Take a large portion of ambition, a pinch of frustration, a
high-profile management team at a small agency and a big agency lacking
management and creative profile. Stir until ready to boil, add a measure
of financial stock-taking, get the story on Campaign’s front page (last
week) and you end up with a lot of concerned staff (for which we can
only apologise) and a good chance of Mellors Reay folding into its
parent agency, Grey.
It’s a potentially mouthwatering dish. If you accept the notion that a
good part of the creative director’s job is marketing an agency to
potential clients, then Tim Mellors is the man to put some colour into
Grey’s London office. He has a proven track record and has raised his
profile further as a popular D&AD president. With a career that spans
Saatchis, Publicis and the gargantuan task of replacing Dave Trott at
GGT, Mellors is better and happier in big agencies. They seem to fulfil
his deep personal need for recognition.
Carol Reay, meanwhile, would make a superb chairman for Grey - sorry, I
can’t stand politically correct words such as chairperson - working with
new managing director, Steve Blamer.
While it is certainly no creative flier, observers point to Mellors Reay
as a well-run agency with a sound financial record. A glance at
Companies House figures reveals that in the year to September 1997, it
recorded gross income of pounds 4,105,595, profit before tax of pounds
773,437 and had 43 staff.
In 1996, the figures were pounds 4,115,190, pounds 728,978 and 45 - a
small decline in staff numbers and in-come masking a profit margin on
income of 18.8 per cent, more than three times the industry average of
6.2 per cent.
If the merger does take place, Grey’s powerful chief, Ed Meyer, has two
choices. Either Grey London can build on its position within the network
as a multinational cash cow, churning out steady work for unsexy clients
such as Procter & Gamble and British American Tobacco. Or it could jump
more forcefully into the local fray, setting Mellors the task of hiring
first-rate talent and competing - let’s be optimistic - with the likes
of BMP DDB and Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO.
Sceptics may doubt that Grey could ever raise its creative profile to
this extent because the multinational route is its forte. And although
having a client list with nigh-on 100 multinational clients doesn’t
necessarily mean that the bulk of an agency’s work consists of
lowest-common-denominator work - well, it often does.
Inevitably, Grey will encounter conflict problems if the merger does
take place. After all, that’s how Mellors Reay, in a previous
incarnation, ended up with the consolation prize of P&G’s Pringles and
But the merger has the distinct appearance of one that makes too much
sense not to happen.