Vale media legend Dennis Merchant – pioneer of Australian independent media buying

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Vale media legend Dennis Merchant – pioneer of Australian independent media buying

Dennis Merchant, the pioneer of Australian independent media buying, died today aged 82. Merchant started the first independent media buying company in Australia in 1974. First called Merchant, Pettett and Mitchell. Just over ten years later in 1985, the renamed Merchant and Partners launched an office in Perth to service the requirements of Mojo in Perth, which had been established in WA to primarily serve their Perth accounts, Red Rooster and Bond Brewing.


The Merchant/Pettett partnership dissolved in 1980. The new Company was called Merchant and Partners. That was when Alan Robertson started and Harold Mitchell left to go out on his own in Melbourne.

Merchant and Partners came to Perth in 1985, introducing media buying shops into Perth. It signalled a new era for smaller agencies, allowing them to compete effectively in terms of media buying power, with Perth’s larger agencies.

The first office in Perth was combined with Mojo on Broadway in Nedlands.

Alan Robertson, former part-owner and CEO of Merchant and Partners Pty Ltd., Australia’s first true media independent, said: “Dennis Merchant was a giant of the media industry of his time. He was a man of complete honesty, integrity and passion for his family, his friends and the media business in which he made his name. He was loyal to his employees and friends. Above all, he was my friend, and I shall miss him despite re-locating to Forbes in mid-western NSW. People in the media business of his era that did not know Dennis or at least made his acquaintance, were the poorer for that in my opinion. If John Singleton, Mo and Jo, Jim Walpole, Rich Hertz, Geoff Cousins, Ron Selsby, Ken James and Joe de Deo liked and respected him, that should have been enough of a reference for anybody. Kerry Packer thought so. There won’t be another Dennis Merchant again, be sure of that.”

Debra Neve said: “I first met Dennis Merchant in 1994, when Allan Matthews was heading up the Perth office of Merchant & Partners, and I was offered a job as General Manager. He was such a legend of the industry – that first meeting was daunting. He was a big man with a big personality and laugh. He had such a progressive work attitude and I will forever be grateful to him for the opportunity that he gave me. It was 1995 and Allan Matthews, current MD, decided to leave the company. It had always been my plan (hope) that in the event Al left I would be considered for the MD role. Unfortunately, the timing wasn’t ideal as I was three weeks away from giving birth. Nevertheless, Dennis called me and said that if I still wanted the job it was mine. Shortly after my son arrived Dennis and Robbo (Alan Robertson) flew over, came to my house and nursed Adam while I signed my contract. That was totally unexpected “in those days”.  I was with the company for another 17 years – the best while Dennis was at the helm. He was always so supportive.”

“Two images flashed in my mind when I heard of his passing. One was Dennis walking along the hallway at our Claremont office almost bent in half as he was walking my son Adam (who was about two at the time) along the corridor. The other was sitting in a café after one of our famous anniversary parties, eating burgers and watching as Dennis drank his favourite (at the time anyway) hangover cure – a strawberry milkshake.”

Pictured below, early Campaign Brief WA news stories from 1985 on Merchant & Partners’ launch in the Perth market.

Vale media legend Dennis Merchant – pioneer of Australian independent media buying Vale media legend Dennis Merchant – pioneer of Australian independent media buying