Move Begins Disassembly of Agency's Unique 'Village System'

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NEW YORK ( -- WPP Group’s Grey Worldwide today laid off almost 50 employees in the advertising agency’s New York office. The cuts include staff at all levels and across all departments in the agency, an agency spokesman said.
The layoffs were expected as part of a reorganization following WPP's acquisition of Grey.

The layoffs and reorganization have been widely anticipated by Grey employees. In 2004, after Grey Global Group accepted WPP’s bid for the company, Grey Global CEO Ed Meyer told Advertising Age that under WPP, management will strive to make Grey operate more efficiently, which includes reducing expenses. WPP closed the deal in March 2005, and prior to today’s announcement no major initiatives had been undertaken.

Agencywide meeting
An agencywide meeting is planned for early next week, at which CEO Jim Heekin, who joined the agency Sept. 6, 2005, will unveil his plans for how Grey will operate in the future. Mr. Heekin’s vision, the spokesman said, is to structure the New York office as the hub of the global agency network.

Today’s announcements also begin the disassembling of Grey New York’s unique structure, dubbed the "village system," put in place by Steve Blamer, the office's former president. The "villages" were relatively autonomous units, each led by a trio of executives -- account manager, creative and strategic planner -- who were responsible for each unit's profit and loss, new business initiatives and accounts.

In November Mr. Heekin announced his first significant hires at Grey, bringing in from Interpublic Group of Cos.’ McCann WorldGroup two top strategic planners, Suresh Nair and Nat Puccio, as exec VP-co-directors, global strategic planning. Mr. Heekin worked with them when he was an executive at McCann in the 1990s, as well as in an earlier role, when he ran J. Walter Thompson in New York.

In Grey’s new structure, Messrs. Nair and Puccio, as well as Chief Creative Officer Tim Mellors, will play key roles. A spokesman said that a management committee to lead Grey in New York will also be announced next week.

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