With Mellors, Grey Ends Four-Year Search For CCO

Tim Mellors knows that perking up the creative at Grey will be an uphill battle. He’s been up that hill before: At Grey in London from 1998 until last year.

After a break from the agency business that included co-hosting the BBC game show Double Cross and earning a certification in psychotherapy, Mellors will join Grey North America as chief creative officer in September. He has the task of invigorating some 600 creatives in four regions at an agency with a reputation for run-of-the-mill packaged-goods advertising.

“As everyone knows, Grey is brilliant at business,” said Mellors, who partnered with North America CEO Steve Blamer in London from 1998-2000, helping to boost a $450 million (U.S.) shop to a $680 million agency with wins such as Mars’ global Twix account, frozen-food brand Findus and hotel chain Post House. But, admitted Mellors, “listening to creatives hasn’t been its strongest forté.”

It took Blamer four years to find a creative partner. Sources said that early on, he reached out to the likes of Ogilvy & Mather’s Bill Oberlander and DDB’s Lee Garfinkel (then creative chief at D’Arcy Masius Benton & Bowles). Two years ago, Blamer was close to hiring Andy Hirsh from Merkley & Partners, sources said, and recently was said to be courting Fallon’s David Lubars, now at BBDO, and Tony Granger from Saatchi & Saatchi in London.

Blamer would not comment on whom he talked to but acknowledged the list was long. He dismissed suggestions he had difficulty getting top creatives interested in joining Grey, arguing that, “We’ve changed a lot already. The reel shows that.” He cited recent campaigns for Starburst, Dairy Queen, Pringles and Frontier Airlines, work Mellors also praised.

“I was in serious conversations with two people in the last six weeks,” said Blamer. “Then Tim raised his hand. I put the others on hold and thought, ‘I’m going another way.’ ” Blamer said Mellors was his first choice four years ago but declined because of family responsibilities.

Mellors, 57, has had a low profile since the 1980s, when he was a star in the London creative community, winning three gold Lions at Cannes, five D&AD Pencils and four Clio awards. To Grey, he brings experience as a painter, filmmaker and journalist. Said his new boss, Grey Global Group CEO Ed Meyer, Mellors is not “your classic, 30-second-spot guy. He has unconventional creative experience.”

Meyer bought Mellors’ ad agency, Mellors Reay, in 1998. Before that, the creative did tours at London shops Saatchi & Saatchi, Publicis, DDB and Foote Cone & Belding.

In his younger days, said sources, Mellors was mercurial and intense. But last week, he was praised frequently as “grown-up” and “mature.” One executive familiar with the London market described Mellors as a “good but safe choice for Grey.”

Noted former London competitor Brett Gosper, who joined McCann Erickson in New York last year from now-defunct Euro RSCG Wnek Gosper in London: “In absolute creative terms, he didn’t make any waves [at Grey London]. But did he add sparkle to that agency? Did he lift their game? Yes.”