Japanese giant Dentsu pushes into local media market rebranding iconic agency Mitchells


Japanese advertising giant Dentsu is establishing a presence for its Dentsu Media brand in the local market by realigning and rebranding Australia’s oldest media agency Mitchells, Mumbrella can reveal.

The latest changes to the Mitchells brand since the takeover of parent company Aegis by Dentsu two years ago has seen it renamed Dentsu Mitchell, establishing stronger links with the Japanese side of the parent company. However, its leadership team insists it has no immediate plans to drop the Mitchell name.

The move will also fan industry speculation the agency will seek to capitalise on Dentsu’s global relationship with clients such as Japanese brand Toyota, a $62.3m account in Australia, which is set to move its marketing team to Mitchell’s heartland if Melbourne in the next 18 months.

CEO of the rebranded Dentsu Mitchell, Kenny Stewart told Mumbrella the change signifies an “evolution” and promised the new brand would be established with “a vengeance”.

Kenny Stewart and Adrian Roelling

Kenny Stewart and Adrian Roeling

“Mitchells in the last 18 months has pooled from the resources of Dentsu Aegis but it has been more the Aegis side of things – tools, resources etc. What this gives us is a fillip for our services with a focus from Japan and all they offer,” he said.

Last year the agency quietly dropped the historic Mitchell & Partners brand in favour of the more commonly used name Mitchells. Dentsu Aegis has three global agency brands – Carat and Vizeum which came from the Aegis heritage, and Dentsu Media from the Japanese stable.

In recent months Dentsu has acquired creative agency BWM and renamed it BWMDentsu, and in 2014 acquired independent agency Odfellows, which had a longstanding relationship with Toyota, rebranding it OddfellowsDentsu.

Asked if this latest rebrand was part of a long term move away from the Mitchell name – taken from its founder Harold Mitchell – Adrian Roeling, managing director of Dentsu Mitchell said it was not.

“No not at this stage, dropping the name certainly isn’t in our plans,” said Roeling. “Mitchells is really important part of our brand. Our name in the market is Dentsu Mitchell not Dentsu Media and that’s really important for a number of reasons.

“It is to tip our hat to Harold, to our history in the market – we have great partnerships within the market – it’s also to talk to our understanding in the market and our focus on Australian clients.”

Stewart noted that he and Dentsu Aegis Network ANZ CEO Luke Littlefield had been to see Harold Mitchell about the change.

“Luke and I have personally spoken with Harold about the launch of Dentsu Mitchell,” he said. “He fully appreciates our strategic intent and we have his blessing in continuing to use his name.”

Harold Mitchell

Harold Mitchell

In the wake of Mitchell’s retirement in June 2013 the group reorganised many of its client relationships with many of the big international clients moving to Carat and Mitchells refocusing around Australian brands.

It’s major clients now include the Victorian and Federal Governments, Ansell, Open Universities and PZ Cussons.

Roeling argued this rebrand and the closer Dentsu alignment would actually help their many of their Australian clients who are looking to expand in the region.

“One of the big things will be for our existing clients in Australia and us helping them push out into the region. If you look at our client base there are already a number of them who have significant needs in the region,” said Roeling.

“Through joining the brand network we are already pushing and planning a number of campaigns in the region and we are immediately seeing the benefit of joining that network.”

“We feel it is a really clear positioning for the agency,” said Stewart. “It is loud and proud. People understand what Mitchells stands for.”

“This decision is an evolution in our strategy from being the Dentsu Aegis network and how we reflect that in Australia. It was self evident to us a while back that we needed to evolve the brand – it was a case of having three global brands internationally Carat, Vizeum and Dentsu Media. It therefore made sense for Mitchells to evolve into the Denstu side of things.”

In the wake of the changes the management team within the agency remains the same with Stewart remaining CEO of the agency and sister agency Vizeum. Roeling is managing director of the wider agency, while John Thompson remains managing director of government services based in Victoria, and Penny Davy-Whyte is general manager of Government Services in Canberra.

When questioned on whether the move to rebrand and align itself with Dentsu, which has the Toyota accounts in Japan, is aimed at poaching the account from independent agency The Media Store, which has no presence in Victoria, Stewart and Roeling admitted that the account was “on the radar” but played down the importance of the looming move of the client’s marketing staff to Melbourne.

“It is on the radar and why wouldn’t it be?”, conceded Stewart. “They are big brand in Australia, who is speaking to Australians – as are many Japanese brands.”

Roeling however, also addressed the question of the car account noting: “If you are asking if this is the reason that this move has been driven it most certainly isn’t.”

Sydney based independent The Media Store has over a number of years been seeking to rebrand itself and diversify its client base beyond Toyota, with a number of large Melbourne media agencies understood to be eyeing the account ahead of the move, which according to Nielsen had main media billings of $62.3m in last year.

Stewart said there was a strong alliance between both Dentsu and Mitchells in their backgrounds.

“At the beginning of the year we started lobbying for this,” said the Dentsu Mitchell boss.

“The Dentsu guys were very keen to get established in this market and it was a logical proposition to pitch to them. Eg. how about we launch Dentsu Media on top of Mitchells because that will establish you as a top five agency entity, give you established infrastructure, client relationships etc.

“Far better to do that than go for an acquisition or a partnership, which we have done previously but hasn’t worked.”

On how it would be rebranding Stewart insisted it would be pushing the new name hard to market.

“This is a case of establishing with a vengeance in this market. If you look at the core characteristics of both business (Denstu Media and Mitchells) it is about strong heritage, strong family heritage, an entrepreneurial spirit, innovation etc – it was just a hand fitting in a glove.

“It’s a beautiful alignment that just made perfect sense.”

Nic Christensen 

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