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Watch That Man

Trevor Beattie recently guest edited The Drum. In it, he decided to interview a series of ‘bold, troublesome, fearless, provocative and influential’ individuals from the worlds of advertising, media, science and art. Unfortunately, they were all busy so he ended up with Nils Leonard. Bmmtsssh! Joking aside, he introduces Nils by saying “Never mistake Nils Leonard for an adman. Even if he wants you to. He’s not. Nils’ meteoric rise and dazzling recent success have come because he is anything but an adman. He’s primarily a stranger. In a strange land.’ You can say that again, Trev’.

It’s a great read, both both interviewer and interviewee. Check it out here.

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Follow suit

Who said planners don’t make good CEOs? That’s the leap – despite the perceived wisdom – that Lucy Jameson made 18 months ago, and while the learning curve has been ‘pretty much vertical’, it turns out she’s good at it. What’s more, she’s realised that the industry needs more people to do the same; more people planners who’ll make great strategic suits. In this piece for Campaign Magazine, she explains why that’s the case – and sets out her vision for Grey over the next decade. Just don’t expect her to spend much time schmoozing clients. She’s busy solving their problems instead.

Read Lucy’s call to action here.



‘We’re losing sight of the root cause of the equality problem’

CEO Lucy Jameson talks equality in her latest piece for The Huffington Post. In it, she argues that the current focus on equality in leadership positions, or on the gender pay gap – as important as both are – may be causing us to lose sight of the root of the problem: those deep-rooted, more ingrained stereotypes, those which are so commonplace they’re rarely highlighted. One of which is housework. On average women spend 117 minutes more each day than men on household chores. This is despite the fact that today women also make up 47% of the workforce. Indeed, only two in 10 children say housework is split evenly in their home, while a mere 2% of young girls think it’s their dad’s responsibility to do household chores. Isn’t it time that advertising started to question, rather than reinforce, that stereotype?

To read more of Lucy’s thoughts, click here.


One does not simply walk into culture

In his latest in his Culture Vulture series for The Drum, CSO Leo Rayman argues why brands must venture beyond the mainstream:

‘Most brands only opt for a nod towards culture, a kind of cultural tourism that is much less effective than actually immersing yourself in something meaningful to your audience. The problem is twofold: first you need to have a purpose (which can be still terrifyingly absent in 2016) and then you need a working knowledge of the culture relevant to your audience. As Boromir says, you can’t just wander in, you have to really understand how it works.’

Check out the rest of the column here.  



Nils Leonard – our Chairman, CCO and a man not adverse to a profile piece – recently sat down with WIRED. In the article that chat inspired, he talks about why 90% of advertising is ‘shit’ (and his desire to advance the industry, not just the agency), how a state of panic can lead to brilliant, innovative creativity, and how we’ve fundamentally reshaped the agency – doing away with outdated industry conventions including offices, closed doors and that old advertising ball and chain, sign off.

Read the piece in its entirety here.

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Thanks for the debate, Davos, but it’s time for action

In her latest column for The Huffington Post, our CEO Lucy Jameson argues that it’s time for action – not just words – on gender equality. It follows the recent World Economic Forum, where while gender equality was back on the agenda, only 17.8% of attendees were female. Laughably, at least one debate on gender equality was comprised entirely of men. So what are the issues? And more to the point, what has to change?

Read Lucy’s thoughts in full here.

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“Culture is by far the biggest sustainable advantage we have in business today”

‘…why? Because it is the hardest thing to replicate. Competitors can imitate product and match price overnight, but culture takes energy, commitment and years to build.’

Our CEO Lucy Jameson writes on the vitality of culture to business in The Guardian – arguing while that a strong culture can act as a protective shield for a business when times are tough, it works both ways, and a weak or incoherent culture can rot a business from the inside. She also adds some lessons as to how we’ve built – and more importantly (for it is much harder) sustained a strong, open culture, a culture that is the very foundation of our recent success.

Read her piece in the Guardian’s Women in Leadership section here.

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The Culture Vulture

CSO Leo Rayman has a shiny new toy to play with: his very own column in The Drum. The Culture Vulture will see Leo – also chairman of the IPA Strategy Group – look at the secrets behind the successes of the brands making a real dent in culture. So, how do they? This debut sees him talk ‘cultural technology’, ‘WTF moments’, UK grime and Korean K-Pop – obviously. We’ll give you a heads up now, the word ‘culture’ will feature an awful lot.

Read the column here.

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City Slicker

Our CEO Lucy Jameson speaks to City AM about brand-building, truth, and why agencies need to be making headlines.

Here’s a snippet: “When I started about 20 years ago, 30 per cent of television viewers actually preferred adverts to the programmes broadcasted. Today, that idea seems inconceivable. You need to be a lot smarter in your approach, ready to think outside the box.”

Read the rest of the article here.


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The man who made Grey matter

‘Grey’s chairman and chief creative officer has a reputation for cockiness and vanity but also for resurrecting his agency’, writes Campaign. Here, global editor-in-chief Claire Beale seeks out the real Nils Leonard.

Is Nils Leonard a cock?

The consciously pretty progeny of a bike-gang member and an RE teacher who grew up as a designer, took on creative leadership of one of London’s most broken agencies and arrived home from Cannes last week with two of the world’s biggest creative prizes is used to dividing industry opinion.

For years, Grey was at the dog-end of the agency scale. They blamed the name. They blamed the offices. They blamed the clients. Across the decades, a succession of creative chiefs came in with a mission to transform. Nada. It remained, as they privately admitted, a bit shit – characterised by bland internationalised work and a clammy air of defeat.

So when Leonard took charge, naïve and cocky, all shiny show and apparently little substance, he was easily dismissed.

Not any more. After all those years at the bottom, after all those countless miserable failures to turn things around, Grey is at the top. And Leonard made it happen.

Continue reading the profile here.


The Luerzer’s Archive Interview: Nils Leonard

Nils Leonard, Chairman and CCO of Grey London, is a key figure in what must be considered one of the ad world’s most intriguing – and unlikely – success stories of the past five years.

The agency used to be one of those old-fashioned shops that often got referred to as “Adland’s dinosaurs”: big, slow, and producing very little work of interest to the readership of [Luerzer's Archive]. Until, that is, the arrival at the creative helm of Nils, who has overseen the most creatively awarded years in Grey London’s 52-year history, managing to engineer a complete turnaround in the agency culture. Over the last five years, Grey London has doubled in size and received numerous accolades, including Adweek’s Global Agency of the Year 2013, and a Cannes Black Lion in 2011 for creative effectiveness in recognition of its globally acclaimed work for The British Heart Foundation. Grey London’s work for brands such as McVitie’s or The Sunday Times “Rich List” have frequently featured in this magazine. Under Nils’ creative guidance, Grey London has also become one of very few global agencies to gain recognition outside of its industry, picking up a British Comedy Award for The Angina Monologues, a programming idea starring comedians Victoria Wood, Jo Brand, and Julia Davis that aired on Christmas Day 2010 to an audience of seven million. Nils told Luerzer’s Archive’s Michael Weinzettl, who interviewed him at the offices of Grey London, that, of the many awards he has garnered over the past five years, this was the one he is most proud of.

Read the whole entire (free-to-access) interview here. It’s a cracker.

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Grey Matter: The choice is [not] yours

In the latest of our Grey Matter events, we invited 150 industry guests to The Choice is [Not] Yours at our Hatton Garden office, where leading figures from the world of politics, public affairs, advertising and media examined how our ballot box and buying decisions are influenced by subliminal factors.

The expert panel comprised:

Stephen Adams, partner at Global Counsel and political speech writer
Tim Allan, founder of Portland and key media advisor to Tony Blair and the Labour Party during the 1997 election
Eli Pariser, chief executive officer of Upworthy and board president of
Heather Andrew, chief executive officer of Neuro-Insight
& Leo Rayman, chief strategy officer of Grey London

For those who couldn’t make it, Campaign has published this write-up and short film. Keep your eyes peeled for the next.


Nils Leonard: Why the perfect modern creative is fierce, fearless and female

“This girl gets that none of us are as smart as all of us. She won’t believe that her own insight, emotional intelligence and passion are enough to make greatness happen and will draw excellent minds to her. But although she will create her best work through collaboration, she will understand the violent, urgent need to disappear on her own, the pressure all hers, at the critical moment to crack the brief. And she won’t allow history, pay grade, job title or age to stop the candid conversations that will ultimately make the work special.”

Nils Leonard outlines his manifesto for the perfect modern creative in Ad Week.


Scottish Referendum: Advertising isn’t selling

“Advertising may not have had the power to change people’s minds in this referendum, but whatever the result, communications must deal with the fallout, be part of the necessary reconciliation and rebuilding going forward. But they will need to be a lot braver if they are to succeed.” – Chris Hirst on the risk-adverse nature of both the ‘Yes’ and ‘No’ camps in the Scottish Referendum.

View Huffington Post article


Chris Hirst on BBC2’s Daily Politics

Chris Hirst was invited to appear on BBC2’s Daily Politics to debate the ‘Yes’ and ‘No’ advertising efforts ahead of the Scottish referendum with editor of The Drum, Gordon Young.


Can advertising do good?

“Sex used to be what sold. Now it’s ‘good’. Outside of making ourselves feel good, there is a realisation that ‘good’ sells. It’s what’s on our Facebook, it’s what we share. So marketers are looking at that asking ‘how can we play a part?’ For me though, it’s more powerful when brands are really behind it. It’s one thing doing good on a charity brief and another doing good on a cheese brief.”

Nils Leonard discusses whether advertising can do good with Creative Review.