WPP to combine Grey and AKQA. End of the Grey name

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(Grey and AKQ merge)

There are certain agency names that one took for granted if you grew up in the New York advertising market. J. Walter. BBDO. Ammirati and Puris. Then Ammirati Puris Lintas. Ogilvy. FCB. Y&R. And yes, Grey, which now exists no more.

British holding company WPP announced today it would combine the agency which opened its doors in 1917 and now claims 432 offices in 96 countries, operating in 154 cities, with the digital-marketing company AKQA.

The move marks the the latest effort by CEO Mark Read to streamline the company as more consumers adopt mobile and digital technologies and spend more time with non-traditional media.

The new AKQA Group will employ 6,000 people in more than 50 countries, and work for clients including Procter & Gamble, Kellogg Co., Netflix, Nike and Coca-Cola.

“Our clients want outstanding creativity, powered by technology expertise and delivered at a global scale,” said Read in a prepared statement. “This new company is designed precisely to meet those needs and is another important step forward in building our future-facing offer for clients.”

For Read, who took over the reins of WPP in 2018 from Sir Martin Sorrell, this is his latest reorganization. Two months later, Young & Rubicam was combined with digital agency VML, forming VMLY&R. Later, Read led the merger of JWT with digital agency Wunderman to form Wunderman Thompson.

According to Adweek the setup begins effective today, and employees were made aware of the merger earlier today.

WPP said AKQA founder Ajaz Ahmed and Grey Worldwide CEO Michael Houston would lead the new operation, with Ahmed serving as CEO and Houston working as global president and chief operating officer. While both the AKQA and Grey brands will operate initially, over time the company will use a single name.


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Grey, named one of Fast Company’s Most Innovative Companies, is trusted globally by clients from the fastest-growing startups to leading multinationals and government agencies.

Over the past five years, the agency has received top industry accolades for creative effectiveness, including: Adweek Global Agency of the Year (twice), the Grand Effie, Effie Agency of the Year, and Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity Agency of the Year with 395 Cannes Lions. Grey’s growing global Health & Wellness practice counts many of the world’s largest pharma and health-related companies as clients. 

AKQA, recognized as a digital pioneer and a creative innovator, has won over 60 Agency of the Year awards; led Gartner’s independent evaluation of Global Marketing Agencies for three years in succession; led IDC’s quantitative and qualitative assessment of success in Customer Experience Design; won two Grand Prix at the most recent Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity; been named by Fast Company as a Best Workplace for Innovators; and achieved a consistent track record of growth since its founding.  

WPP acquired Grey in 2005 in a deal reported to have been worth $1.52 billion, according to The Wall Street Journal at the time

AKQA and Grey have highly compatible creative cultures and share a common belief in the power of creativity. Between them they have won nearly 600 Cannes Lions in the last decade.

The two agencies have complementary, non-competitive client rosters. The combined AKQA Group will have expertise in the media, entertainment and technology sectors as well as packaged goods, healthcare and financial services. 


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RIP Grey.

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