In an explicitly bold move that might go down as one of the most worthy rebranding exercises in recent history, Grey London has temporarily renamed itself as Valenstein & Fatt (V&F). The agency was initially named for the colour of the wallpaper in the offices of agency founders Larry Valenstein and Arthur Fatt, who, as Jewish men, were worried that putting their names on the door would be a death sentence in an age where anti-semitism was not only rife, but openly accepted and even often encouraged. For the next 100 days, however, the agency that now, 100 years after its inception in 1917, employs over 10,000 people in 96 countries, will be literally ditching the Grey and will be known as Valenstein & Fatt in order to not only finally give the founders their dues, but promote a 5-point diversity plan that looks to fly in the face of a world on the cusp of receding into widespread divisional hatred.
So, Grey London is effectively using its own origin story as a springboard for an industry-wide call to embrace diversity, and that's a pretty incredible thing. For the next three months (with change), the office will fully operate as Valenstein & Fatt, changing its office signage, stationary and business cards, answering its phones that way, even operating under V&F during pitches. The Valenstein & Fatt name has also dropped Grey’s token San Serif for a new logotype set in a more dramatic Century Schoolbook, a typeface also designed back in 1917 just a few blocks from where Grey setup its first office! The timing of the initiative, with Britain triggering Article 50 and Donald Trump's presidency continuing to legitimise xenophobia, nationalism and political isolationism, is surely no coincidence, and the name change is being backed by a 5 step plan, detailed below, which the agency hopes will help trigger a sea change in the industry. Because adland has come a long way, but it still has a hill to climb. This is a fact underlined by a recent list of “Industry Game-Changes” published by the Institute Practitioners in Advertising (IPA), which featured just six were women and was exclusively white.
Grey's Five Point Plan
We are publishing our diversity data. Progress cannot be made without clear measures and transparency about who we are today. Our new study is independent and in-depth and is based on the voluntary responses of 305 individuals, which represents over 60 percent of the agency and reported according to standards set by the British Office of National Statistics (ONS). Research developed in partnership with PSB examines roots, identity, education and lifestyle. It will be measured and shared annually and we are encouraging other agencies to take it up as their methodology.
We are launching a cross-industry taskforce to identify the barriers to recruitment and retention of talent among ethnic minorities. The first gathering will be co-chaired by Trevor Philips OBE and CEO Leo Rayman, and we are inviting leading organisations in this space and the most progressive agencies, including chairwoman of Mediacom, Karen Blackett, to join us in agreeing industry-wide initiatives and targets. We will also commit to targets for our advertising output, to ensure that it is nationally representative.
We are launching the Valenstein & Fatt Bursary to pay a year’s rent for up to two young people from ethnic minority and disadvantaged backgrounds. To qualify, candidates must have been offered a job at Grey, be state educated and live outside of greater London. Applications are open from this summer.
We will inspire the next generation, by working with 100 primary and secondary schools to introduce students to a career in the creative industries. Working with exec head Michelle Williams and education therapist Jodie Cariss and starting with the New Wave Federation primary schools in London’s Hackney, we will offer a tailor-made program for the schools involved, from assemblies to full-day workshops, coaching and agency open days.
We will develop our diverse talent. Recognising that recruiting people with different start points isn’t enough, 50 individuals identified as ones to watch will be matched and formally mentored by our executive and senior leadership. In parallel we will run community mentoring workshops open to any member of the agency who wants to participate.
Broadcaster Trevor Philips OBE, who will be heading up the afore-mentioned cross-industry taskforce alongside CEO Leo Rayman, said: “By calling their agency Grey, what Valenstein & Fatt were saying is, whatever you call us, whatever you think about us, look at the dazzling quality of our work. You will never be able to resist us. So the lesson for leaders of today is to stop thinking that the great boss of the future looks like they looked when they were 21. We need our businesses to say to people; don’t be like us, be yourselves, do something new, bring something that no one has seen before. The thing that leads us to value people’s inherent differences is that spark of creativity that comes with diversity.” Rayman added: “Recent events, from rising instances of hate crime and terror attacks in London to the triggering of Article 50, have sent shivers through our society and businesses, but it should also inspire a collective and determined attitude that our country and our companies will not change for the worse.”
It's an incredible movement that we're 100% behind and will be following intently for the next 100 days and beyond, as the seeds sewn by the initiative hopefully begin to take root. Whether other agencies will take the lead set by Valenstein & Fatt remains to be seen, but we hope adland will at least sit up and take notice. Because we certainly have!