Draft FCB Group It Is

Howard Draft is stoked.
According to Ad Age, Interpublic has finalized plans to merge two of its largest units, the marketing-services agency Draft and traditional ad agency FCB.
The combined unit will be called the Draft FCB Group, with Howard Draft as the new unit’s chairman-CEO. It marks the end of a 133-year journey for FCB as a stand-alone brand and is another sign of the ascension of a long-marginalized part of the marketing business.
Naturally, Adweek is also running the story. And they feature a Q + A with Draft.

Q. How are the two companies similar?
A. FCB has a Midwest kind of “let’s roll up our sleeves and get it done” mentality and I really want to take advantage of that culture. But we will build a culture of fun, one that rewards people, celebrates success, deals with the issues in an open way.

I wonder how he’ll deal with the ad snobs who simply can’t adjust themselves to the fact they work for a marketing services firm.

About David Burn

Co-founder and editor of AdPulp. I wrote my first ad for a political candidate when I was 17 years old. She won her race and I felt the seductive power of advertising for the first time. I worked for seven agencies in five states before launching my own practice in 2009. Today, I am head of brand strategy and creative at Bonehook in Portland, Oregon.


  1. theo kie says:

    This, also, from the Adweek Interview…
    Q: But FCB is not best in class creatively.
    A: We’ll get there. I’ve told the creative guys go hire me the best ones. It’s a top priority….
    A direct shop with a fair creative reputation (for direct) assumes control of an ad agency with a long-running, mediocre-at-best creative reputation. This marriage is going to attract the best creatives?
    What about this leads one to believe DraftFCB Group can suddenly sell the kind of work the best creatives want to produce? And it’s not like they can throw money at talent. Consider IPG’s hemmoraging, quarterly losses, its abysmal stock price, continuing SEC investigations and the enriching managerial payouts(offs) this merger will consume.
    I’ll admit, there’s some business logic to the alignment. But, please, don’t ask me to believe it’s a new day for the quality of work coming from the shop.

  2. It’s a match made in anti-heaven.
    Not sure who will ultimately benefit from this marriage.
    Also, not sure there are a lot of ad snobs at FCB. If so, it’s truly pathetic. The problem is, there’s bad dedication to the creative process at FCB. But the craziest part is, FCB’s still more dedicated to the creative process than Draft.
    Right now, this merger seems to be about money and egos. You’d be hard-pressed to find a successful agency with those two pillars serving as its foundation.

  3. An expert in accountable advertising has been put in charge of an agency with billions in billings. I don’t expect too many clients to bitch about that.

  4. Robert,
    Anyone who has ever worked at both types of shops will readily admit that these are two distinct practices. With two distinct ways of making work and making profit. Howard Draft may be an expert at “accountable advertising” (although many of his clients probably do not even consider Draft’s offerings to be advertising). But he is not an expert at running an advertising agency. Therein lies another problem. Then again, it’s pretty clear that recent FCB leaders have not shown much expertise at running things either.

  5. theo kie says:

    True, billings are nothing to “bitch” about, Robert. But billings don’t equate to profits. Of all the advertising holding companies, IPG is the premier example of this. The Draft deal signals a turn to quantity over quality. Not that FCB has ever navigated the route toward inspired creativity…unless you consider mashed potatoes, fried chicken bits, cheese shreds and gravy an avatar of good taste.

  6. theo,
    You wrote, “The Draft deal signals a turn to quantity over quality.”
    Given the creative reputations of both shops, it probably should read, “The Draft deal signals a turn to quantity over mediocrity.”

  7. “Anyone who has ever worked at both types of shops will readily admit that these are two distinct practices.” -High Jive
    That’s not my perception and I’ve worked in both.
    Brands want to connect with consumers. They have a multitude of options before them–everything from TV to events. To me that’s one discipline with many specialties. Look at law or medicine or any number of fields for parallels. Whether you’re a print doctor or an internet doctor or a promo doctor, you’re out to keep your patients healthy.

  8. Well, David, your experiences are unique to mine. Although we probably agree on abstract levels, I think we vary on specifics.
    I will say, however, that I have friends who work at Draft and FCB; additionally, I’ve worked indirectly with Draft in the past (i.e., my team served on the GM efforts while Draft handled the direct efforts). Plus, I’ve worked at direct shops on Draft’s level. To contrast, I’ve worked at major GM shops.
    If the two are similar, it’s news to the folks at Draft and FCB. You can start the contrast on something as basic as salaries.
    If they are similar, why does Draft handle direct responsibilities on say, Nokia, while another GM shop handles the branding duties?
    Despite the fact that I’ve dissed direct shops in the past, I do recognize their importance and growing prominence. Additionally, we must recognize that all the marketing practices continue to converge.
    But no way do the practices currently produce work and profit in similar fashion. At least not when you’re playing on the levels of Draft and FCB.
    (To push your doctor analogy, would you expect the same services — and expect to pay the same price — for treatment given by a dentist and an oncologist? And would you go to a clinic that offered both those services rendered by the same people?)

  9. theo kie says:

    You are so right, HighJive. My bad for applying “quality” to the overall output of FCB. I will say, there are some good people there who do their damndest, but leadership isn’t interested in making sea changes to affect creative – just the bottom line.
    Of course, given IPG’s rather dire financial picture, I can’t exactly fault the suits. Having watched their business history closely, they seem to have no workable plan to right the ship (let’s not forget the continuing SEC investigate…is that the sound of the other shoe dropping?).
    If only Gene Hackman was aboard. Perhaps he could show them a way out….

  10. Draft FCB Wins Wal-Mart’s $580 Million Ad Account

  11. Deadpanwalking says:

    So, who’s the front-runner for the new review? I heard Ogilvy was so confident that they would be chosen in the first review that they had champaign on hand for the announcement. Martin and R/GA are getting big time accolades for the Toyland work they’ve done for Wal-Mart and were in the first review, but they have that IPG connection. Anybody got an idea who might be favored?