Q&A: Eric Silver

NEW YORK Eric Silver, DDB New York’s new chief creative officer, discussed how he will approach his first opportunity to run an agency creative department in an interview with Adweek senior reporter Andrew McMains.

Silver, a former executive creative director at BBDO, who’s replacing longtime DDB N.Y. CCO and chairman Lee Garfinkel, starts on Feb. 17.

ADWEEK: What drew you to this job?

SILVER: After five years at BBDO, it was simply time to try something new. At Cliff Freeman, the challenge was to create talked-about work on smaller accounts. And then, at BBDO, the reason I wanted to go to a big agency was to replicate that success, but on bigger accounts, which I felt really good about with FedEx and Monster. The next sort of evolutionary step is you go and you run an agency [creative department]. 

Why was it time to leave BBDO?

I achieved the goals that we set out to do.

What will be your biggest challenge as CCO?

I don’t know. The first four weeks of my plan is [to] go in and listen. Then, I can answer that question better. I’m not going in with any preconceived notions. I don’t know if this is a sexy answer or not. I’m just being honest. The first four weeks, I just really want to go in and listen and see what that place is about. Then I would have a better sense of how to answer that.

What about the job will come easily to you?

I think I do well with people. I want to surround myself with smart people, people I trust and people I can delegate to. On some level, you’re only as good as your cabinet. So, I think I’ll have a good rapport with people and I want to create a two-way street with people that I trust. I think that’s critical to the success of the thing.

What did you learn at BBDO that will help you?

Client interaction, wherever you are, is key in earning their trust. Doing right by the clients — there’s really a focus on that [at BBDO] — is obviously critical for this next move.

Any of your peers offer advice?

No. But my advice to myself — what I was saying earlier — is to not rush to judgment on stuff and go in and look around. By the way, if that’s wrong, tell me! (laughs).

Get the lay of the land first, right?

Yeah. Because if you go in pretending you have all the answers, I think you’re in trouble right off the bat.

Who did you meet with during the recruitment process?

[N.Y. president] Peter Hempel, [worldwide CEO] Chuck Brymer and [North American president] Dick Rogers.

You spent a fair amount of time with Chuck?

Yeah, with all three. All three are aligned on getting the New York office talked about. There’s a lot that’s right, but everyone is focused on getting the office talked about.

Did you meet with [worldwide chairman and chief creative officer] Bob Scarpelli?

Yeah, who’s a great guy. . . .His quote was, “Let’s open up the windows and let a little air in.” That’s a good one, huh?

How would you describe your management style?

Wanting to surround myself with people I trust and just delegating. I want business associates I trust who are also friends and [are] having some fun along the way.

What prompted you to weigh in amid the hundreds of comments generated by our initial story about your talks with DDB? [Silver submitted a comment on Feb. 8, three days after the story was posted.]