Seiden partner chooses small shop in Big Apple

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Two years ago, Stephen Feinberg was executive creative director at N.W. Ayer & Partners -- but after 12 years, big agency life had lost its appeal. So the New York native quit his job, sold his house, packed up his family and took a job as chief creative officer at Trone Advertising in Greensboro, N.C.

Now, Mr. Feinberg, 47, is back in New York as partner and chief creative officer at the relatively new Seiden Group. He's brought back with him the value of the small agency experience, and now he's hooked.

Five-year-old Seiden just tops $100 million in billings, but that doesn't bother Mr. Feinberg.

"I'm at a point in my life that I want to make a difference. But I'm not going to walk into an Ogilvy or a McCann and fundamentally change the agency," Mr. Feinberg said. "It's much more satisfying to help build something."

"All things being equal, the opportunity to come back home and come in as a partner -- well, how often does that happen?" he said, explaining why he left Trone after just 16 months.

The Seiden job is also a "full circle" move. Mr. Feinberg's first advertising job in 1978 was at Hicks & Greist (which subsequently was bought by Ketchum Advertising). There, his boss was Hank Seiden, founder of the Seiden Group.

AN EVOLUTION

The agency began as a strategic marketing and brand consulting group and evolved over time into a creative shop, by clients' request. "They came to Seiden first for the thinking and brand positioning and then said, `So can you take all that and make advertising, too?' " Mr. Feinberg said.

One of Seiden's biggest coups was winning the Weight Watchers International weight loss program -- then owned by H.J. Heinz Co. -- in 1997. Other clients include Coty U.S. and Georgette Klinger. The agency also is aggressively pitching new business, both online and off. And it continues to do brand consulting for clients such as Bayer Corp. and Johnson & Johnson.

"We've got people with a lot of experience in financial, pharmaceutical and healthcare -- plus my own background in technology. I definitely want to establish a beachhead in a technology," Mr. Feinberg said.

`TV GUIDE' COPY EDITOR

Mr. Feinberg graduated from Haverford College in 1974, then went to work for TV Guide as a copy editor. After about a year, he moved to New York and switched his career to copywriting ("the same thing, but better pay," he figured). After Hanks & Greist, he went to Grey Advertising as a copywriter where he worked for about four years. In 1981, he moved to senior VP-group creative director at Cunningham & Walsh, which was bought by Ayer in 1986.

At Ayer, Mr. Feinberg began working on Procter & Gamble Co.'s Folgers coffee, and was part of the team that created "The best part of waking up" tagline. In later years as executive creative director, Mr. Feinberg worked on General Motors Corp. and AT&T Corp. However, his last campaign was for Houston-based Continental Airlines, and he oversaw the team that created "Work hard. Fly right."

A fitting tag for an executive who's migrating back home.

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