PERSPECTIVE: Is Garry Lace able to repeat at Grey what happened at TBWA?

I'd like to see Caroline Aherne as Mrs Merton interviewing Garry Lace on why he's taken the extraordinary step of leaving TBWA/London to run Grey. After all this is the woman who wasn't afraid to ask Debbie McGee: "What was it that first attracted you to the short, balding, middle-aged millionaire Paul Daniels?" Many feel a similar question might be appropriate for Mr Lace, and if you believe the fairytale figures being flung around London at the moment you'll expect him to come up with around eight hundred thousand reasons why he took the Grey job (and all with the Queen's head on them).

Let's look at the move with a more kindly and forgiving eye. Hiring Lace, who is only 35, is without doubt one hell of a coup for Grey. The number of people who could do the job is limited, and of the few people who are eligible, few might actually want to do it. But Grey has plucked someone from TBWA's very successful top line-up, someone who's proved over the past two years that what he lacks in experience he makes up for in youth, energy, new-business flair and creative nous. Surely any agency would aspire to these qualities in its leader?

And so, inevitably, to the "buts". But does Grey really want such a manager?

We are often told that advertising reflects the face of society, which would be extremely depressing if it were wholly true. Nearer the truth is that advertising reflects the face of the client. The client is the first member of the public outside an agency to judge an advertising idea; he can approve it, tinker with it, kill it and demand something much worse because, well, he's paying for it.

"Just remember it's our money you're spending here" is a phrase that seems to hang ominously over Grey, and in particular over the three entrenched international clients who are its financial bedrock - Procter & Gamble, Glaxo SmithKline and Mars. A generous look at the current Grey reel would linger over its new work for Mars, its ads for Campari, Nokia and even some of the work for Pringles. But the incidence of brilliant advertising as a percentage of the overall output is minimal. Grey does not produce the kind of work that attracts the highest calibre people and a constant stream of new clients. As we all know, that's not what the place is about.

The key things that will help Lace make a difference at Grey are threefold.

First, he will need support from those above and around him to enable as well as advocate change. Second, he will need to harness every ounce of his new-business skills to attract new clients, clients who are prepared to take a risk in hiring an agency that is typecast as an FMCG factory.

Third, he will need money to hire some top-notch creative teams. For while Grey has three experienced creative directors assigned to those three key clients, it lacks the star teams that will do more famous work. I wish him luck - he'll need it.


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