Jessica Heygate
Jul 20, 2022

Havas’ Laura Maness joins Grey Group as global CEO

Maness is tasked with refreshing Grey’s strategy and vision 18 months after merging with AKQA.

Havas’ Laura Maness joins Grey Group as global CEO

Laura Maness will join Grey Group as global CEO. The news comes one day after Campaign US broke news that she had left her position as CEO of Havas New York.

She will become the first female CEO — and sixth overall — in Grey’s 105-year history.

Maness will start on September 1, taking over during a complicated period for Grey, which has undergone several leadership changes since it merged with AKQA in November 2020.

Grey’s former global CEO of five years, Michael Houston, moved into a role at parent WPP in June when leadership of Grey was folded under AKQA Group CEO Ajaz Ahmed.

Houston and Ahmed, who founded AKQA, had been appointed to jointly lead AKQA Group, formed after the two agencies merged. Since AKQA was growing faster than Grey at the time, it was thought that the Grey brand would eventually disappear.

Ahmed told Campaign US the two agencies have discovered methods to collaborate “while respecting uniqueness of capability and expertise.” 

He said Maness is “the ideal CEO” to renew Grey’s global strategy and vision and expand its connection with AKQA Group.

He specifically praised her approach to “building community, not hierarchy,” believing that “hierarchies tend to create stagnation in those with the job titles and intimidation in those who don’t.”

“We have the responsibility to spearhead a revolution for our industry that puts employee experience at the center of everything we do. Many agencies talk about purpose and values but don’t treat their colleagues or clients well. We have to aim higher,” Ahmed said.

Maness said in a release: “As only the sixth CEO in 105 years, the opportunity to renew, galvanize and grow a legendary and celebrated agency like Grey — combined with the unmatched caliber of talent from across the globe — is incredibly meaningful.”

“I look forward to building on the strong foundation of Grey’s storytelling prowess and famously effective work by fuelling a culture of creativity, innovation and continuous impact,” she added.

WPP CEO Mark Read said in a release: “Laura believes in the power of what we do to make a difference in the world, and has an impressive track record of delivering growth for agencies, their people and their clients. I’m delighted she’s joining AKQA Group as Global CEO of Grey. Grey is known for outstanding creativity that produces outstanding results, and I’m sure that reputation will only grow under Laura’s leadership.”

Maness will start with a slim creative team after global creative chairman John Patroulis and New York chief creative officer Justine Armour both left Grey earlier this month.

She takes up the mantle following a nine-year run at Havas, including six years leading the New York office as president and then CEO. Under her leadership, Havas New York expanded its focus on social impact, achieving B Corp certification in 2021. Maness is serving notice at Havas until the end of next week. She is the fourth executive to leave Havas over the past week after Chris Hirst departed on Thursday.

Prior to Havas, Maness was head of growth for FCB in San Francisco.

Prior to Houston and Patroulis’ exits, Grey had three men in its global leadership positions, including worldwide chief creative officer Javier Campopiano.

Campaign US

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