Grey Names a New Global Chief Creative Officer 18 Months After Tor Myhren Left the Role

John Patroulis joins the agency from BBH

He will partner with Grey global president Michael Houston and New York CEO Debby Reiner.
John Patroulis

Grey Worldwide today announced that it has hired a new global chief creative officer.

The incoming CCO, John Patroulis, who most recently served as creative chairman at BBH New York, brings more than two decades of agency experience to the role in which he will lead Grey’s flagship office while working across its global client roster. Patroulis replaces Tor Myhren, who left the WPP network in December 2015 to become vp of marketing communications at Apple in Cupertino, Calif.

“John has this rare and perfect combination of creative preciousness and steadfast business acumen,” Grey global president Michael Houston told Adweek. “We’re excited to partner with him to ensure that Grey New York is absolutely at the top of its game.”

“I’ve admired Grey’s commitment to creativity for awhile now and am really excited to have the chance to help them create what comes next,” Patroulis said in a statement. “The people I’ve met, their passion for the work and their ambition to keep moving the company forward made me excited about the role.”

Patroulis will report to Houston and partner with recently promoted New York CEO Debby Reiner, who described the Manhattan office as “the heart and soul of our network.”

“It’s where our ‘Famously Effective’ work began 100 years ago,” she added.

During his seven years with Grey, Myhren was widely credited with elevating its creative product and contributing to a consistency that prompted Adweek to name it as its Global Agency of the Year in both 2013 and 2015. Since Myhren joined Apple more than 18 months ago, the New York office’s creative team had been led by Andreas Dahlqvist, who announced last week that he would be leaving that role to return to his native Sweden to run DDB’s forthcoming Nordic network.

“There was no rush to replace Tor when he left,” Houston said. “We looked at it as an opportunity to rethink what the future of the agency and the evolution of ‘Famously Effective’ look like as we change with our clients. We spent a long time actually putting the brief together and looking through what we needed. … It wasn’t a like-for-like Tor replacement.”

Reiner said Grey’s leadership liked the fact that Patroulis was not known simply as “the guy who did X [campaign] and only X,” pointing instead to a collection of work he oversaw during more than six years with BBH in addition to the fact that he helped launch the San Francisco agencies T.A.G. and twofifteenmccann. “He really does empower teams and knows how to give them direction, get out of the way then add the pixie dust on top to make it that much better,” she said.

Houston also noted that while some creative leaders considered for the role emphasized the “death” of traditional advertising, Patroulis spoke in terms of Grey “moving into different spaces” after launching its brand experience group in 2016. “At last year’s Cannes Festival, the majority of our work was not traditional advertising,” Houston said, adding that experiential campaigns have been at the heart of the network’s recent awards and new business efforts.

In addition to Reiner and Houston, the incoming CCO will work closely with former executive creative directors Jeff Stamp and Rob Lenois, who were recently promoted to the roles of deputy chief creative officer.

After starting his career as a copywriter at NW Ayer in the ’90s, Patroulis spent several years within the TBWA family, rising to the level of creative director and playing a key role on the 2004 “Impossible Is Nothing” Olympics campaign for Adidas. In 2011, he became chief creative officer at BBH New York, which later promoted him to chairman as executive creative director Ari Weiss stepped into his former role. During his tenure at the Publicis network, Patroulis worked on campaigns for clients including Google, Axe and Playstation. And over the course of his career, he’s won every major creative award including three Cannes Lions Grand Prix.

Patroulis’ departure from BBH follows that of Weiss, who left to lead creative at DDB North America, and BBH North American CEO Pat Lafferty, who now serves as president of Translation. The agency’s New York office also recently won several pieces of new business including, most prominently, the MetLife spinoff Brighthouse Financial.

A BBH spokesperson declined to comment directly but did confirm that the agency has begun its search for a new creative leader.