Jeremy Lee
Jeremy Lee
A view from Jeremy Lee

Anna Panczyk's absence means more drama at Grey London

Consistent leadership is overdue at an agency that has endured enough change.

In this year’s School Reports, Campaign challenged Grey London that it was “incumbent on the management team to show to clients, prospects and staff that it has finally settled down in order to produce more of the sort of work that made it famous just a few short years ago”.

That job maybe has just got a bit more difficult, given the departure of its chief executive, Anna Panczyk, who is officially “on leave” but insiders say will not be returning to the job, suggesting negotiations are ongoing with m’learned friends. 

Panczyk, who had achieved considerable success running Grey Poland, was parachuted into the London agency at the beginning of 2019 to replace Leo Rayman, who had left the job the previous summer. A bright planner, Rayman had managed just over a year in a role that he took over from Lucy Jameson (herself after Chris Hirst), before moving to a global consulting position within the agency that looked more suitable for his brand of cerebalism. By comparison to Rayman’s time in charge, Panczyk’s 18-month tenure looks like representing strong and stable leadership.

But the drama doesn’t end there. Both Rayman and Panczyk lasted longer than Grey’s creative chairman, Adrian Rossi, who was there for 11 months after his surprise move from Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO in December 2018 that saw him split from his partner of 20-odd years, Alex Grieve. (And Grey also saw chief creative officer Vicki Maguire leave to join Havas London – a big loss.) 

At the time of Panczyk’s hiring (and just one month after his own), Rossi said of his new partner: “We just clicked… She’s so ambitious – a proper force of nature and a breath of fresh air for the whole industry.” Who would have known that less than two years later, one would have breezed away and the other, er, clicked off (forcibly or not)?

It’s almost enough to make you dizzy thinking about the speed of change – and that’s before you even look at the changes to Grey's accounts list (one recent rare bright spot being the agency winning the Very account). 

Obviously, coronavirus and the need for agencies – and other companies, including the one I work for – to cut their cloth accordingly has meant a number of staff changes, and not all of them for the better. But Grey’s turmoil has been going on for so long that it can’t just blame coronavirus for that. There looks to have been some chronic miscasting (as well as misfortune) that has kept the management merry-go-round spinning.

What of the future? Well, there are some positives in that Grey has more focus from its London-based European chief executive Eduardo Maruri; has Laura Jordan Bambach as newly joined chief creative officer, working alongside creative chairman Javier Campopiano; and that chief strategy officer Raquel Chicourel is still relatively fresh to the post. There appears to be a new vision.

But nevertheless it’s more important than ever that Grey’s leadership team do their best to show that things are settling down (as much as they can, given the wider circumstances and enforced redundancies), so that it can foster the brilliant work it was once – and relatively recently – famous for.

Jeremy Lee is premium content editor at Campaign