LIVE ISSUE/JOSHUA: Grey rivals take new name after unlikely wedding - Grey’s integrated offer has a radical new look and an odd name. By Robert Dwek

So, two become one. Grey Direct and Grey Integrated are finally one and the same - a brave new entity called Joshua. There have, of course, been no end of brave new entities in the marketing world. Inevitably, they have been cheapened by repetition, hype and false dawns. But if nothing else, Joshua has to be applauded simply for its name, which scores maximum points on the chuckleometer after so many years of Greyness.

So, two become one. Grey Direct and Grey Integrated are finally one

and the same - a brave new entity called Joshua. There have, of course,

been no end of brave new entities in the marketing world. Inevitably,

they have been cheapened by repetition, hype and false dawns. But if

nothing else, Joshua has to be applauded simply for its name, which

scores maximum points on the chuckleometer after so many years of

Greyness.



While senior Joshua management herald their new baby as a launch rather

than a relaunch, jaded observers may wonder what makes this enthusiastic

newcomer any different from all the others. Will it be more than the sum

of its parts? Will the radical new image be accompanied by a radical new

proposition and personality?



The Grey Communications Group’s chairman and chief executive, Roger

Edwards, says Joshua is just part of a much bigger corporate

restructuring, following on the heels of the merger of Mellors Reay with

Grey Advertising. ’We’re about two-thirds of the way through

rationalising the group offering to make it much more user-friendly,’ he

declares. ’We could just as easily have left Grey Direct and Grey

Integrated as they were but we have chosen voluntarily to put them

together to produce a more dynamic offering. We see this as a

no-brainer.’



Nick Spindler, the managing director of Joshua, is more dramatic. ’I see

this as a real turning point for the industry. I want people working

here to be able to look back in six years and say ’I was there at the

launch’.’ For him, Joshua is all about breaking down major barriers -

taboos, even - between traditional approaches to above and below the

line.



He notes: ’A lot of people who’ve come into this industry in the last

five or so years don’t understand why there is such rigid thinking about

who does what.’ He sees Joshua competing on equal terms with the biggest

and the best agencies, be they above, below or through that ’outmoded’

line.



He claims the agency world has been ’staggeringly stagnant’ in terms of

innovation over the past five years and that it is now lagging behind

client needs. He blames this on a lack of fresh perspective and endemic

complacency.



As for the ubiquitous ’integration’ issue, Joshua’s approach will differ

from the others because ’we have elevated it to a skill set, brought to

bear when clients’ needs demand it and not forced on them as part of a

central philosophy’.



But is Joshua really so discipline-neutral? Observers might get the

impression from the management line-up that its inception has been

driven more by Grey Integrated than Grey Direct.



Nick Velody, group managing director for advertising, is quick to

counter such suspicions, noting that all disciplines will be represented

at board level and ’there will be no poor relations’. Spindler also

stresses this point: ’Think of Joshua as a brand with a large product

portfolio and total equality of discipline. We may be lead agency for

Royal Mail but does that mean we don’t worry about doing on-pack

promotions for Pringles?



Of course not. It’s brilliant to be working in all these different

areas.’



But wasn’t there supposed to be a good deal of cultural antagonism

between the two agencies? Didn’t Grey Integrated start describing itself

as the agency that doesn’t need to take its clothes off after Grey

Direct achieved notoriety with its nude staff shot? Velody makes light

of past differences.



’Of course there’s been some rivalry because we’ve been in competitive

marketplaces, but most of the stories are apocryphal.’



John Shaw, the vice-chairman of Brann, knows all about merging

below-the-line agencies, as he was at Wunderman when it merged with Cato

Johnson in 1993. ’Merging two different cultures can be very difficult.

Grey Direct has been very creative-led, while Grey Integrated is a more

strategic and thoughtful agency. It is important to keep the clients

involved - rather than presenting them with a brand new agency, they

need to know that the agency is building on the past and improving it,

and that their agency people have clearly defined roles.’



Velody notes that the merger will not involve any redundancies from the

combined staff of 205: ’This is not a cost-cutting exercise,’ he

says.



Indeed, the new venture begins life with a massive advantage over most

agency start-ups - namely, a claimed #150 million in billings and a

projected income of #16 million.



Joshua’s impressive roster of clients has been consulted about the

’launch’.



’We’re not going to be asking clients to buy more than one discipline at

a time. In fact, we’d be uncomfortable if clients started approaching us

as a one-stop shop because we’d assume they were driven by price,’

Velody says.



Janet Sommerville, consumer marketing director at CWC, believes the time

is ripe for a new agency approach. ’Clients are saying: what do I want

to achieve and what is the best way to achieve it? But you often still

get answers from agencies that define the problem in terms of the means

rather than the end. Having worked with Grey Integrated I have seen how

they really get under the skin of a brand, so I would imagine Joshua has

a good chance of achieving its ambitions.’



Then with a bemused chuckle, she adds: ’But I don’t think the name

itself will make much difference.’



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