Grey has hired former Havas New York CEO Laura Maness as its new global CEO. Maness is taking over for Michael Houston, who held the role for five years and was named WPP’s first U.S. president in June. Maness becomes the agency's sixth CEO and will officially join the agency on Sept. 1.
Ajaz Ahmed, CEO of AKQA Group, which merged with Grey in 2020, said that Maness, who he describes as "entrepreneurial, dynamic and energetic," is the right leader for 105-year-old Grey because "she unites by building community—not hierarchy—inspiring with an enlightened leadership approach and proven track record.”
In an email, he added: "We must not spend so much time wallowing in nostalgia that we forget we can make history. The world is in perpetual motion and innovation is the only way to outperform in a mature industry within a mature organization." Ahmed added: "Hierarchies tend to create stagnation in those with the job titles and intimidation in those who don’t. That’s why the priority must be building community, networks and ecosystems. We believe that it takes a village to raise a brand and that the agencies that are the best at collaboration are the agencies that change the game."
While there have been reports of strain between Grey and AKQA since the merger, Ahmed said that it's been a positive move. "AKQA has maintained uninterrupted growth since it was founded. We know that a rising tide lifts all boats," he said in the email. "When AKQA and Grey joined forces in 2020, Grey started growing again. When Disney and Pixar united, they were smart enough to respect the uniqueness of each organization to build something even better, instead of a ridiculous hybrid like 'Disnar' or Pixney.' AKQA and Grey have discovered methods to bring our people together, build our networks and ecosystem, and ensure collaboration while respecting uniqueness of capability and expertise. We will continue to expand our connection."
And Maness will help lead that collaboration. “I look forward to building on the strong foundation of Grey’s storytelling prowess and famously effective work by fuelling a culture of creativity, innovation, and continuous impact,” Maness said in a statement.
Maness’s appointment is the latest in a series of significant transitions in executive leadership for the agency. This week, WPP hired Stacey Shelly as global client leader on the Procter & Gamble Co. account across Grey and the holding company broadly, replacing the recently retired Debby Reiner, who had decades-long ties to the giant marketer. Last week, Andre Gray, a former executive creative director at Grey New York, was named as the chief creative officer of Havas’s Annex88.
Earlier this month it was reported that Grey New York’s Chief Creative Officer Justine Armour and John Patroulis, Grey’s global creative chairman and president, creative business, were leaving the agency due to personal reasons. In May, Jonathan Lee was promoted to the global chief strategy role at Grey.