VEERING FROM MIDDLE OF THE ROAD: GREY ADVERTISING -- AGENCY RATING: 2 STARS

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Grey Advertising's 1998 wins might not inspire kudos, but a nice mix of new consumer goods, technology, Internet, government and media accounts allowed the agency to claim a solid 9% to 10% increase in North American billings last year. New York State Lottery, ConAgra's Healthy Choice, Procter & Gamble Co.'s Pringles and Eagle snack brands, Auto-by-tel, the U.S. Mint and AirTouch (media) all landed on Grey's doorstep last year. However, Grey also had some disappointing losses in 1998, including those of Kraft Foods, Barilla and Mitsubishi.

Creative was mostly ordinary, with new Ivory girl, Playskool and American General Financial Services work that rode the center line. The introduction of singer Brandy for Cover Girl ads departed from the norm, as did some unusual Jockey ads-one spot uses the children's rhyme "I see England, I see France, I see someone's underpants.")

LOOKING AHEAD

Grey introduced a new creative department architecture late this year in a continuing effort to boost creative. The agency also is looking to expand its account planning capabilities, and hired Jerry Schweitzer from Ogilvy & Mather to help accomplish that. Grey CEO Ed Meyer told staffers in a 1998 recap letter that the agency plans to sharpen its competitive edge with new technology and information systems. He added the agency will focus on brand building to create

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