Grey Wants to Raise the Profile of Its Activation and PR Team

Hires Handlos and Valleau as co-creative leads

As testament to Grey N.Y.'s fast-growing activation and PR efforts, the agency has appointed two creative execs to oversee the team charged with driving integrated work: The co-creative leads are Oliver Handlos, ecd, managing director at Grey Berlin, and Elizabeth Valleau, ecd at Trollback + Co., where she led BBC and United Nations work.

Grey's activation and PR efforts have grown tenfold recently, with about 40 people on that team and plans to add 10 or 20 more. The agency is using those resources to distinguish itself through campaigns like Canon's Project Imagination, Guns With History, Volvo Interception and The Dallas Gas Station. This year, the agency took home over 25 Cannes Lions from work with a heavy PR and experiential-marketing focus. The roles of co-creative leads for Handlos and Valleau are new.

"As we're seeing more and more traction in this space and more focus and interest from the client side with ideas that are centered around strong PR and activation components, it's a logical next step to add more creative firepower," Grey N.Y. chief creative officer Andreas Dahlqvist underscored. "It's about building on the momentum we have and to make sure we are dedicated to infusing this thinking across all clients."

Handlos was one of two execs who opened Grey's Berlin office, starting without any clients and helping grow the agency's marketer roster to include Welt, Germany's biggest Sunday newspaper, Discovery Network and Heineken. He won this year's Grand Prix in Radio at Cannes for the "The Berlin Wall of Sound" on SoundCloud.

Prior to Trollback + Co., Valleau was a cd on experience and activation practices at R/GA, working for clients like Google, Nike, Microsoft, Unilever and Estee Lauder. She cut her experiential teeth at Sean Combs' Badboy Worldwide, working on Ciroc, Sean John, Guinness and Atlantic Records. She has also written for Esquire, New York and Flaunt.

The new hires come on the heels of Dahlqvist joining Grey N.Y. as CCO last October. Dahlqvist has spent most of his career in Sweden, where he was known for award-winning work like "The Fun Theory" campaign, from DDB for Volkswagen. The popular initiative used digital and experiential concepts and is indicative of inventive marketing in countries like Sweden where agency clients don't have large media budgets like their American counterparts do. 

"Necessity is the mother of invention, and when you have less money, you're forced to look for ways to really optimize your dollars.… It's very much driven out of a media landscape that is diversifying into social and digital," said Dahlqvist. "Where people rapidly are becoming the new mass media, you need to figure out how to make your ideas matter and how you can be additive instead of disruptive."

Grey Activation & PR began within the agency in 1986 as "Alliance." Claudia Strauss, its CEO, joined in 2011 from Kirshenbaum Bond Senecal + Partners' Lime promotions and PR unit. During her tenure there, the agency created a U.S. pop-up store for Delta Airlines; an affinity card for HBO; a consumer-generated coupon for Lucky Brand Jeans; a branded boat for Target; and a Meow Mix TV show for cat fans on the Oxygen Network.

"Great brands have to do things. They can't just talk about them," she said. "Grey has the belief that this is where the business is going. Clients want to see seamless, integrated solutions."