Paul Silverman, Former Mullen Creative Chief, Dies


BOSTON Paul Silverman, Mullen's longtime creative chief and a New England ad legend who helped drive the agency's growth and establish its national creative reputation through the 1970s, '80s and '90s, died unexpectedly yesterday at his home in Manchester, Mass. He was 69.

In the course of his career, Silverman helped shape the New England agency scene, guiding campaigns for Timberland, BMW, and others that fueled the region's metamorphosis from an industry backwater into a vibrant creative center.

There was an intelligence and playfulness to Silverman's ad work, a fusion of art and commerce that stemmed from his experience as a creative writer. That style informs Mullen's work to this day and to some degree served as a template for the region's other shops to follow. Ultimately, he paved the way for a new generation of creative leaders.

"Paul Silverman was the smartest person I ever knew as well as the key creator of our agency's creative culture," said agency founder Jim Mullen of his friend and partner of nearly 30 years. "As Hamlet said of his father, 'He was a man, take him for all in all. We shall not look upon his like again.'"

Joe Grimaldi, CEO of the IPG shop in Boston, said, "Paul was simply brilliant. He was one of the key people who made Mullen a nationally ranked and internationally recognized agency."

Hill, Holliday chief executive Mike Sheehan, said: "Paul was an exceptional creative talent and someone I always looked up to professionally. More than that, he was a truly great human being who cared deeply about others and always had a smile on his face, so he was someone I  looked up to personally as well."

Silverman, a deli-owner's son who had toiled as a reporter for local newspapers, joined Mullen about three years after the agency's founding by Jim Mullen. The latter's art training and Silverman's writing background almost dictated a print focus; indeed, the agency's way with words remains its strength to this day, translating well to new-media assignments.

After establishing itself as a solid regional player in the '80s, Mullen began to burst onto the broader ad scene about 20 years ago. Quirky but effective campaigns for Smartfood and Timberland often upstaged better-known rivals at awards shows large and small.

Even 20 years later, BBDO N.A. chairman and CCO David Lubars recalled Silverman's gracious style at the 1989 Boston Ad Club Hatch Awards, where Mullen's work for Timberland and others fell short against Keds best-of-show effort by Providence, R.I., ad shop Leonard Monahan Lubars. "It was the height of good sportsmanship," Lubars said.

Mullen's 1993 hire by BMW gave it a bona fide national showcase. Various magazines and news outlets honored "When I Grow Up," a memorable 1999 Super Bowl TV spot for (with school kids hilariously extolling the dreary workdays ahead) as among the best ever to air on the game.

When the shop was sold to the Interpublic Group in 1999 for about $50 million, it was recognized as one of the nation's most successful midsize players. Jim Mullen soon ceded the reins to Grimaldi, who was named CEO. Silverman stepped aside for Edward Boches, who became CCO.

In recent years, Silverman kept his hand in the ad biz, assisting Mullen and other shops with projects. But he mainly focused on fiction, publishing well-received stories in anthologies and on numerous literary Web sites.

Modernista! co-founder Lance Jensen summed up Silverman's impact: "Mullen sets the standard for class. For premium. For craft. They take this profession extremely seriously. They are perfectionists. Clearly, Paul was instrumental in setting this standard. I am sure Paul's influence upon them and the greater ad community is permanent."

In addition to his wife Teresa, Silverman is survived by a daughter, Miranda, currently an account executive at the Boston agency MMB.

A graveside funeral service will be held on August 14 at 11:00 a.m. at the Puritan Lawn Memorial Park in Peabody, Mass.'s Paul Silverman tribute, with examples of his best work through the years

Silverman's Web site, which focuses on his post-Mullen creative writing career

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Adweek's New England print edition published this profile of Silverman in 1991, as his star, along with the agency's, began to rise in earnest:

Paul Silverman: Deli-Man's Son Makes Good
CD Drives Mullen Into Top Creative Tier

(Adweek N.E., June 3, 1991)

If Paul Silverman, Mullen's first and only creative director, had to pinpoint the two things that most profoundly shaped the way he approaches his work, he might well pick pastrami and literature.

His father owned a deli in Boston's tough, working-class Roxbury section, where Silverman was born 51 years ago. It was there that the soft-spoken, award-winning copywriter who never intentionally sought a career in advertising first learned the art of selling.

"It was a classic Boston Jewish deli, [which means] it was like a classic New York Jewish deli crossed with an Irish Catholic cafeteria," Silverman recalls. "My first glimpse of advertising was the way my father dealt with people. You don't just serve food in a deli, [you] talk to customers, promote it."

Silverman has been applying those sales tactics on a daily basis over the last 15 years at what has become one of the industry' premier print agencies -- an agency that last month shined at the New York Art Directors' Club awards show by picking up a total of three golds and six silvers for print work on behalf of flagship client Timberland and former client Smartfoods.

Silverman, given to chatting in a quiet, conversational tone, considers awards show wins important because they make an agency's name better known and act as "third-party endorsements" of creative.

But while he's obviously pleased with the tally of recent wins, including last year's best of show at New England's Francis W. Hatch Awards show, he maintains that creating advertising solely to win awards is a bad idea. "Our job is to go out there and do good advertising and publicize it through awards show wins," he says.

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