Saatchi’s Graf to Exit, Start His Own Shop

Gerry Graf, after just two years as chief creative officer at the New York office of Saatchi & Saatchi, is leaving the Publicis Groupe shop to start his own agency.

“There’s a type of creative agency that I want to make and it’s not going to happen here. So, I’ve got to leave to make it,” Graf told Adweek today.

Saatchi is expected to name Euro RSCG New York chief creative officer Con Williamson to fill Graf’s post, according to sources. Saatchi declined to comment but a Euro RSCG representative confirmed that Williamson was leaving the Havas agency.

“We thank Con for his contributions and wish him nothing but the best in his future endeavors,” the rep said.

Euro RSCG is searching for Williamson’s successor. In the meantime, other senior creatives will absorb his duties.

Both Graf and Williamson have three-month notice periods in their contracts. So, barring any negotiated changes, each will leave his current shop in July, said sources.

Graf joined Saatchi in February 2008, succeeding Tony Granger, who quit to become worldwide cd at WPP Group’s Young & Rubicam. Saatchi was attracted by Graf’s success at raising the creative profile of the New York office of TBWA\Chiat\Day, where he led the creative department for four years.

Graf, in turn, embraced the notion of working at a bigger shop with a portfolio of well-known global brands from clients like Procter & Gamble, General Mills, JC Penney and Wendy’s. Wendy’s, however, shifted its national creative duties to MDC’s Kirshenbaum Bond + Partners before Graf arrived and he failed to find a consistently fruitful outlet for his talents a la Mars at TBWA\C\D.

In a statement, Saatchi worldwide CEO Kevin Roberts described Graf as a “brilliant ideas man and a good friend (despite being an Arsenal supporter),” adding, “We’ll miss him at 375 Hudson Street and we are sure he will make a huge impact in the broader creative space he wants to work in.”

Graf characterized his new venture as a creatively led company that will create ads as well as other types of content. “While at Saatchi & Saatchi and at TBWA before [that], I started creating web content, digital platforms, even television shows. There is a huge market for creative ideas. Advertising is just part of that market.”

He added: “I believe nowadays, the most creative idea will bring the most success. Luckily, I know a lot of people who can help me create and sell those ideas.” 

Williamson joined Euro RSCG in August ’08 and was instrumental in the Havas shop’s successful pitch for Heineken last year. Before Euro RSCG, he was among eight ecds at WPP’s JWT in New York, where he worked on Royal Caribbean, JetBlue and the U.S piece of the agency’s global Nokia account.

This story updates an earlier item with the news that Williamson will succeed Graf, plus additional information.

See also:

“JWT’s Ryan, Montague to Start New Shop”

“Woodard Exits Vigilante, Forms Own Shop”

“Cannes ’09 Q&A With Gerry Graf”