizeum. By the time, Aegis was itself acquired in 2013 by Dentsu, Mitchell had slipped to #2 in Australia's media rankings behind the enlarged Carat. That deal also prompted the dissolution of Mitchell's partnership with Havas, which had continued under Aegis. Havas Media Australia was spun off as a separate entity now under the full control of Havas Group. Some staff and clients transferred to newly created integrated agency Huckleberry. However that unit shut its doors 18 months later after its biggest client transferred to Carat. The Dentsu deal also prompted the retirement of Harold Mitchell. Stuart Mitchell had also left the group earlier the same year.
Last full revision 21st November 2017
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