Cliff Freeman Looks to New Creatives and New Business

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Value City: You'll feel rich.
Back in June, Cliff Freeman & Partners announced the promotion of six employees -- four of them in the creative department -- to the level of vice president, anointing what chairman Cliff Freeman then described as, "the new generation of leadership at the agency." Five months later, however, only one of the four, ACD Jason Gaboriau, remains. Steve Doppelt departed shortly after his promotion to rejoin former boss Lee Garfinkel at D'Arcy; Ian Reichenthal has left to pursue a freelance career; and, most recently, Adam Chasnow left the agency to join Goodby, Silverstein & Partners. Combined with persistent reports that the agency is up for sale, and the perception that the shop only produces outrageous advertising at a time when over-the-top gags are falling out of favor, Cliff Freeman definitely looks like an agency in transition.

According to executive VP Charles Rosen, however, the next new generation is already being assembled. The agency has recently added two new ACDs -- promoting Dan Kelleher and hiring Ari Merkin away from Crispin Porter + Bogusky -- bringing the current number to three. Rosen says the shop has also added 15 employees across the board in the last month, staffing up to handle new business from Value City and Ben & Jerry's, the latter an account the agency won against stiff competition from Crispin Porter and Bozell. "Last year was pretty tough, from both a creative and a business perspective," Rosen concedes. "But we've had some notable wins and we've begun restaffing. There's a lot of new blood here right now."

The agency's first work for Value City is breaking right now, and it displays the signature Freeman funny, but with fewer broken bones. The campaign -- directed by Smuggler's Neil Harris -- features average, middle-class types who've let all the money they've saved at the discount retailer go to their heads. In one spot, a man samples a refill of soda like a bottle of fine wine. In another -- and perhaps the funniest -- spot, we see a woman who has shaved her mongrel shepherd mix as though it were a pedigreed standard poodle. The campaign's tag? "You'll feel rich."

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