Grey Creative Chief Takes on PR

Grey chief creative officer Joel Babbit, who added sister public relations shop GCI Group to his responsibilities earlier this month, sees the move as another sign of the PR industry’s shift toward more idea-based initiatives.

“I believe what you’re seeing with this position is the tip of the iceberg,” Babbit said. “In 10 years there will be a large percentage of [ad] people—definitely creatives—moving into PR. They’ve got to hire creative people experienced to offer clients the stuff they’re asking for these days,” such as in-store campaigns.

As GCI’s chief creative officer, a new post, Babbit will oversee creative and strategic thinking for the firm’s 12 North American offices. He said the job is a logical extension of his creative work at Grey Atlanta, where he is CCO.

“When the [agency] walls were up, ads were about pretty pictures and clever headlines,” he said. “Creativity is not that—[it] is coming up with creative programs that achieve a client’s objectives. Some have nothing to do with headline and layout.”

Al Reis, co-author with his daughter Laura of The Fall of Advertising and the Rise of PR, said the move could indicate a trend of agency-trained creative directors moving from traditional advertising to PR. “The fact that people with creative reputations are moving over speaks well of the PR function,” said Ries. “If we’ve had any criticism [with PR], it’s been the lack of creativity at the front end.”

Babbit joined Grey as president and CCO in February 2002 when it acquired 360 Thinc, here, which he co-founded in 1995.

“There’s been an evolution in PR from those who send press releases to [those who] produce really creative programs for clients that are publicity- and promotionally oriented,” he said.