Grey Moves Michael Houston to Managing Director Role

CCO Tor Myhren Says New Post Will Help Stem Big-Agency Sluggishness

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Michael Houston, who for the past year has been global chief marketing officer at WPP's Grey , has been tapped to run the agency's flagship New York office. In transitioning to a new post, he'll also get a new title: managing director.

Michael Houston
Michael Houston

The move is effective immediately. Mr. Houston will report to Tor Myhren, chief creative officer and president of Grey , New York. Mr. Myhren told Ad Age that the decision to appoint Mr. Houston to the new role is in part to help the office, which has grown to 850 staffers, move more quickly.

"We essentially doubled in size as an agency in the past couple of years and that 's good and that 's bad," said Mr. Myhren. "When you get to a certain size things can slow down and get clogged up. One thing I've personally really prided myself on is trying to make this a large agency that moves like a small agency -- but as you get bigger and bigger, the harder it is to really do that . ... I've noticed that we've gotten a little slower and we've got to fix that . Michael will be huge in that regard -- he's incredibly decisive, he's a leader."

Mr. Myhren added: "It's not about adding one more person to the decision process," said Mr. Myhren. "I actually think it will work to move things much quicker through the pipes. [Michael] has been such a proven leader here; the success he's had in the area of growth for this agency is undeniable."

In the past couple of years, the agency has added new clients such as Red Lobster, Diageo's Don Julio tequila and DirecTV. It's been quieter in 2011, though, and recently the agency came up short in a pitch for creative duties for BMW North America. Because Mr. Houston has largely focused on new-business activities, his new job means the agency will need to bring in new staffers to help bolster the new-business department.

Mr. Houston has spent time at a variety of agencies during his agency career. Early on, he worked at TBWA/Chiat/Day and Y&R, as well as branding firm Landor Associates. Prior to joining Grey in 2007, he spent nearly five years at what was then known as Kirshenbaum Bond & Partners. He was named global chief marketing officer for Grey last year. In a statement, Jim Heekin, Grey Group's chairman-CEO, called the move to managing director a promotion, noting that it "recognizes the key leadership role Michael has played in the record new business growth of Grey ."

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