ARTHUR FATT'S VISION HELPED GREY PROSPER - THE 'OFFICE BOY' WHO ROSE TO CEO: WEIGHING THE LEGACY OF A PIONEER
Arthur cornell fatt, one of the founders of Grey Advertising, died in mid-January at the age of 94. In 1921, at age 17, he had answered an ad looking for an office boy. He went on, with his longtime partner Lawrence Valenstein, to become a prime mover behind what would grow into one of the world's leading advertising agencies.
Arthur became president and CEO in 1956, chairman of the executive committee in 1961 and founder chairman in 1970, remaining a sprightly presence at our Third Avenue offices well into the 1980s.
A compact, dapper man of monumental energy, he spoke incisively, with a warm, albeit "knows what he wants," manner. This skin diving, sailing, golfing, bull-fighting aficionado, who could be the most generous of hosts, was also a very private person. He was a wonderful family man, a self-effacing humanitarian and philanthropist as well.
NO DESIRE FOR LIMELIGHT
While he never craved the limelight-believing it belonged to his clients-he became a statesman and spokesman for the advertising profession. The Association of Advertising Men and Women honored him in the 1950s for "helping to destroy the huckster myth and for the inspiration that is characteristic in the advertising business." The award underscored his efforts to elevate the role of advertising people in the economic life of our nation.
Arthur Fatt could also be immensely persuasive and charming.
In his 1963 book, "Confessions of an Advertising Man," David Ogilvy recalled the pitch for the Greyhound Bus account that included Grey and Ogilvy. Arthur showed Mr. Ogilvy his presentation with the slogan: "It's such a comfort to take the bus and leave the driving to us."
David Ogilvy summoned the client and wrote: "Fatt's research department had penetrated to the heart of the problem, and his copywriters had developed a slogan which hit the nail on the head." He advised Greyhound to award the entire account to Grey on the spot and headed back to New York.
While Arthur was very much a man of this century, in tune with his times, his free-wheeling curiosity-rooted in experience, logic and common sense-allowed him to apply his mind to a huge range of challenges.
This lifelong search for connections and insights-the interaction between brands and consumers, audiences and media, advertising and complementary disciplines, societal changes and purchase decisions-helped forge a fundamentally different and unique corporate culture at Grey, a way of working that propelled it from a midsize post-war agency to a huge international success.
Arthur said of the early days, "There were only two desks for three people, and when everyone was in the office, one person had to stand." All his life, he resisted layers, levels and walls. His faith was firmly in the individual. He believed in giving people enormous latitude and entrepreneurial range. Fresh, undiluted ideas would come from free-flowing working partnerships across the agency, with direct client involvement.
This kind of shirt-sleeves proprietorship-treating clients' businesses as our own-led to better strategic problem-solving. This sense of ownership-more time operating and less time reporting-led to real satisfaction and great work.
He became a champion of creativity, put it first on our business agenda and encouraged the risk-taking it demanded. He believed even the best strategic message must be coupled with imaginative execution. During his tenure in the 1960s, Grey produced the first global campaign for Revlon; the "Ford is a better idea" campaign; "Choosy mothers choose Jif" and Mennen's "For a skin almost as soft as a baby's behind," to name a few.
Grey's organizational structure remains flat and flexible, designed for maximum autonomy to this day. And, thankfully, this happened before the word "empowerment" was coined.
Arthur believed in staying very close to our clients, listening to and anticipating their needs. It is what led him to conclude that Grey must understand consumers better than anyone else.
As early as the 1930s, the "Grey Matter" newsletter began to deliver provocative insights into the texture and context of our times. Salient articles challenged conventional wisdom, charted the changing currents of the consumer psyche and became one of the most spectacular marketing initiatives any agency ever launched.
Grey's consumer research and strategic marketing capabilities became a leading operation in the industry. Breakthrough studies and innovative attitudinal research techniques led to powerful and distinctive brand positionings and business-building advertising for many blue-chip clients.
Today's brand planning and research department is a direct descendant, understanding, protecting and leveraging our clients' brand assets through strategic planning and positioning. Campaigns strive to capture the essence of brands and re-create their relevance in people's lives through memorable, effective advertising.
'MORE AND MORE'
In the early 1960s, Arthur said, "No advertising agency will or can exist that doesn't first build effective ads. But the future advertising agency will be paid more and more for services." His expertise in retail merchandising and promotion had led him to think in terms of integrated solutions for the large multinational clients Grey was attracting, a decade before the "Whole Egg" was hatched.
As we enter a new century, 40% of Grey's volume comes from businesses outside of classical advertising, ranging from the Internet to marketing services of every stripe. It's what led Fortune to call Grey a superagency for its holistic capabilities.
Arthur Fatt's straightforward and singular ethic-dedication to clients, respect for consumers, belief in the power of individual creativity to move businesses forward-is the legacy he leaves the 9,000 people of Grey at work in 90 countries. His was a full life, providing lessons we can still learn from.M
Mr. Meyer is chairman, president and CEO of Grey. In 1956, he was hired by Mr.