More trouble at Grey London as CEO in limbo – is a WPP merger with Ogilvy coming nearer?

Grey London has been anything but grey in recent years, with seemingly countless comings and goings.

Not that long ago Grey in New York and London (and very possibly Poland, of which more anon) was the jewel in Grey’s creative crown with Tor Myhren stateside with global CEO Jim Heekin and Nils Leonard and Vicki Maguire in London transforming the hitherto workmanlike agency.

And then, in London at least, it all began to go pear-shaped. Leonard left with Natalie Graeme and Lucy Jameson to set up Uncommon Creative Studio, highly-regarded EMEA boss David Patton moved to head WPP’s Y&R, UK boss Chris Hirst and then Maguire (also top rated) to Havas and Adrian Rossi came and went rapidly as “creative chairman” from AMV BBDO. Over the pond Heekin retired and Myhren departed to be Apple’s chief creative.

Charged with sorting out the London end of this not-so-merry-go-round was Anna Panczyk (above), a charismatic and feisty manager who’d made a big name for herself running Grey in…Poland. Now this was a big ask for anyone who didn’t know the London market, even Panczyk.

Now it’s reported that she’s “on leave” while “consultations” take place. Maybe that should be leaving.

Lots of top level execs are being nixed in the coronavirus crisis as holding company bosses see the income from their creative agencies rapidly disappearing. Grey London has hardly thrived thus far under Panczyk (losing Lucozade and not winning that much) but two years isn’t very long.

But is WPP boss Mark Read planning another of his mega-mergers?

So far, after succeeding departed founder Sir Martin Sorrell, he’s merged Y&R into digital agency VML (to the surprise of then global boss Patton and his newly-installed management team at Y&R London who thought it was going to be the other way round) and the venerable JWT into Wunderman to form Wunderman Thompson. Leading many people to think that his remaining two Madison Avenue behemoths Ogilvy and Grey were about to become better acquainted. Grey has been merged into Ogilvy in Paris.

Ogilvy is now helmed by former Deloitte Digital boss Andy Main, it may have taken more than a stupendous salary to tempt Main across to a struggling agency network.

Whatever happens down the line, Grey London has gone from prized asset to a right old mess in a remarkably short space of time.

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About Stephen Foster

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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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