WPP's Grey Group is the latest agency to open its own consulting practice, Worldwide CEO Michael Houston announced today. Former Grey London CEO Leo Rayman will lead Grey Consulting as its Chief Executive. The agency network is searching for his successor at Grey London. "Our practice will go beyond traditional consulting," Rayman said in a statement. "We will combine analytical rigor with lateral creative thinking and an understanding of how to make things happen to accelerate growth for our clients." Grey Consulting will focus on three pillars: innovation, digital transformation and business and brand design - areas in which Grey Group claims to already have expertise. "This is not an experiment," Houston told Adweek. "We're not ripping something out of the organization and creating something new. We're building on infrastructure that already exists." For example, Houston said Grey's Dusseldorf hub's "best practice" has been digital transformation; it just hasn't been "widely applied across the network." Grey Consulting will initially be housed within the agency network's offices in New York, London, Singapore, Dusseldorf and Los Angeles, but its insights can be tapped by Grey offices worldwide.
Houston explained that Grey Consulting was formed because clients wanted a clear, dedicated division to tackle their greatest business concerns. He said Grey will pull more than 150 of its technologists, strategists and other employees already working within the agency's network and reposition them under the consulting practice. For example, Suresh Nair, who has been the strategic leader of the global Grey network since 2005, was named Chief Creative Intelligence Officer of Grey Consulting. In the new role, he will be tasked with growing and operating Grey's data and analytics capabilities and integrating them "organically" into creative work. The agency said Nair will work closely with Rayman and Grey Consulting as well as other WPP partners. Houston said Nair "is one of our most esteemed people" in "sophisticated" data and analytics, having begun his career in research.
The integrated way Grey Consulting will be modeled reflects a broader transformation underway for the entire Grey Group. "The network is currently focused on structuring our agency in a more borderless fashion," Houston said. That includes identifying key talent and expertise and training employees "in different geographies" to then spread that expertise across the network. He said the agency wants to highlight the "best thinking of Grey regardless of where it comes from," whether consulting or creative. "I could very easily see an international team from London, Dusseldorf and Singapore all working on a single project because we're already doing it," Houston said. The launch of Grey Consulting is another reflection of the increasingly blurred lines between agency and consulting work, as clients demand both from their partners.
As consulting giants Accenture and Deloitte eat up agencies to compensate for their lack of creative offerings, a growing number of agencies, including Hill Holliday and R/GA, have now begun opening consulting practices to make up for their own shortcomings. Featured in Adweek.