PERSPECTIVE: Group photo pointed to the inevitability of Reay’s quitting Grey

What is going on at Grey? Carol Reay’s departure is about as unexpected as the news that Greg and Carla Cordell (the couple who first met at their Birmingham radio-station arranged marriage) are to split. However, the timing throws the agency into an unwanted spotlight yet again. It comes just six months after Reay’s reluctant appearance in the group photograph announcing the Grey/Mellors Reay merger, and three weeks after the Grey London group chairman, Roger Edwards, announced he’s quitting too.

What is going on at Grey? Carol Reay’s departure is about as

unexpected as the news that Greg and Carla Cordell (the couple who first

met at their Birmingham radio-station arranged marriage) are to split.

However, the timing throws the agency into an unwanted spotlight yet

again. It comes just six months after Reay’s reluctant appearance in the

group photograph announcing the Grey/Mellors Reay merger, and three

weeks after the Grey London group chairman, Roger Edwards, announced

he’s quitting too.



It’s difficult to discuss exactly what went on behind the scenes between

Edwards, Reay, her erstwhile ally, Tim Mellors, and Grey’s US-import

chief executive, Steve Blamer. But at the time of the merger it was

reported that Reay would be deputy chairman and eventually become

chairman and, as of this week, she was still ’deputy’. Reay claims

’eventually’ meant 1 April. Being on a promise is the bane of any

deputy’s life - ask Campaign’s Caroline Marshall.



But to the objective eye, the job title dispute is simply the public

manifestation of the private disquiet. Clearly, Reay and Mellors had

fallen out ahead of the merger (if you doubt it, look again at that

photograph). Reay was the reason the merger negotiations were drawn out,

as both sides struggled to find an appropriate role for her in the new

agency. At the time Blamer himself was unexpectedly blunt: ’Tim was the

prize,’ he told Campaign.



So Reay, already bruised by the failure of Mellors Reay to break through

to the major league as an independent agency, must have felt unloved,

perhaps unwanted - although, to most people outside of advertising, the

kind of package she was on would suggest a passionate longing for her

services. I, for one, would be prepared to be as unloved by Haymarket’s

Michael Heseltine.



And Mellors, her former partner, had taken another lover - at least

publicly. The mutual love-in professed by Blamer and Mellors was the

major positive of a deal that makes good sense should everyone involved

wish it to. They will now have to demonstrate that the public displays

of affection they have exhibited for each other have real roots, and can

embrace Grey’s staff.



Right now those staff and Grey’s clients can be forgiven for being a tad

bemused. Accusing fingers will point across the Atlantic towards Ed

Meyer, Grey’s venerable worldwide boss. Perhaps Meyer cannot or will not

understand the peculiarities of the creative marketplace in which Grey

London must compete - ask his former managing director here, Nigel

Sharrocks. Perhaps Meyer doesn’t care. But, in his defence (Lord knows,

he doesn’t need me to defend him) it should be pointed out yet again

that in London’s best big agencies - from BMP DDB and Abbott Mead

Vickers BBDO to M&C Saatchi and Lowe Howard-Spink - the range of

competing egos is somehow accommodated to excellent effect. Why not

Grey?



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