Jessica Heygate
Jun 15, 2022

Michael Houston named WPP US president as AKQA Group CEO takes over Grey

The longtime Grey leader will oversee the holding company’s largest market as Ajaz Ahmed takes over leadership of AKQA Group.

Michael Houston
Michael Houston

WPP has appointed Michael Houston in a new role as president of its U.S. business, as leadership of Grey is folded under AKQA Group CEO Ajaz Ahmed.

Houston takes up the holding company role from a nearly 15-year stint at Grey, which he has been leading as global CEO for nearly five years.

In November, following Grey’s merger with AKQA, Houston became president and chief operating officer of the newly formed AKQA Group.

Ahmed, who founded AKQA, became CEO. The two have jointly led the company since.

In his new role, Houston will be responsible for promoting WPP’s collective capabilities, supporting agency CEOs and bringing together people and resources for clients in the holding company’s largest market. 

He will shape the company’s “campus” strategy in the U.S., in which WPP agencies in the same region work out of one office building. The campus model, which WPP has adopted in several markets, aims to increase collaboration, improve efficiency and reduce office costs.

In addition, Houston will shape WPP’s talent attraction and retention strategies, with a strong emphasis on diversity and inclusion.  

The president role aligns with WPP’s country leadership structure in other major markets, the company said. 

The U.S. is responsible for more than one third of WPP’s annual revenue. The holding company posted $5.4 billion in revenue and employed around 22,000 staff in 2021, according to its annual report.

Houston will continue to serve on the WPP executive committee. As part of his new role, he will also be WPP’s executive sponsor for Procter & Gamble. 

The long-time leader of Grey first joined in 2007 as global CMO and worked his way up to leading the New York office, the North American market and then the agency globally.  

WPP CEO Mark Read said in a statement that Houston has made “an exceptional contribution during his 15 years at Grey.” 

Prior to Grey, Houston held senior leadership positions at KB+P, Landor and Y&R, as well as founding a brand consultancy in the 1990s.

He sits on the board of Concern Worldwide, a global humanitarian group dedicated to tackling poverty and suffering in the world’s poorest countries. He also serves on the boards of the Institute of International Education, Effie Worldwide and the AdCouncil.


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