After waiting for Aegis, O’Neill gets set to make another leap

He switched from creative agency to media agency almost three years ago, and now Mitchell and Partners managing director Philip O’Neill is set to make another switch and will step down from the role in the next few months. 

As for what he’ll be leaping to, he says he’s involved in a number of conversations with potential suitors at the moment, including Mitchell’s relatively new owner Aegis about a non-media oriented joint venture, a few clients and creative agencies.

He says the new structure is “resoundingly” not the reason he’s decided to depart. He believes the acquisition has been very well-managed, as has his impending departure, and he thinks Aegis is set to be “a really strong and pleasantly diverse” group of companies in New Zealand. It’s a catalyst for his decision, of course, because times of change within a business always lead to career reassessment, but it’s more that he’s “becoming an old man quite quickly” and if he doesn’t look elsewhere now, he might never do it.

As he says on his LinkedIn profile: “I’d like to do more in the advertising industry, but better than I’ve done it in the past. I’d like to spend more time writing and public speaking. And I’d really like to make a hole in one.”

“I’ve got an appetite for leaping,” he says. And the fact that his stint with Mitchell’s was so successful, despite having no media experience and coming from senior roles with WhybinTBWA and M&C Saatchi, gives him confidence that he can do it again.


As an indication of the good terms he’s leaving Aegis on, he says he’s been actively involved in the process of choosing the best person to replace him and is likely to work through until Christmas (he says the upcoming party season is a byproduct rather than a motivation for staying) to ensure the handover process goes smoothly.

“It’s a good time to bring in someone to contribute to the business and own what comes of this new situation,” he says.

As for highlights, he’s had a few in his time, chief among them the success of 2degrees, which will “forever be remembered as a case study on how a brand can be launched,” the ongoing relationship with ASB, the opening of the Kiwi office of PR firm Haystac and the fact that he was able to bring the group a lot closer together, especially evident with its online advertising arm Catch.

But surely nothing compares to the heady heights of winning the coveted title of New Zealand’s best dressed businessman way back in 2005. Whatever role he chooses, the industry can rest assured, for the famed red velvet jacket will still be on display at various industry functions.


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