Grey Worldwide

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2004 Rating: 2 stars

The essence: Grey's 87-year reign as an independent company ended with the September acceptance of WPP Group's bid. The deal, originally set to close in January, may be delayed because of European regulators' scrutiny. New ownership puts Procter & Gamble Co. into the same holding company as Unilever; WPP intends to maintain Grey as a separate entity. Grey Global Group Chairman-CEO Ed Meyer must name a successor at Grey Worldwide's helm. Can new ownership put oomph into Grey's creative output?

Net growth: New-business activity slowed midyear due to sale negotiations, but the agency in March won North American creative and media from Nokia, a Grey global partner. Diageo (Tanqueray) also shifted more business to Grey. The wins helped offset the blow of Masterfoods USA, which shifted to Omnicom Group agencies.

management: Mr. Meyer remains Grey Global's chairman-CEO for two years, but must name a successor at Grey Worldwide. Leading contender, North American President-CEO Steve Blamer, is leaving Grey to run to Interpublic Group of Cos.' Foote Cone & Belding as president-CEO. Unknown is the impact of new hire Tim Mellors, president-chief creative officer, North America, who joined in September, particularly since his champion, Mr. Blamer, is leaving.

Creative quality and effectiveness: Kmart Corp. work, which included a marketing tie-in with the WB network, had flair, and efforts for Pringles stand out in a ho-hum category. Print for Diet Coke Lime's debut was decent. But overall, creative sparks at Grey sputtered.