Last week, Grey named John Patroulis as its newest worldwide chief creative officer. The seat has been empty since Tor Myrhen left to become Apple’s vice president of marketing communications in December 2015.
Patroulis joins the agency after six years heading up creative at BBH New York, first as chief creative officer, then creative chairman. Under his watch, the agency turned out award-winning work for brands like Playstation, Axe, and Netflix, including last year’s Cannes Lions Integrated Grand Prix for its House of Cards campaign. His resume also includes stops as executive creative director at twofifteenmccann, as well as its spin-off San Francisco agency T.A.G., where he was global creative director/executive creative director.
Just the other week, Patroulis talked to me about helping Playstation exceed its expectations in virtual reality, by working on marketing VR gaming a bit differently. But in an email Q&A, the agency vet says that this was too big an opportunity to pass up.
“It really came down to the combination of the creative opportunity and the ambitious leadership team,” says Patroulis. “It’s a different type of gig in its scale, but you like to try to keep things simple, and creative opportunity plus great people is a nice little formula that’s worked for me so far.”
Patroulis says he’s been fortunate to work at some great agencies, and to learn from some great people, and that this felt like another opportunity to do that. “Plus, BBH NY is in a great place, with great momentum creatively, so I know they’ll go on to do great things,” he says. “Feeling that, and seeing the massive opportunity at Grey made it all come together.”
As an outsider, Patroulis sees Grey’s biggest asset as their commitment to creativity, and their ability to change. “They’ve done famous and effective work on clients big and small, and have proven their desire to double-down on creativity as the way forward,” he says. “But their proven ability to evolve and change is what makes that feel like not just a great accomplishment, but a great foundation for the future.”
For challenges, the agency’s newest creative head says it’s the same as everyone else.
“In a constantly and rapidly evolving landscape, one that changes in shorter and shorter cycles, how do you create the right balance of the established systems clients need, and evolving ones that lead clients to their next horizon, all while keeping the creative standards extremely high?” he says. “No real revelations there, just the reality facing not just agencies but clients themselves. Great leaps forward can come from brands both big and small. I think agencies of all sizes need to help lead that change, and large, connected ones like Grey are fortunately positioned to do that at scale. But none of it matters or will be effective if everything isn’t centered around the power of an idea, and the belief in what it can do. So, yeah. Sort of a big challenge. But that’s what makes it fun.”