NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- After more than 30 years at Ogilvy, Bill Gray, the WPP shop's North American vice chairman and one of adland's bold-faced names, will retire at the end of the month, thereafter lending a hand to London-based CHI & Partners as it aims to establish a U.S. foothold.
Mr. Gray started at Ogilvy in July 1978 and has spent virtually his entire professional career at the agency. He rose through the client-management ranks and over the years has run the accounts of TWA, Kraft, Hershey, Yahoo and American Express. On the last, he is credited with winning back AmEx's account less than a year after the marketer fired Ogilvy in the early 1990s. He also was instrumental in the global launch of AmEx's Blue credit card.
In a staff memo, Ogilvy North America Chairman John Seifert said: "Bill has so much to be proud of in his Ogilvy career, and we have much to thank him for. I would not have the leadership opportunity in front of me today without Bill's wise counsel and unconditional support."
He added: "Bill is as 'Ogilvy Red' as they come ... and always will be."
Mr. Gray was named vice chairman at the start of 2009 following the installation of Mr. Seifert to oversee Ogilvy's North American operations.
Though he's retiring, he'll maintain ties to Ogilvy via his new gig helping CHI raise its U.S. profile. The agency, which is part-owned by WPP, struck a joint venture agreement with Ogilvy in the U.S. earlier this year. Mr. Gray is moving into CHI's downtown offices to help the shop with business development and raise awareness about the CHI-Ogilvy partnership in the marketplace as the fledgling office tries to attract American clients.
Since crossing the pond in 2007, CHI has been working with Best Buy and slowly building a management team, plucking people like Dave Clemans from Crispin Porter & Bogusky to serve as creative partner. But it has yet to land a major new U.S. client. It did manage to make it into a final round of shops pitching online retailer Zappos' account, in partnership with Ogilvy's Neo arm, and is now awaiting a decision.
"Bill's been a great help so far with his strong background and connections in the U.S.," said Victoria Davies, managing partner at CHI's New York office. "It will be fun to get the chance to work more closely with him."