Famed ad agency renames itself after its Jewish founders who faced anti-Semitism

Josefin Dolsten

The advertising agency Grey London temporarily changed its name to honor its Jewish founders, Lawrence Valenstein and Arthur Fatt. (Twitter)

NEW YORK (JTA) — Grey Global Group, one of the largest advertising agencies in the world, was founded in New York in 1917 by two Jewish men. But due to the widespread anti-Semitism of their time, Lawrence Valenstein and Arthur Fatt decided to name the agency Grey Studios, after the color of the office wallpaper, in order to avoid losing business.

Now, Grey’s London office is honoring its founders by changing its name to Valenstein & Fatt for 100 days.

As of Monday, Grey London’s signage, business cards and stationary all reflect the new name. It will answer its phones as Valenstein & Fatt and operate under the name in official business scenarios, according to Adweek. The office and company social media pages feature photos of its Jewish founders.

The change is part of a larger Grey-wide initiative to promote diversity in its own agency and across the advertising industry. According to its website, the company will publish its own diversity data, work with schools to promote careers in the creative industries, launch an industry task force on diversity and pay for rent for up to two underprivileged people offered jobs at Grey.

In a video released for the initiative, members of the agency talk about the anti-Semitism of the early 20th century and how Grey’s founders could not put their names “on the door” of their own company in 1917. The video splices in a clip of President Donald Trump chanting “Build that wall” at a rally — referring to his campaign promise to build an immigration barrier on the U.S.-Mexico border.

So why only change the company name for 100 days?

“The 100 days represents the 100 years since Larry Valenstein and Arthur Fatt founded the agency,” Ollie Dearn, senior PR manager at Grey London, told JTA in an email.

“While the name change is temporary, the five pledges we’ve unveiled, including the Valenstein & Fatt bursary, will be permanent and ongoing,” Dearn added, referring to the fund to pay for rent for underprivileged Grey employees.

The temporary nature of the name change did not seem to bother Lawrence Valenstein’s son, John.

“My father having been one of the most successful people in the industry, I think it’s wonderful that he’s finally being recognized,” John Valenstein said in a video released by the agency.

Learn more about the initiative here:

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