CEO-and cheerleader-sets sights on deepening new-business well

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Brand Buzz has come a long way from its early days in late 1999 when it first emerged from within Y&R Advertising's New York flagship office. Then, Brand Buzz staffers pushed to get attention from employees at their older sibling: One ploy involved placing hang-tags from office door knobs around Y&R encouraging staff to "Get on the Buzz Bus. Leave work early with no guilt."

Today Y&R employees need no introduction to Brand Buzz; the agency rivals Y&R, San Francisco, in size with an estimated $150 million in billings and has over the years maintained an at times uneasy competitor-partner relationship with Y&R until the two split formally in early 2004.

Through BrandBuzz's evolution-which has included seven separate office moves within one building, 285 Madison Ave., as well as the May 2004 departure of its founder John Partilla-one constant has been Rick Eiserman, named CEO in April 2004.

"He has a passion and a heart for the place," said Carl Hartman, former Y&R chief of staff, who has known Mr. Eiserman for years.

After graduating from Y&R's account-management training program in 1996, Mr. Eiserman worked for several years in new business before moving into account management. In 1999, he'd taken a new role on Campbell's beverages when Mr. Partilla, his boss when both were in new business, contacted him about starting a new agency. Interested in "something to keep him up at night," he jumped at the chance, and for the next six months met Mr. Partilla and others for 7 a.m. strategy meetings at a nearby Burger Heaven, where they hashed out a business plan. Dubbed "nontraditional" at the time, the concept was a media-neutral offering, staffed with employees from disciplines ranging from event planning, direct marketing and database consulting operating under one roof. Y&R's top management, including former CEO Peter Georgescu, gave it the green light and Brand Buzz launched in January 2000.


"Brand Buzz started as a complement to Y&R," said Gord McLean, North American CEO, Y&R. "It has grown up and does in many ways what we do, and we've built up our offering, too. Brand Buzz stands alone now, like other Young & Rubicam Brands."

From his start as director of business development, Mr. Eiserman progressed to general manager and chief operating officer before being named to the top post at the ripe age of 31. "For a long time, I played the role of cheerleader," he says, reflecting on his many different roles. He's still that, to a degree. Early in his tenure, Brand Buzz split with a major client, Sony, which moved to Y&R in Irvine, and others, such as Cadbury Schweppes, shifted business to other Y&R offices.

As CEO, he's focused on hiring new talent and shifting the agency's account mix from being heavily weighted in projects to having more retainer-based clients. Graham Turner, a former head creative at Margeotes Fertitta & Partners, joined in late 2004; Christian Barnett, a former Y&R strategic planner, came onboard as head of strategic planning shortly afterward. "Rick's taking a page from [Brand Buzz founder Partilla], who wasn't afraid to hire people he thought were smarter than he was to build the place," Mr. Hartman said. Seeking to replicate the new-business success he tasted while at Y&R in 1997-98, Mr. Eiserman is also trying to build Brand Buzz's depth in that arena. So far, the agency's replaced Sony with LG Electronics USA, which consolidated its North American business at Brand Buzz in March, and won new accounts from the New Jersey Nets, Circulon, Twinings Tea and Burt's Bees.

The agency's tagline has broadened over the years from "People will talk," to include "By any means necessary." Brand Buzz 65-employee staff in the past year has gotten Pella windows on "The Oprah Winfrey Show," created recruitment collateral for New Jersey Nets coaches to run a concierge program placing LG cellphones with celebrities monthly, made TV and print ads for LG and revamped Burt's Bee's Web site and packaging. "We never even saw a TV commercial in the pitch," notes Doug Meyer, CEO of Burt's Bees, who describes Mr. Eiserman as "one of the team. There's no unnecessary formality to Rick. He comes in and rolls up his sleeves."

Mr. Partilla, now president, Time Warner Global Marketing, speaks like a father realizing his son is all grown up. "Rick is a terrific talent. There's a quiet determination to him that's very productive. I'm proud of how he and the team have taken Brand Buzz to new heights."

Just Asking

If I wasn't in advertising, I'd be...A starving artist, painting with oils (Mr. Eiserman has a B.A. from The Art Institute of California)

What do you read every day? I'm an information junkie. I read two or three newspapers, a daily industry news summary and a chapter or two of the latest business-related book

What campaign do you wish Brand Buzz had done? Crispin Porter & Bogusky's Subservient Chicken

What campaign are you glad Brand Buzz didn't do? With all due respect, the rest of Crispin's work on Burger King.

Any tips for someone who wants to get a job in advertising? Listen more than you talk. That's true in life, but especially in advertising.

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