LIVE ISSUE/MELLORS REAY: Grey bolsters creative profile with Mellors merger - As Grey subsumes Mellors Reay, John Tylee asks what is in store for its founders?

Amateur psychologists have been reading much into the contrasting expressions of Tim Mellors and Carol Reay in last week’s Campaign front-page picture of Grey’s new managerial front line.

Amateur psychologists have been reading much into the contrasting

expressions of Tim Mellors and Carol Reay in last week’s Campaign

front-page picture of Grey’s new managerial front line.



Certainly, Reay’s thin smile seemed at odds with the huge grin spread

across the face of her erstwhile partner, Mellors, standing at her

shoulder.



As one agency executive comments: ’If the photograph had speech bubbles,

Tim’s would have said, ’Wahay!’ Carol’s would have been asking, ’What am

I doing here?’’



For the Mellors Reay founders, the folding of their agency within its

Grey parent could provoke mixed emotions. While both will see the demise

of the shop bearing their names as an aborted end to an unfinished job,

Mellors may find the journey from Soho to Great Portland Street a more

comfortable trip.



Nobody doubts that Mellors, who displaces Paul Smith as Grey’s creative

chief, is the key element in the deal to give Grey a creative profile to

match its inexorable rise up the rankings from 21st spot to sixth place

in ten years.



Where this leaves Reay is an open question. ’Carol and Tim were a

professional item so it’s understandable that one of them is going to

feel like a jilted lover,’ an industry source says. ’The new set-up will

work, but it isn’t going to be an easy ride.’



Mellors’ transition will certainly be the easiest. His creative pedigree

was acquired in big agencies - Saatchi & Saatchi, Publicis and GGT - and

he has been handed the opportunity to work on blue-chip businesses

again.



This, at least, will be partial compensation for an anti-climactic four

years at the first agency with his name on the door, and which he hoped

would be the vehicle for the industry-wide approbation he craved. ’Was

Tim happy with Mellors Reay?’ a former colleague asks. ’The answer is

no.’



If Grey isn’t perfect for Mellors, he seems to have decided that this is

as good as it gets career-wise. ’It isn’t the job he would have been

looking for,’ a one-time associate admits. ’But he’ll do it because the

alternative is anonymity.’



Others say Mellors’ decision was born of the frustration that no

increase in the agency’s billings was likely to change a portfolio

dominated by small clients.



In his favour is the initial rapport he seems to have established with

Grey’s Californian chief executive, Steve Blamer. ’We see eye to eye on

all fundamental issues,’ Blamer declares, allaying some internal concern

that this pivotal axis might be a problem.



’Subtle relationships with creatives can be difficult for Americans

coming from a hierarchical business society,’ an insider comments. ’And

Tim is no pussy-cat.’



What’s more, there’s a belief that Grey has more pent-up talent than the

agency gets credit for, and that it will benefit from a less

authoritarian management regime than the one imposed by Smith. ’It never

came naturally to him,’ one of his former staffers comments.



Digby Atkinson, who was with Mellors at Publicis as well as being a

one-time member of Grey’s creative department, describes it as ’a steam

vessel without enough valves on it’. Atkinson, currently the caretaker

creative director at Summerfield Wilmot Keene, says: ’Tim not only

commands immense loyalty from his own creatives but from every level of

account management. It’s something you don’t often see.’



What, though, of Reay? Leader of a shop whose growth has plateaued, she

comes in as Grey’s deputy chairman under Mellors’ shadow - and with no

experience of large agency management. ’Carol won’t be happy with what

she’s got,’ a former Mellors Reay director comments. ’But she’s a very

confident lady.’



Working in harmony with Blamer will be crucial. ’He’ll need her,’ a

former Grey senior manager predicts. ’A lot of UK clients aren’t very

comfortable with American chief executives of London agencies.’



Meanwhile, Malcolm Green, the former Mellors Reay joint creative

director, believes Reay will prove she’s not merely part of a package

deal. ’This may give her the chance to show how good she is instead of

fighting fires.’



Undoubtedly, Mellors Reay dwelled in inflammable mixture, not helped by

what some of its managers called its collective insecurity. Some believe

that the partnership of its chairman and chief executive looked good on

paper but failed to produce either an emotional bonding or tangible

agency culture. ’We were never seen as a cohesive unit,’ Justin Cernis,

the agency’s former new-business director, admits.



Never slow to hype itself, Mellors Reay enjoyed early success. It won

Burton tailoring, Mr Kipling cakes and the launch of Heart FM, while

securing a place on Procter & Gamble’s roster. But the momentum waned as

pitches for Ikea, Direct Line insurance and Maples furniture were not

converted.



Moreover, the agency behaved in a way that belied its size - boosting

overheads by hiring Green and his partner, Gary Betts, from BMP as

creative directors while Mellors was said to be drawing a pounds

200,000-plus annual salary.



For its part, Grey, which had been mulling over a Mellors Reay merger

for nine months, clearly believed that if its subsidiary was to make it

big, the breakthrough would have happened by now.



And with reports that Grey-owned MediaCom has earmarked the Media

Business as a merger partner and speculation that Grey Direct and Grey

Integrated will be brought together, the Mellors Reay marriage may only

be part of Grey’s muscle-building plan



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