NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- Eric Silver is trading in big-agency life to run a small, indie shop. The former top creative at Omnicom Group's DDB is taking a majority ownership stake in 34-person Amalgamated, New York, and will serve as its chief creative officer.
Until now, the three admen who set up Amalgamated in 2003 all had equal stakes in the shop. As part of the changes, co-founder and executive creative director Jason Gaboriau -- who plans to leave the agency to pursue a creative position at a larger shop -- has sold his stake to Mr. Silver. The two other co-founders, Director of Strategy Doug Cameron and CEO Charles Rosen, have also sold portions of their stakes to Mr. Silver, though both maintain minority interest and are remaining with the agency in their current titles.
"I wasn't having that much fun at my last job, and when you're not having fun, you're not doing your best work," Mr. Silver told Ad Age. "As you climb the corporate ladder, it's easy to lose sight of why you got into the industry to start, and this is as excited as I've felt in a long time." He added that he's looking forward to "an environment where I work with partners I like and trust and where bullshit is put aside" to focus on the creative product.
Most recently, Mr. Silver was at DDB, New York. He jumped there in 2009 after a five-year stint at sibling agency BBDO under David Lubars, but the move to DDB proved short-lived and yielded little in the way of interesting work, especially compared to Mr. Silver's award-winning campaigns for FedEx and Monster. In late July, Matt Eastwood was imported from DDB, Australia, to step in for Mr. Silver. DDB North America President Dick Rogers told Ad Age at the time: "Eric will be taking on creative responsibilities for DDB's business-development efforts in the U.S., working with U.S. Director of New Business Development Brandon Snow." DDB representatives couldn't be reached by press time to comment on Mr. Silver's exit.
Mr. Silver's move to Amalgamated reunites a team that worked together for five years at Cliff Freeman in the late 1990s, producing work for clients such as Mike's Hard Lemonade, Fox Sports and Budget Car Rental and other brands. "All of us spent quite a bit of time together at Cliff Freeman," said Amalgamated CEO Mr. Rosen. "Eric quit and 15 minutes later, Doug, Jason and I went into Cliff's office; the three of us left to go start a small agency and he left to take on big-agency opportunities. We all chose the thing we needed to choose at that time. In that seven or eight years, Doug and I learned what we'd need to do to take the agency to the next level to attract a certain calber of clients, and Eric became very, very ready to do his own thing, but it took him that journey to be ready to do that."
Mr. Silver has already contributed to bringing in a new client for Amalgamated; he helped lead a pitch for used car company CarMax in which it last week prevailed as the winner. That account is a boost for the shop, which earlier this year lost longtime client Mike's Hard Lemonade to Arnold, New York after a review. In addition to Carmax, the agency's current client roster includes Unilever's Ben & Jerry 's brand, Coca-Cola Co., Qdoba Mexican Grill and MSG Networks.
For now Mr. Gaboriau is still at Amalgamated, shooting campaigns. While he hasn't secured a new position yet, he has voiced intentions to go work for a larger agency in a creative-director or executive- creative-director capacity. In the past, Mr. Gaboriau has spent time at shops such as Lowe & Partners and Berlin Cameron & Partners working on brands such as Mercedes-Benz, the NBA and ESPN.
Amalgamated currently numbers just 34 staffers. While it's planning to make a few hires to service new accounts, it isn't planning to open any other offices in the near term, Mr. Rosen said.
The departure of Mr. Silver -- who has also worked with Wieden & Kennedy and TBWA/Chiat/Day, and briefly was a writer for "The Late Show with David Letterman" -- to a tiny shop continues a trend that's seen major changes for longtime creative fixtures at major agencies, including Ty Montague, Gerry Graf, Alex Bogusky and Eric Hirshberg this year. "I had offers to be a CCO at other big agencies, but this seemed like a window in time to join an independent agency with partners I've known and liked and known for a long time," said Mr. Silver.
Asked what he thinks is fueling the departure of so many well-known creatives from big agencies or the industry in general, he said: "I suspect we're seeing more and more creatives from big agencies either leave advertising altogether or opt for a smaller structure in an effort to use more of the right side of their brain: to get closer to the work, roll up their sleeves and really focus on what the client needs."