Barton F. Graf Hires Former JWT CCO Jeff Benjamin as ECD, Partner

By Patrick Coffee 

Jeff Benjamin has returned to the ad agency world after two and a half years, joining Barton F. Graf as its new executive creative director and partner in New York reporting directly to founder/CCO Gerry Graf.

Throughout his career, Benjamin has held top creative roles at agencies including GS&P and CP+B, where he was (allegedly) one of many who worked on “Subservient Chicken.” He most prominently spent nearly three years as North American chief creative officer at JWT, where he oversaw work for Puma and other clients before leaving in August 2014 to launch “a new creative venture.”

A little less than a year later, a Brooklyn-based project called Disco that was a collaboration between Benjamin and several other art directors/creatives entered the open Lyft creative pitch that later went to Boulder’s Made Movement.

Benjamin’s last role before moving to BFG was creative advisor at Bark & Co., a New York-based startup that offers subscription services for busy city pet owners. He also recently served as a member of Facebook’s Creative Council, which launched in 2012 as an “agency education panel.”

In the new role, Benjamin “will be instrumental in creative direction on new and existing clients” and effectively succeeds ECD and partner Scott Vitrone, who left the agency last summer. Since then, Barton F. Graf has also hired GCD Nate Taylor and head of communications strategy Dominic Poynter as creative and strategic leaders, respectively.

“Jeff and I have been talking about what it would be like to work together for years,” said Graf in the press release. “I asked him to join Barton when we first started 6 years ago, but the timing wasn’t right. His biggest asset has always been his versatility of thinking across channels and his optimism for experimentation, and those traits have been refined even more after working on the client side for the last year.”

He added: “When you put the two of us together, the creative possibilities are endless. We’ve had a wicked run at Barton. I think with Jeff coming on, we’re about to start a new chapter.”

Benjamin said:

“Gerry has always had an unapologetic love of advertising, and so have I. But as I got to know Laura [Janness, chief strategy officer] and Barney [Robinson, CEO]—it became clear that we also all shared the same ambition to create ideas that weren’t limited to an archaic definition. To us, anything and everything that finds its way into culture – moving people, helping people, and making them feel differently about brands to create growth – is marketing. And while this new definition of advertising starts to emerge, it will always begin with simple, iconic ideas. These guys and the rest of Barton have been courageously championing creativity that reminds us all why we love advertising, and I can’t wait to join them.”

The press release notes that “the agency brought on a swath of new clients and grew organically across its current roster [in 2016],” calling the past twelve months “a banner year for growth.” it does not name any of these new clients, but they include Ketel One.