DraftFCB CEO Laurence Boschetto can’t say anything publicly about MillerCoors and S.C. Johnson—both of which left the agency recently after long relationships—but judging by the steam coming out of his ears when we raised the topic over coffee in his office this week, he’s sick of hearing about it.The agency is tied up in non-disclosure agreements with both clients, and can’t give its side of the story. You can see why Boschetto finds this frustrating: The agency network—which includes R/GA and DraftFCB Healthcare under the Interpublic Group umbrella—is doing well as a whole. Revenue grew 5.6 per cent to $1.4 billion in 2011, according to Ad Age. He’s got 9,000 employees in 90 offices internationally—800 in Chicago and 950 in New York.
And yet the headlines concentrate more on DraftFCB’s account losses than its wins.
The storyline will likely get rehashed again in the next few days as MillerCoors chief marketing officer Andy England announces what his new WPP agency lineup will look like on Miller Lite and Coors Light. That lineup will involve an attempt by England to poach key DraftFCB staff for the account, a source (not Boschetto) tells Business Insider. Boschetto declines to say anything about it, citing confidentiality requirements in his contracts.
Boschetto’s big problem
Boschetto’s problem is that he and his agency are being punished for doing nothing wrong. MillerCoors left after DraftFCB took Coors Light to the position of second-most popular beer in the U.S., beating Budweiser. S.C. Johnson never took much advantage of DraftFCB’s below-the-line capabilities, even though they were on offer.
He’s also got to deal with chatter about the legacy of Foote, Cone & Belding inside DraftFCB, even though the merger of those two agencies took place six years ago. There’s a whole generation of 20-something ad execs who don’t even know what the letters “FCB” stand for, and yet some still mourn the old FCB and its prowess in creating big, glamorous TV campaigns.
People forget that the consolidation of the two was not a merger of equals. FCB was best-known at the time for its own spectacular account losses—Levi’s and AT&T Wireless being two of the most high-profile. Draft Direct, meanwhile, was in rude health.
Boschetto and chairman Howard Draft promised that the new agency would offer clients a full buffet of truly integrated services in a one-stop shop: Whether it was TV advertising, analytics, digital or direct mail, DraftFCB could do it all. At most other large agencies, those duties are farmed out to separate agency brands, all with their own CEOs, who then engage in turf wars over who gets the largest slices of the client’s budget.
With the Draft management in charge of the newly merged agency, most people expected Boschetto and Draft to pay lip service to the FCB side of the equation before, perhaps, retiring the FCB name after a brief grace period.
Sticking to the vision
Instead, Boschetto is, idealistically, sticking to the original vision. The two agencies are “stronger and more powerful together as one entity,” he says. “What’s sacred is the idea, and how does an idea live in a channel and an agnostic neutral environment [with] an ability to ignite through every single one of them.”
DraftFCB’s highlight reel includes its charming “Quiet Train” spot for Dow and its launch campaign for EA’s Mass Effect 3, which was as good as anything that came out the former FCB (with the exception, perhaps of its “Doctors” spot for Levi’s, which is my personal favourite ad of all time).
DraftFCB’s gains have come internationally and from smaller, less defining clients, like Sea World. Sea World is a $50 million account. Not to be sneezed at, but in the ad business large agencies tend to be defined by their beer, auto, fast-food and packaged goods clients. Boschetto is adding business, just not the kind of business that turns the media’s head.
Nothing silences your critics like success: So what Boschetto most needs is a big win in a sexy category, or a massively viral campaign idea for one client (akin to Deutsch’s little Darth Vader for Volkswagen or Duval Guillaume Modem’s “A dramatic surprise on a quiet square” for TNT.)
In the meantime, it’s time to get over the merger, folks. No one cares anymore.
DraftFCB’s “Quiet Train” for Dow:
DraftFCB’s “Fight” for EA’s Mass Effect 3:
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