Eric Kallman and Steven Erich Open S.F. Agency Erich & Kallman

Celebrated Vets From Goodby, Crispin Set Up Lean Shop Aiming to 'Make Brands Famous'

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Eric Kallman and Steven Erich, founders of Erich & Kallman.
Eric Kallman and Steven Erich, founders of Erich & Kallman. Credit: Eric Herrmann

Eric Kallman, former Goodby, Silverstein & Partners ECD and veteran creative behind award-winning work for Old Spice and Skittles, and former CP&B President Steven Erich have teamed up to form a new San Francisco-based agency, Erich & Kallman.

The company sets out with a simple M.O.: "We're fast, we're lean and we know how to make brands famous," said Mr. Erich, who serves as founder/managing director. "It's not clever, but it's down to the point. We really want to lead with speed. It's hugely undervalued and underutilized." As for being lean, "the more nimble we are, the more successful we're going to be." The "famous" part can be seen in the partners' past work.

Mr. Kallman, whose previous agencies also include Wieden & Kennedy, Portland, Barton F. Graf and TBWA/Chiat/Day, New York, made a name for himself creating highly lauded campaigns for marketers such as P&G, Mars, Little Caesars and Kayak. Among his most celebrated were Old Spice's "The Man Your Man Could Smell Like," Skittles' "Touch" and "Beard," and Ragu's "Long Days of Childhood."

Mr. Erich's past agencies include The Martin Agency and TBWA/Chiat/Day. He began as an account director at CP&B in 2004 and eventually worked his way up to president in 2014. His tenure saw some of the agency's most award-winning ideas, including Burger King's "Subservient Chicken" and "Whopper Freakout," and Amex's "Small Business Saturday."

The agency can't yet disclose its current clients, but it is working on a number of projects, including one with a large home products retailer. It's about to start in on projects with a pair of startups in the mobile space and is also in the finals of a project pitch with a national restaurant chain, competing against three large agencies.

The company currently has about 10 staffers, a mix of permanent and freelance. The idea is to stay small but strong and nimble. "We want to be able to excel just as much as on projects as on AOR assignments," said Mr. Erich. "So we're going to structure ourselves more like a general contractor or Hollywood production house. There will be fewer senior people at the center, and then highly skilled people as we need them, but we will try to be as lean and efficient as possible."

"Hopefully, we'll create an agency full of do-ers," said Mr. Kallman, whose title is founder/creative director. "We'll have fewer people, but everyone will be higher caliber -- people who like to just do their job, not manage others. When I was at a smaller startup [Barton], the reason I loved it was because I got to do what I loved doing, being hands on."

The founders' approach addresses issues they'd experienced in the industry over the years.

"It goes back to seeing what was happening at other agencies, talking to clients and what we were having to deal with," said Mr. Erich. "Speed, cost, and complexity" were top of mind, "so we want to set something up that is hopefully going to be able to address some of these issues."

The founders had originally met while Mr. Erich was president at CP&B and the agency had been courting Mr. Kallman to join. Mr. Kallman opted instead to move back to his hometown of San Francisco to join Goodby. When they reconnected, they were both at similar points in their careers, looking to start their own thing.

"One of the things that made me hopeful from the beginning was that we had similar courses throughout our career," said Mr. Erich. "We've always been at very creative agencies and have been part of teams that have done great work, so I knew we'd be like-minded in the way that we approached the work. We had very complementary points of view on the industry."

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