Grey’s Patton steps up at WPP as new president of Y&R

Grey EMEA boss David Patton is joining sister WPP agency Y&R as global president in what looks like an important step up the WPP ladder. Patton will run Grey outside the US which, for now, remains in the hands of global CEO David Sable.

While Grey EMEA has prospered under Patton, Y&R has performed in fits and starts with the biggest current problem London agency RKCR/Y&R’s loss of major accounts including Lloyds, Premier Inn and Marks & Spencer, the latter to Grey in a closed WPP pitch. Y&R in London has a new CEO in Jon Sharpe. Current Y&R Europe president is Andrew Dimitriou.

608902_6005373_leadership-headshot-image_480x480px-42x-jpegPatton (left), who made his name as a marketer at Sony (he fathered the famous ‘Balls’ ad by Fallon) has overseen a transormation in Grey’s fortunes – it’s now known for its creativity, unbelievably – mirroring the transformation in the US under global boss Jim Heekin and creative supremo Tor Myrhen, who left last year to join Apple.

Grey London has also lost its high profile creative boss Nils Leonard who’s setting up his own agency and London CEO Chris Hirst, who’s joined Havas. But it seems to be sailing serenely on, unlike Y&R.

Patton’s new job isn’t all about London of course but London’s important and needs to win some big-paying clients having lost two in Lloyds and M&S. It’s won other business since including the Premier League but they’re unlikely to pay as many bills.

Patton says: “The Y&R brand is iconic in the industry and it has continued to build on its legacy, becoming one of the top-ranking creative networks in the world and achieving this standard of excellence with offices from all around the network. I look forward to working closely with David and the regional leaders.”

Every decade or so Y&R in London seems in need of a blood transfusion. It restored its fortunes in 1999 by buying indie agency Rainey Kelly Campbell Roalfe who reared a starry new management but most of them left too; most notably James Murphy and friends who set up adam&eve in 2007. The agency has struggled since and it’s questionable whether or not it should keep the RKCR moniker as only chairman Mark Roalfe remains.

The word from Y&R is that Dimitriou is staying. Grey, meanwhile, needs an EMEA boss with no obvious candidate in view following Hirst’s departure.


He may not have been an obvious candidate but Alain Groenendaal, president and CEO of Grey Latin America is taking over from Patton.

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About Stephen Foster

Stephen is a former editor of Marketing Week and London Evening Standard advertising columnist. He wrote City Republic for Brand Republic and is a partner in communications consultancy The Editorial Partnership.

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