PERSPECTIVE: Grey will go global in order to find Mellors a management man

For those who savour being able to say 'I told you so', the news

that Martin Smith has stepped down from the chairman's position at Grey

Worldwide London has a certain poetic justice to it. For a little over a

year ago, the sight of an agency that is largely about grinding out

process-driven work for process-driven clients hiring a veteran of an

creative agency had the sceptics chortling. As did the notion of a

lasting partnership between the calm, contemplative Smith and Grey's

more volatile creative leader, Tim Mellors.

Grey is seen, after all, as one of those agencies that turns out

sometimes good but usually forgettable work for the rewards it brings in

to its New York financial centre. Given the choice of agreeing with the

client or kissing so many million dollars goodbye, it's easy enough to

guess which way Grey would lean. Advertising, after all, is a business,

and if there are some small qualms about expediency and compromise,

these can also be soothed in one way or another.

Like considering, perhaps, that Grey's worldwide chairman, Ed Meyer, is

the highest paid man in advertising.

That may sound too simplistic and it certainly sounds unkind to an

agency that has made some radical environmental and structural changes

in recent years, but what other conclusion can be drawn? To continue the

simplistic line of thought, Bartle Bogle Hegarty, where Smith spent most

of his career, continues to be one of the most stoutly independent of

creative agencies, despite its deal with Leo Burnett. Plucking Smith

from that environment and putting him into the more profit-driven

climate of Grey was a supreme example of miscasting.

And yet the hiring undoubtedly had a certain military logic to it, on

paper at least. A year ago, Grey urgently needed a top suit as Steve

Blamer had been recalled a year early to take over the network's crucial

New York office. Smith, for his part, had been at BBH for 18 years and

was one of many, perhaps too many, senior managers there. After that

long with a single agency - punctuated by making a small fortune when

BBH sold a minority stake to Leo Burnett - you either know you are

valued as part of the furniture or you are encouraged to believe that

you should go and run something on your own.

Now Mellors, a veteran of many a previous political skirmish, steps into

the top role as the creative director and chairman of Grey London and

the search is on for another top suit to bolster the agency's


Mellors is one of those creatives who works best with an old hand with

big agency experience by his side. But where to find such a saint?

Saatchis had to go to New Zealand to find its equivalent in James Hall,

Grey itself went to the US to find Blamer, J. Walter Thompson also went

to the US to find Simon Bolton. Going outside London looks inevitable.


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