The best a brand can get? Well, Grey's having a go
A view from Jeremy Lee

The best a brand can get? Well, Grey's having a go

Another week passes and another feather makes an appearance on Grey London's plumed titfer. Gillette's worldwide advertising business was shifted out of BBDO and into the Grey network after a pitch played out on a global stage.

But it provides an interesting new creative opportunity for Nils Leonard and elevates the London office further up the new-business rankings following Grey's appointment by HSBC earlier in the year.

This, coinciding with a slew of distinctive work coming out of Grey London for the likes of Vodafone Ireland, Lucozade and The Sunday Times, has brought about a palpable sense of interest around an agency to which excitement has long been a stranger. And the fact that even those with the most poorly developed sense of humour no longer find it funny to utter the word "eponymous" whenever Grey is mentioned indicates that the "safe but dull" reputation of old has finally been dispelled.

The upturn (describing it as a revival would imply the return to a height never reached) extends beyond that experienced by Grey’s WPP stablemates, but in whose company it is most noticeable.

While JWT London has managed to raise its creative game considerably, recent new-business wobbles suggest there is some way yet to go. Meanwhile, the hiring of Mick Mahoney by Rainey Kelly Campbell Roalfe/Y&R as its new executive creative director also shows a work in progress. Ogilvy & Mather, too, is still undergoing a period of management transition that Grey, under Chris Hirst, has successfully and quietly traversed, and thereby altered the agency from a UK outpost servicing global clients into something equally capable of producing solid work for the domestic market.

There is now a palpable sense of interest around an agency to which excitement has long been a stranger

Exactly a decade ago, Garry Lace (whatever happened to him?) turned to Hirst to become the final member of Grey’s new management dream team, alongside Dylan Williams, Nicola Mendelsohn and Dave Roberts.

The subsequent spectacular fallout, and departure of the other three, is well-known. Hirst, however, remained loyal and, having no doubt learned hard lessons, seems to be, alongside David Patton, a key part of the solution to Grey’s challenges.

For Leonard, too, whose pointy elbows and acute self-confidence might not be to everyone’s taste, but which have translated into greater agency creative success, there is much to be proud of in working towards his goal of making his team the "most ambitious department in London".

While it may not have reached this dizzy height yet, just a few years ago the words "ambition" and "Grey" were improbable bedfellows. More power, then, to Hirst’s quiet determination and Leonard’s sharp elbows.