Grey London Renames Itself Valenstein & Fatt, After Grey’s Jewish Founders, in Call for Diversity

Office will take the name for 100 days, urges industry to change too

Grey London is using the agency’s own 100-year-old origin story as a springboard for an industry-wide call to embrace diversity and acceptance via a self-branding campaign, launching today, in which it will rename itself, for more than three months, as Valenstein & Fatt, after its Jewish founders.

It’s 1917. New York is booming. Two young Jewish entrepreneurs, Lawrence Valenstein and Arthur Fatt, set up a company. But anti-Semitism is rife. Their names could cost them business. So they call it Grey, after the color of the wallpaper.

The London office will fully operate as Valenstein & Fatt—changing its office signage, stationery and business cards, answering its phones that way, even operating under that name in pitches—for the next 100 days.

The initiative is happening just as the British government is triggering Article 50 and begins the process of disconnecting the U.K. from the European Union. It is also launching as “xenophobia is raising its ugly head once more, along with political isolationism,” the agency adds.

Also, the symbolic gesture of the name change is being backed up by more concrete plans, including the following steps, in the agency’s own words:

1) We are publishing our diversity data. Progress cannot be made without clear measures and transparency about who we are today. Our new study is independent and in-depth and is based on the voluntary responses of 305 individuals, which represents over 60 percent of the agency and reported according to standards set by the British Office of National Statistics (ONS). Research developed in partnership with PSB examines roots, identity, education and lifestyle. It will be measured and shared annually and we are encouraging other agencies to take it up as their methodology.

2) We are launching a cross-industry taskforce to identify the barriers to recruitment and retention of talent among ethnic minorities. The first gathering will be co-chaired by Trevor Philips OBE and CEO Leo Rayman, and we are inviting leading organizations in this space and the most progressive agencies, including chairwoman of Mediacom, Karen Blackett, to join us in agreeing industry-wide initiatives and targets. We will also commit to targets for our advertising output, to ensure that it is nationally representative.

3) We are launching the Valenstein & Fatt Bursary to pay a year’s rent for up to two young people from ethnic minority and disadvantaged backgrounds. To qualify, candidates must have been offered a job at Grey, be state educated and live outside of greater London. Applications are open from this summer.

4) We will inspire the next generation, by working with 100 primary and secondary schools to introduce students to a career in the creative industries. Working with exec head Michelle Williams and education therapist Jodie Cariss and starting with the New Wave Federation primary schools in London’s Hackney, we will offer a tailor-made program for the schools involved, from assemblies to full-day workshops, coaching and agency open days.

5) We will develop our diverse talent. Recognizing that recruiting people with different start points isn’t enough, 50 individuals identified as ones to watch will be matched and formally mentored by our executive and senior leadership. In parallel we will run community mentoring workshops open to any member of the agency who wants to participate.

This video explains more about the project:

Adweek spoke to Sarah Jenkins, chief marketing officer at Valenstein & Fatt, about the initiative.

Where did this idea come from?
We’re an agency that is feeling the craziness of the last 12-18 months. The world feels a little bit uglier. A little bit less welcoming. So we wanted to make sure we were celebrating difference. And getting diversity right into the heart of our organization. Coincidentally it’s a big year for Grey this year—100 years old. So the Valenstein and Fatt story feels relevant and meaningful in the context of business and society today. Subsequently celebrating them, and telling their story, was the right way for us to make a definitive statement about our diversity commitment moving forward.