Six Gold Lions and 12 One Show Pencil awards have not erased a slight that Eric Silver still thinks about: He was runner-up in the annual class clown voting at his Connecticut high school 15 years ago.
"[It's a] competition in which your peers are really voting for the 'class asshole,' " admits the 33-year-old svp/creative director at Cliff Freeman and Partners, New York. "The guy that will do anything for a laugh."
Silver's specialty was "the claw." At any time, he'd grab a friend in a one-handed choke hold during science class. The class would roar with laughter; the appalled teacher would not.
His ads often have the same effect, particularly the work he's produced at Cliff Freeman since joining three years ago. Consider the infamous, award-winning work for Outpost.com: A man shoots gerbils from a cannon and a pack of wolves attack a high school marching band. Or the Hollywood Video campaign in which Don LaFontaine, who does voiceovers for many movie trailers, pops up from behind the counter and gives dramatic synopses of movies that customers want to rent. Disturbing? Yes. Hilarious? Absolutely.
Silver's most recent effort, a Fox Sports NBA campaign tagged "Live the game," depicts two nerdy white guys named Jerome and Alan who adopt the personas of black NBA players. They are digitized into clips of actual games and shown faking out stars such as David Robinson and Karl Malone. "I was really proud of that campaign because it didn't have any violence,"Silver exults.
These days, Silver spends much of his time "grooming" junior creatives. His résumé notes time spent as a parking garage valet as well as years honing his copywriting skills at the former Chiat/Day in New York, Earle Palmer Browne, Richmond, Va., Wieden + Kennedy, Portland, Ore., and FCB San Francisco.
When asked about his future goals, Silver says, "After a few more years here, I'd like to go back to the parking garage."