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the showcase 2023

In a Year of Change The Work Continues to Shine: Grey London's 2023

New leadership and innovative creative work dominate the agency's year

By Creative Salon

2023 was another year of change for Grey London. But by the end of the year, the agency was looking settled, energetic and ambitious, with new leadership and a determination to translate its creative and strategic chops into real growth in 2024.

When in September president and chief creative officer Laura Jordan Bambach (LJB) announced her departure for a new venture, WPP wasted no time in replacing her. Conrad Persons, a global strategist at the holding group, was swiftly installed as the new president of the London agency, with a new vision for the business and a fresh vigour.

Grey London's 2023 is marked by some other very strategic hires, including CSO Tarek Sioufi who joined from MediaMonks. And he has by his side, his head of strategy Asad Shaykh - a class act with great personal and professional values. Grey London also had some impressive new business wins this year such as SkyBet, and the agency's creative work - which under the steer of Grey's creative superstar ECD David Wigglesworth - remains fun, surprising and effective.

We caught up with Conrad Persons to share his reflections on the agency.

What 3 words would you used to describe 2023?

Renewal. Optimism. Ideas.

Talk us through some of your agency’s highlights this year?

There is a sense within the agency that the stars are starting to align for Grey. The business has a brilliant history, but it’s now more optimistic about its future than nostalgic for its past.

The team has made some amazing work. Creative that elicits emotion – be that surprise (SkyBet, a win for us this year, whose work will continue to upend category norms in the new year). Work that does the simple but difficult job of making you laugh (humour is a place our industry does not visit often enough), Work that inspires admiration at the craft (brilliant design for a tech-furniture outfit called Tylko), and work that blurs the line between advertising and entertainment (Pringles NPC – getting nods at Cannes, Creative Circle). Work that our clients talk about build growth, not just fandom.

Of course, a lot of this has to do with talent. This year has seen influx of new blood at Grey, with the brilliant Tarek Sioufi joining us as CSO from MediaMonks, Liam Thomas, our Head of Design, joining from DEPT, Drew and Goose arriving from Leos and some exciting new talent joining from the world of tech which will land in our studio in January. Like all the best talent, these people are the rare types who make the people around them better.

David Wigglesworth, our sui generis creative lead, has been a revelation and his ambition for creative greatness is infectious.

What one thing are you proudest of this year?

The resilient, smart, imaginative, and wildly able people of Grey. They have had to navigate real change. Within our walls. In the choppy UK market. And in the wider world. But despite this they have managed to do something that is core to our mission – produce better creative work, more consistently, for more clients.

And what’s been your biggest challenge?

The market, here in the UK and globally – has an air of caution about it. The reasons are easy to surmise – economic headwinds, uncertainty at seemingly every level of society, even the greenest shoots – such as AI – seem to inspire as much worry as they do optimism. And this has the potential to dampen some of our greatest assets: namely bravery, and the belief that being creatively brave is a route to change, and growth.

What are you most looking forward to in 2024?

On a personal level I’m excited to enjoy my first full year at the helm of Grey, London. I have a full leadership team, incredible creative partners, and a vision that allows me to leverage all my hard-won lessons as an entrepreneur. I have a deep partnership with our global leadership. And I have what every founder or President wants: a group of people fiercely committed to a mission. Famously Effective is an idea that has been in the world for some time, but I think it will gain new resonance and meaning in London and beyond in 2024.

What one change would you most like to see in our industry next year?

I would like the industry to feel confident, to have swagger, to not forget that we are in a creative business at a time of great creative potential. I would like the industry to be cognisant of the wider struggles in society, but not let that dampen its enthusiasm or hunger for change. I’d like the industry to be alert to its possibilities. In short, if I had one wish, I want the industry to recapture its optimism.

Creative Salon on Grey London's 2023

The year for the agency began with the much-talked about ad featuring a hamster performing some dramatic electro music for Pringles. The somewhat strange, yet wonderfully different idea from Grey talks about Pringles Multigrain range and a hamster with some serious stage presence.

Meanwhile, there were leadership changes happening within the network. In February this year, Javier Campopiano, Grey Worldwide chief creative officer, left to go to McCann Worldgroup as its global chief creative officer. He was replaced by Gabriel Schmitt, co-chief creative officer at FCB New York.

In London, Grey was appointed by betting app Sky Bet as its integrated brand strategy and creative partner3, with the brief to lead the brand into its next phase of growth.

In March, LJB announced the appointment of Tarek Sioufi, global executive strategy director at MediaMonks, as Grey London's chief strategy officer. He started at the agency in June.

Meanwhile, under Wigglesworth the agency's work continued to shine. The agency helped re-boot its acclaimed Superbowl TV ads for audiences across virtually all European markets, poking fun at what can happen when people get their hands stuck inside a Pringles tub.

In September, LJB left Grey London, replaced by Conrad Persons. Persons' hire was one of the first executive appointments jointly made by Grey's global chief executive Laura Maness and Gabriel Schmitt.

Grey London's other recent key hires include Liam Thomas as head of design to lead its team of designers and animators, further elevating the craft of its design work. Thomas joined from Dept where he was head of design. And most recently, creatives Drew and Goose (Drew Davies and Angus Crombie), who worked on the McDonald's business, left Leo Burnett to join Wigglesworth's team.

Creative Salon Says: Persons lives up to his name - personable and charming. And he's clearly someone with huge ambitions for an agency that requires an entrepreneurial spirit - Persons ran his own shop called Mash Strategy Studios from 2010-1019, which was later acquired by WPP.

But an American leader in London adland, you say? He has lived in the UK for over two decades, and with Wigglesworth and Sioufi by his side, Persons looks set to be just what Grey London needs going into 2024 and beyond. The right ingredients are all there, now bring on the baking.


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