Inside Grey’s Global Sweep of 113 Lions at Cannes

18 offices won, nearly double the amount in 2014

While Ogilvy & Mather received recognition as Cannes' Network of the Year, smaller WPP corporate sibling Grey generated much of the unofficial buzz at Cannes last week as it was awarded 113 Lions, triple the agency's previous record, and just shy of Ogilvy's stash of 123 statues.

Ogilvy always does well—this year marks the agency's fourth consecutive salute as Network of the Year—but that is largely because of work produced outside of the states. Success on this scale is new for Grey, and the agency's New York flagship had a lot to do with that, a dynamic that still proves elusive for Ogilvy.

Perhaps most impressive this year is Grey's win of four Grand Prix Lions compared to zero for Ogilvy. Grey London took home two Grand Prix for Volvo's LifePaint work, landing top honors in Promo & Activation and Design, and it was the only campaign to win multiple Grand Prix honors this year. The agency's German operations scored a radio Grand Prix for client SoundCloud's Berlin Wall of Sound, and the New York flagship scored the top prize in the Direct Lions for its Volvo social campaign around the Super Bowl titled "The Greatest Interception Ever."

"It was a really magical week and showed how our hard work over the last seven years came together. The nice thing was that our four Grand Prix came from three different countries, which is a first at Cannes," said Grey's worldwide chief creative officer Tor Myhren, who joined the agency in 2007. "We've completely changed how we work globally from several years ago when we weren't very connected at all."

More evidence of that? In 2015 Grey offices across 18 countries won Lions, nearly double last year's showing.

The winning work represented output from Myhren's first full-year in the global creative role and was gratifying proof that he cracked a job he initially found frustrating.

"I had been focused on New York because that was my job for nearly six years. Even with that office of 1,100 people, at least you're there," he said. "When I took on this new job, the hardest thing was, 'How do you make a difference, an impact when you're not there?' " 

The first thing Myhren did was to appoint global ecd Per Pedersen as deputy worldwide chief creative officer. The two tag-teamed in a 'divide and conquer' global strategy with Myhren spending a lot of time in New York and Europe while Pedersen focused on Latin America. The two completely revamped Grey's Global Creative Council 18 months ago.

"We became a very tight knit group of 16 members, and we collaborate regularly and share our work constantly. We run all ideas through the bi-annual council, then Per and I hand pick the ideas we call 'the chosen ones' that we will then work tirelessly on with each office to make these stories compelling, human and simple. This process has made all the difference," Myhren recalled. "We all root for each other, and that is a very unique thing. I've never seen that at any agency in my 20 years in advertising. And this camaraderie is our biggest competitive advantage."

Another advantage is Myhren's close working relationship with Grey Group chief Jim Heekin. When top industry creative jobs are open, Myhren is usually on the short list but it's an open secret he won't leave Grey while Heekin is still running the agency. For Heekin, who recruited Myhren when the agency's creative reputation was as inspired as its name, the Cannes results underscore the agency's transformation. "Grey’s performance at Cannes this year hit a historic high water mark of success and solidifies our reputation as a global creative powerhouse.”

Among Grey's offices, New York was the best performer at Cannes this year, landing 25 lions, including the Grand Prix, nine Gold and 13 Silver. The agency's anti-gun violence PSA, "Gun Shop," was recognized with seven Gold awards and seven Silvers. 

In addition to the Volvo work from Grey London and New York, and the Wall of Sound from Grey Berlin, other big agency winners at Cannes were: Panasonic ACH20, Ecuador; Moms Demand Action "Groceries Not Guns," Toronto; Life Saving Dot, Singapore; and SOS SMS Red Cross, Mexico.