Andre Gray, a creative leader in Amsterdam with TBWA\Neboko, is leaving his post to join San Francisco agency Eleven as executive creative director. Gray, who served as global creative director at TBWA\Neboko for Adidas and Gatorade, rose to the top after a nine-month search, according to the agency.
“As the agency continues to expand into Chicago and New York, space has been created for an ecd in the San Francisco office, and Andre’s experience working on iconic brands like Adidas, Gatorade, Uber and Reebok made him the ideal candidate,” said Mike McKay, CCO at Eleven, which counts Samsung, Pella, JSX, Electrify America, Dignity Health and others as clients. “But more importantly, Eleven isn’t merely adding another top-tier creative, but we’re bringing in a genuinely good person. Which is a core requirement of anyone hired here.”
Gray has won several regional and local awards and was a key team member on several campaigns, including for Adidas’ Ultraboost line. He’s a San Francisco native who will return to the U.S. at a time when cultural authenticity is under a brighter spotlight. In his new role, Gray sees that his overseas experience in Paris and Amsterdam, cultural empathy and a global perspective can be a huge plus.
“I always pushed myself to work on global accounts,” he said. “The playing field, outputs and problems are different. It’s informed the way I think about things and it’s important that [work] resonates outside of just [being] U.S.-centric.”
Not lost on Gray is the timing of his announcement and choice to come back to the U.S. during a time of deep reflection, action and change in the country’s handling of both the pandemic and systemic racism. In his mind, he sees an opportunity to push culture forward.
“It’s a conversation that I want to impact,” said Gray. “As an analogy, it’s like [American society] had a broken nose and we went to the doctor and they re-broke it. It hurts a lot, but we have a chance to set it not broken this time. It’s important for me to one of the hands trying to [metaphorically] push this nose into a straighter shape.”
Gray said another reason he was drawn to Eleven was an emerging culture, even in a relatively homogenized market like San Francisco.
“There’s a willingness to create something sustainable for the future,” he said. “For me, that’s creating a safe space for all voices—Black voices for sure—but also others. It’s a historically white, male, cisgender industry and I want to create a space that I’d want to be in.”