Graf has led the TBWA NY office since 2003 and is known for building the creative reputation of the shop and for spearheading distinctive and critically successful work for Nextel, Skittles, Starburst and Combos. Graf was named the industry's most award winning creative director in the 2007 Creativity Awards Report.
On the reason for the move, Graf—in signature style—says: "They're really nice"—referring to Saatchi worldwide creative director Bob Isherwood, New York CEO Mary Baglivo and worldwide interactive creative director Tom Eslinger with whom Graf says he shares a taste in comics.
About his Saatchi mandate, Graf says the creative department is "in a really good place and they want to improve."
"I always think that all work can get better," says Graf. "There are easy steps you can do to make that possible. I have to sit down with them, look at the work, talk to the people who create it, talk to the people who sell it and plan it and determine the direction we're going to go."
Graf replaces Tony Granger, who departed, or attempted to depart Saatchi in November to become worldwide creative chief of Y&R. Granger has yet to commence his Y&R tenure, as Saatchi worldwide CEO Kevin Roberts is reportedly holding the creative director to a contractual one-year notice clause. Granger had spearheaded a creative awakening at Saatchi New York, with the agency cutting a wide swath on the awards circuit for its work on brands like Tide and Crest. Graf had no comment on the Granger affair.
As for the possibility of Graf's recruiting TBWA creatives like Ian Reichenthal and Scott Vitrone, authors of much of the lauded Masterfoods work, Graf would only say he'd examine the creative landscape at Saatchi and that that he'd "respect Chiat Day."
The Saatchi job marks Graf's return to the agency—his first job in advertising was at Saatchi New York in 1992. "My first ad was a billboard for Tide," he says. "The line was 'Tap into Tide.'" Graf says he is wrapping up work at TBWA but didn't offer a firm start date.