Michael Houston Promoted to North American CEO of Grey

At 41, Exec Takes On Newly-Created Role for WPP Network

By Published on .

Michael Houston has been promoted to the newly-created position of CEO for GreyNorth America.

Michael Houston
Michael Houston

It's a big jump up the ladder at the WPP agency for the 41-year old exec, who has worked at Grey since 2007, most recently served as chief operating officer of the agency's New York office. He's now responsible for overseeing New York, San Francisco, Toronto and Vancouver as well as Grey's PR arm and multicultural shop Wing. Mr. Houston will report to Jim Heekin III, the chairman-CEO of Grey Group.

In his new role, Mr. Houston is steering a shop that has made a dramatic turnaround over the past few years. Rewind to about five years ago, and adland would have scoffed at the notion that Grey -- a stodgy agency network -- could become a hot destination for marketers to park their ad accounts.

But under Mr. Houston's leadership, and with the help of New York Chief Creative Officer and President Tor Myhren, it's managed to stage an impressive comeback. Moving its New York flagship out of a dreary midtown office and into modern digs in lower Manhattan hasn't hurt.

Among its new business wins have been Gillette -- one of the biggest account moves this year, which earlier was at BBDO -- Marriott Hotels, Pfizer's Advil, AARP and Radioshack. It did recently resign E-Trade's account after a marketing change at the company, however. But Grey claims the move will not lead to any staff reductions.

Grey was named to Ad Age's A-List in 2013, and the New York office was named to Creativity's A-List of the 10 most creative agencies in the world.

In a memo to employees about Mr. Houston's elevated role, Mr. Heekin said: "This well-deserved promotion is a logical next step for Michael who with Tor has been such a vital factor in our New York success: building a first-class management team, transforming our creative performance and digital prowess, forging a culture of innovation and compiling a new business track record second to none."

Before Grey, Mr. Houston spent time at TBWA/Chiat/Day, Y&R, Landor and Kirshenbaum & Bond (now KBS&P). When he was hired at Grey in 2007 it was to lead business development in New York. He's since been promoted numerous times, to global chief marketing officer, managing director and chief operating officer.

Beyond the added responsibilities, Mr. Houston now earns a position as one's of adland's seniormost execs of color.

"I am very grateful for this new challenge," said Mr. Houston in a statement. "The Grey brand has tremendous vitality and potential as we approach our 100th year of serving great clients. I look forward to working with the unique talent we possess in North America to capitalize on our momentum and shape our future."

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