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Grey Group is one of the ten largest advertising agencies of the world. The agency is organized into four geographical units: North America, Europe, Middle East & Africa, Asia-Pacific and Latin America. Grey advertising has 121 offices operating in 116 cities in 94 countries. In India, Grey is present with 5 offices (Delhi, Bangalore, Calcutta, Chennai and Bombay) and over 320 employees. Grey today is a full service agency that provides total/integrated brand solutions in order to effectively communicate across all relevant touch points. Greys success lies in the passion, pride and sincerity with which they do business.
"We bring brands to life across the world, And we do it with a lot of integrity"
Nirvik Singh, Chairman and CEO, APAC.
Grey Global Group Inc. got its start on August 1, 1917 as a one-man, one-room shop started by Larry Valenstein, by borrowing $100 from his mother to start a direct mailer company called Grey Studios which reflected the colour of the walls. Larry hired an assistant by the name Arthur Fatt and renamed Grey Studios to Grey Advertising Inc. They had no money, connections, advanced education and experience in the advertising business. All that they had was their intelligence and street smart savvy to generate ideas that would build businesses for their clients and themselves. By early 1930s, Grey accomplished a foothold as a retail expert and was also duplicating a name for consumer insights and smart marketing.
In 1935, they introduced "Grey Matter"; "a news bulletin of current ideas and facts that move merchandise". By mid 1950s, Larry and Arthur realized that in order to grow, they would have to move from soft-goods to packages goods. Hence, to refuel the agency and help it grow they named experienced Herb Strauss as president in 1961.
In 1965, when most companies were researching on how many consumers are buying what, they developed quantitative research tools to study consumer attitudes, needs and wants. Quantitative techniques became an integral part by late 1980s and hence, came what they called the Brand Planning Department. Ed Meyers success in growing the P&G brands helped establish its reputation as a packaged-goods agency. Meyer got named CEO in 1970 and by then Grey had turned into a public company trading on NASDAQ. By mid1960s, Grey was turning into a worldwide agency by establishing its offices in Cananda, Australia, London, Belgium, France, Germany, Italy etc. Their largest clients included Procter & Gamble, Smithkline Beecham and British American Tobacco. While branching out into different geographical territories it also began bifurcating specialised communication disciplines as well, eg: Grey Public Relations in 1963. By the late 80s, Fortune magazine named Grey as a "super agency" for the expanse of marketing communications. Grey Advertising entered the new millennium as a company comprised of a number of other companies. It established a holding company called Grey Global Group to serve as a parent company to all its communications properties with Grey Worldwide being the moniker for its advertising unit. On March 7, 2005, Grey was bought by the WPP Group which expanded their resources for clients and employees. It was no longer the holding company of separate companies. In 2006, Jim Heekin succeeded Ed Meyer as CEO. Jim brought about a more integrated and 360 degree approach to communications/marketing by establishing G2, this was the consolidation of the former Grey Direct, Grey Shopper, etc which were their specialist marketing mini-companies(properties) alongside traditional advertising. Grey and G2 together could offer companies great and effective strategies.
Â "To create ideas that accelerate brand potential, Grey extends our legacy of building our clients business through transformative creative ideas across all touchpoints"
Jim Heekin, CEO Grey Global Group, 2006
On March 7,2005 The WPP Group acquired Grey Global Group for $1.3 million transferring the ownership/ control to WPP.
Grey Global deals with an array for businesses, namely:
Public relations (Grey Group along with WPPs Cohn & Wolfe)
Activation marketing (G2)
Media buying and planning (Mediacom)
Health expertise (Grey Healthy People)
Hispanic Marketing (Wing)
Advertising (Grey Worldwide)
Brand Acceleration (Grey Planning)
Entertainment & Sports (Alliance)
Social Media Marketing (The Social Partners)
However, Grey India's capabilities Include:
Brand Acceleration (Grey Planning)
Retail (Grey Retail)
Advertising (Grey Worldwide)
Web Based Communication (Grey Digital)
Activation marketing (G2)
Organisational Structure: Departments & Personnel:
Grey Delhi had a very simple structure with not too many levels of hierarchy. Overall employee strength was around 65 which made functioning very smooth and efficient.
Every individual was equally approachable irrespective of seniority. Each department had small teams headed by various account directors handling a few brands. Every department is directly dependent on every other department leading to high levels of cross functionality.
Leaders demonstrated the following leadership styles:
Afflictive: This created a sense of belonging to the organisation and ownership of one's work. Considering employees go through very high levels of stress in an advertising agency, this sort of leadership helped us regroup and rebuild.
Coaching: Small size of teams allowed leaders to develop in us lasting personal strengths to become more successful.
Democratic and Participative: Management encouraged new ideas, everyone had an equal say in any decision making process. There was no job which was too small or too big, every one worked equally hard as a team on every job.
Pacesetting: "Time Crunch" was the key productive hour at Grey. Hence, the leadership effectively set the pace of work in a way that there was no compromise on the quality of work.
Free Reign: We were all given the freedom to make our own decisions in the agency. Every leader detested a controlling style of leadership.
Culture at Grey was very informal from the way we used to dress for work to the way we used to work when in office. An example of this would be the informal dress code : slippers were allowed at the work place, we had flexible timing in the mornings. To site an example of the culture of the team i was working in would be taht even our Vice President used to sit along with us in an open cubicle. A unique ritual which we all used to follow at work was that on an occasion of an employee's birthday, everyone from the traffic controllers to the branch head would gather together in a the conference room and the cake would be cut. Under no circumstance would the cake be cut if everyone wasn't present. This inculcated a sense of oneness among everyone in the organization.
Another major cultural characteristic was Mutual Accountability, every on eon the team was equally accountable for the job.
There was an underlying culture/ sense of purpose being driven down by the top level management which cut across all departments and was deeply embedded in each of us.
This culture can be rightfully described as the "3 Ps of Grey Worldwide India" :
"Partnerships: Every individual at Grey strives for enduring client relationships and partnerships.
Pride: We are proud of the businesses we service.
Passion: From the smallest leaflet to the biggest campaign, every job is done with passion and integrity"
Jishnu Sen, CEO APAC
Every leader at Grey promoted a more collective approach to a job compared to an individualistic one. Group dynamics were key in terms of getting the job done in time. Whar fostered good group dynamics when it came to the people i was working with was that everyone was open to criticism which was a result of the democratic style of leadership of our management. As part of team building, Our group head had initiated 'Badminton Sundays' and once every two months a getaway trip was organized.
Conflict Management :
Employees would constantly complain about the long and erratic working hours, they would complain about unreasonable requests of clients and being underpaid for the amount they work. These three are the primarily issues according to me for the high attrition rate in agencies if not dealt in the right manner. At Grey, every Friday we oudl go over the week as a team , give each other feedback on how we performed during the week and all the aforementioned issues are addressed as well. This helped resolve conflicts in a systematic and timely manner.
Innovation and Creativity Initiatives :
Innovation and Creativity Initiatives:
Creativity and Innovation is key in an advertising agency. It is the sole differentiator in the industry. Hence, alot of emphasis was given on it. We were constantnly pushed my our bosses to think out of the box and were encouraged to ideate. Creative workshops were ofeten organized at work to broden our horizons werein best case practices from the world were discussed. We were consciously asked to brief the creatives in as innovative a manner as possible.
Current Internal Scenario:
Grey was always a fantastic place to work it and i feel it still is the same. Its a growing agency which is hungry for success thereby, the learning which every individual gets is immense compared to what we think. Grey has recently won a couple to major clients which has helped it embark on a journey of becoming the best agency in the country. As for the current clients, there are alot of new launches coming up and hence, i feel its going to be very dynamic and vibrant.
My only suggestion to the agency would be as cross functional as possible. I would recommend creatives accompanying client serving for as many meeting as possible. This would avoid the "lost in translation" problem leding to very high levels of productivity.
After a point, people start misusing the flexibility of working hours. Hence, it think there should be some sort of timing of work.