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Michael Houston named CEO of Grey North America, becomes top black agency exec

(July 18, 2013) James R. Heekin, III, Chairman and CEO of Grey Group, has announced the promotion of Michael Houston, 41, to CEO of Grey North America, a new position reporting to Heekin.  Houston has served most recently as Chief Operating Officer of Grey New York. He will continue to share leadership duties in New York with Tor Myhren, President and Chief Creative Officer, Grey New York.

In his expanded new leadership role, Houston will oversee Grey North American offices comprised of New York, San Francisco, Canada, including Toronto and Vancouver, as well as Grey Activation and PR, based in New York.  Houston will share oversight of Wing U.S., the multicultural marketing communications agency, with offices in New York and Miami, together with Alain Groenendaal, who serves as President and CEO of Wing as well as Grey Latin America.

"Michael Houston is one of our most dynamic and talented leaders," Jim Heekin said.  "Together with Tor Myhren, he has built a first-class management team in New York, transformed our creative performance and digital prowess and spearheaded a new business growth record second to none."

The N.Y. Times reported that Houston is now "one of the few African-Americans in the executive suites of the large, mainstream Madison Avenue agencies -- even, perhaps, the most senior."

"By no means do I define myself only by that," Houston told the Times. Still, "I do think it's unfortunate that my appointment potentially makes me the highest-ranking African-American," he added. "It sends a signal there aren't a lot of African-American people in the industry in the highest ranks."

Michael Houston joined Grey New York, the global network's flagship headquarters office, in 2007 as Executive Vice President, Director of Marketing, to lead Grey's business development and brand marketing efforts.  He was promoted to Global Chief Marketing Officer of Grey worldwide in 2010 in recognition of Grey's record growth. 

Appointed to the new position of Managing Director of Grey New York in 2011, Houston took on the role of Chief Operating Officer of the 985-person strong agency in 2012.  He was named to the prestigious Crain's New York Business "40 Under 40" list in 2012. 

Michael Houston said, "I am very grateful for this new challenge.  The Grey brand has tremendous vitality and potential as we approach our 100th year of serving great clients.  I look forward to working with the unique talent we possess in North America to capitalize on our momentum and shape our future."

2012 was Grey's fifth year in a row of record new business and creative performance.  Advertising Age once again named Grey to its prestigious A-List of the 10 hottest shops in the U.S.  Grey New York was named to Creativity's A-List of the 10 most creative agencies in the world.  Grey took top honors as "best all-around ad agency of 2012" in Forbes' survey of agency search consultants.  The agency's soaring creative reputation was bolstered with the win of 36 Cannes Lions, its best showing ever, in 2013.

In recent years, Grey's high-profile winning streak has accounted for upwards of $3 billion in new business billings.  New clients and brands include Gillette, RadioShack, Marriott Hotels and Resorts, AARP, Duracell, Allergan, Pfizer's Advil, The National Park Foundation, Kellogg's Pringles, NFL, DirecTV, Red Lobster, T.J. Maxx, Sargento Foods, Allianz, Diageo's Ketel One and UPMC.

Grey is the advertising network of Grey Group.  Grey Group ranks among the largest global communications companies.  Its parent company is WPP (NASDAQ: WPPGY).  Under the banner of "Grey Famously Effective Since 1917," the agency serves a blue-chip client roster of many of the world's best known companies:  Procter & Gamble, GlaxoSmithKline, Diageo, Darden Restaurants, Pfizer, Canon, 3M, NFL, Boehringer Ingelheim, Marriott Hotels & Resorts and T.J. Maxx.

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