MITCHELL, HAROLD CHARLES (1942– )
Harold Mitchell is an advertising and media executive whose media planning and buying agency altered the operation of the local advertising industry and formed the basis of one of Australia’s largest and most influential media companies.
Mitchell arrived in Melbourne in 1959 to work with advertising agency Briggs and James. After seven years, he left to become the media manager at USP Needham, where he honed his television skills. He then moved to Masius Wynne Williams as media director.
The advertising agencies’ focus on creative work frustrated Mitchell. Seeing that advertising budgets were spent largely on buying suitable media space, he formed his own media buying and planning agency in 1975. The agency found traction with clients wanting greater accountability for their media expenditure. Angered that Mitchell was taking media space and the commissions media outlets paid on it, the advertising agencies denied him accreditation. Mitchell responded by buying an accredited agency. His capacity to identify what programs worked with which markets saw the agency, renamed Mitchell & Partners, grow in size and stature.
Mitchell’s non-media ventures almost cost him his business in the 1980s, but the agency’s fortunes improved in the late 1990s. The dismantling of the accreditation system ended the advertising agencies’ monopoly over media commissions and enhanced the media buyers’ hand. Advertising agencies closed their own media departments and came knocking at Mitchell’s door.
The internet’s growing popularity prompted Mitchell to expand into the new medium. He formed emitch, a digital media buyer. It was floated on the stock exchange in 1999, earning Mitchell $11.5 million overnight. By 2007, emitch had bought out Mitchell & Partners to form basis of the Mitchell Communication Group. With various media, advertising and public relations companies under its umbrella, the group boasted billings of $16 billion in 2007. In 2010, the Mitchell Communication Group sold out to multinational Aegis Media for $363 million.
Mitchell delivered the Andrew Olle Media Lecture in 2003, and has been appointed AO and AC. He became chairman of Free TV Australia in 2013.
REF: H. Mitchell, Living Large (2009).