It’s the circle of life: O’Neill jumps back on board the ASB train with senior Saatchi role

Saatchi & Saatchi officially welcomed ASB into the building at the start of July, along with around 12 new staff across its account service, digital, production and creative teams. And while there’s no title on his business card (and just a fullstop on his LinkedIn profile), Philip O’Neill—ex Mitchell’s and TBWA\ managing director and self-proclaimed ”adman at large”—has joined the agency as the main man on the account. 

Having worked at plenty of local agencies in his time, including M&C Saatchi, DDB and Ogilvy, he says success is usually predicated on “finding four or five people who you like spending time with and who have a common view of the world”. And with the new senior team of managing director Nicky Bell, executive creative director Antonio Navas and head of planning Murray Streets, he says that’s exactly what he’s got. 

“I’m really enjoying being back in a creative agency. It’s more my natural habitat,” he says. “And, as you’ve seen from meeting the gang [for the cover story in the latest NZ Marketing magazine], I’ve come at an ideal point in time … There’s a sense of positivity, a sense that something’s going to happen. So who knows what it will look like a year from now.” 

In theory it’s all new for him—new agency, new clients, new role—but he says there are also enough familiar faces around the table to make it comfortable. Guy Roberts and Corey Chalmers are there as creative directors, having followed ASB from TBWA\ to Droga5 to Saatchi, and O’Neill will also be working closely with ASB’s Roger Beaumont, who he dealt with when Mitchell’s controlled ASB’s media. 

O’Neill also worked on the ASB account when it was with TBWA\ and, completing the circle of advertising incestuousness, Carat now takes care of ASB’s media, so, given Aegis/Carat took over Mitchells last year, he’ll also be working with some of his old homies from High St. 

“ASB feels very different as a client than it did two years ago. Like Saatchi & Saatchi, it has also undergone a restructure … The ASB team is largely new, so we’ve basically got around 25 people who are all starting reasonably fresh on the business.”

Not surprisingly, O’Neill says his current remit with ASB is pretty much all-consuming as it gets bedded in, so at this stage he’s unsure whether he’ll be working on any other clients in the future. But he is hoping to do a bit more writing and public speaking. 

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