How do you get from fledgling ad shop to major agency in three years? Gerry Graf, CEO of three-year-old New York agency Barton F. Graf 9000, is probably the man who can give the definitive answer.
The art of the cleverly absurd
Graf resigned as CCO at Saatchi and Saatchi New York in 2010 to set up Barton F. Graf 9000 (or BFG 9000 as it’s affectionately called). Before that, he’d chalked up an impressive CV, having worked for years at another prestigious New York agency, TBWA\Chiat\Day. You don’t need to be a veteran account manager to figure out that this guy knows more than a thing or two about Adland.
In its first three years of existence, BFG 9000 has established a well-deserved reputation for its character-driven, often bizarrely hilarious ads, a notable example of which is its recent offering for Little Caesar’s pizza (one ad features a couple ordering a pizza in a Little Caesar’s restaurant – so delighted are they at not having to wait for their food that they exuberantly leap up and down four times to give each other double high-fives, then once for a single high five).
Art directors with attitude?
Earlier this month, Graf hired erstwhile TBWA\Chiat\Day colleagues Scott Vitrone and Ian Reichenthal. The two have since been running Wieden+Kennedy’s New York creative department as co-executive creative directors, the role they’ll now be adopting at Graf’s agency, along with another former W+K creative, Brandon Lugar.
“Scott and Ian”, as the duo have become known, won a coveted Cannes Lion award for their work on the “Sheep Boys” ads for Skittles and on the “Man Mom” campaign for Combos. They also helped reposition Southern Comfort during their time at W+K with their striking “Whatever’s Comfortable” campaign.
Speaking to AdAge, Graf said:
“We’re not a startup anymore. We’re a major agency. We have national clients, global clients. It was really this year when we moved into phase two that I started thinking I needed heavy hitters. Scott and Ian are the world’s best creative directors. Scott’s sense of design is fantastic and Ian’s one of the best pure writers around. They’re really going to give us a lot more creative handles.”
Art directors and account managers will probably agree: get the creatives right and much else falls into place.