All in the Timing as BBDO Gets Silver to Replace Graf

During his nearly six years as a senior creative at Cliff Freeman and Partners, Eric Silver was regarded by those in his group “as if he were a Buddha,” said former colleague Steve Doppelt, now a creative director at Kirshenbaum Bond & Partners.

“He has an incredible instinct to know what’s funny and what’s not,” Doppelt said. “It’s an instinct that everyone who works for him trusts.”

And it is one that has led BBDO New York to covet Silver for some time. Five months ago, when he was looking to leave Cliff Freeman, where he helped to craft humorous campaigns for Budget Rent A Car, Mike’s Hard Lemonade, and Fox Sports Net (the latter won the 2001 Grand Prix at Cannes), Silver talked to the Omnicom Group shop’s $1.5 billion New York office. There was no opening at the time, sources said, and Silver joined Publicis Groupe’s Saatchi & Saatchi in New York as group creative director.

But last month, when it lost ecd Gerry Graf to sibling shop TBWA\ Chiat\Day, BBDO again courted Silver. This time, it got its funny man.

Next week, Silver, 36, joins BBDO New York as one of six senior creatives. People who know him well say his skills will be better utilized at BBDO —which has a flair for marrying big-budget glitz with clever payoffs for clients such as Pepsi, Visa, Cingular Wireless, Frito-Lay, Masterfoods and FedEx—than at Saatchi, whose roster is heavy with packaged goods.

“Clients come to Eric to push the envelope, but he can show ranges in campaign ideas, from outrageous to humorously provocative,” said former Cliff Freeman new-business director Charles Rosen, now managing partner of Amalgamated in New York. “Eric has an amazing ability to take a younger creative’s germ of an idea and help them craft it. He’s a great cd, because he doesn’t put his thumbprints all over everything.”

“I look forward to getting to BBDO,” said Silver, who will report to North America chief creative officer Ted Sann. “I admire the agency’s body of work, and it’s a great opportunity.”

“I like everything on his reel,” Sann said. “Eric has a unique way of looking at things.” He said Silver will take creative leadership on FedEx, which had been in Graf’s group. It has not been determined which other accounts he will work on.

Sources said copywriter Ari Weiss and art director Aaron Adler, a junior creative team that moved with Silver from Cliff Freeman to Saatchi, would also follow him to BBDO. Sann would not confirm that.

Saatchi executives were said to be somewhat taken aback by Silver’s quick exit. At the time of his hire, Tod Seisser, Saatchi New York chief creative officer, said he would use him as a “secret weapon” on new and existing business. Silver contributed ideas in unsuccessful pitches for Monster and Bacardi and helped develop a “living billboard” for Tylenol in Times Square, sources said. He was also working on a TV spot for Old Spice that Procter & Gamble was considering for a Super Bowl slot and a campaign for NYC & Co.

“There’s nothing to say he did a good job or a bad job,” said a source. “He simply wasn’t here long enough.”

Managing partner Scott Gilbert said Silver’s position will not be filled.