Sun Times Ad Snob Weighs In On Draft FCB Story

I don’t believe I’ve ever read a more revealing piece from Lewis Lazare. The man is an ad snob through and through.
The evidence:

We hope your black armbands are securely attached by now.
Without question June 1, 2006 will go down as one of the darkest moments in the history of an increasingly troubled ad industry, which, with each passing day, shows new and disturbing signs it has lost its way.
The Draft FCB Group will in fact be is depressingly real proof the American ad industry has been totally and tragically upended.
It’s a shame to think that an agency like Draft that was once the lowly tail on a big, healthy, creatively inspired canine has finally emerged as the powerhouse wagging the mangy mutt that is now the general consumer ad business.
Like it or not, advertising is now almost always only about return on investment, something the Draft end of the industry has proved good at tracking and delivering. The big idea that used to manifest itself in unforgettable advertising — something traditional agencies such as FCB were in business to deliver — seems all but a dinosaur now.
For better or for worse, that’s a reality we’re all going to have to learn to live with. In the meantime, we’re keeping our black armband firmly in place.

Lazare’s “tragic upending” sounds like the end of a war with marketing services the clear victor. But it’s not about that. It’s about chasing the ever-elusive consumer. Traditional shops are in a bad spot today because the consumer is not watching TV or reading print media like she once did. What’s sad is how narrow the view of creativity can be inside traditional shops. Too many traditional creatives are still hung up on a winning Lions when they might be reinventing their business.
Big picture, what we’re looking at is a healthy system at work. While “Rome burns” entrepreneurs like Howard Draft (and many others) continue to step up with alternate solutions. In the 1990s, interactive was born overnight. Now word-of-mouth and viral practices are springing up. There are many bright, creative people engaging consumers on their turf, be that a bar where one-on-one engagement is the answer or on a website where consumers are asked to participate. Clearly, much of this activity eludes the old guard, be they ad columnists or ad makers.

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. prety cool blog,
    check mine:

  2. lewis lazare is a dinosaur. and so is anyone else who thinks that general advertising is somehow deserving of a loftier perch on the marketing services ladder. fact is, most of today’s big ideas are coming from outside the general circle (with a few exceptions). i say the draft/fcb merger is a sign the industry is finally waking up to reality, and that is certainly a good thing.

  3. Margarita says:

    Good grief. Good advertising has ALWAYS been about marrying great ideas and ROI. The problem was measuring ROI with any accuracy. So too many people got away with putting out a lot of bullshit that was driven more by their egos than anything recognizable as sound marketing communications strategy.
    ROI can still be a crapshoot, mostly because we have so much data and too many ways to measure it now.
    But at least we’re not stuck with the “Oracle at Delphi” model of advertising, wherein creativity springs from the depths, mysterious and somewhat inscrutable, to be interpreted by adepts and never questioned by grimy-fingered people who think it should actually sell something.
    Pffft, Mr. Lazare. You’re not just a snob. You’re a clueless snob.

  4. Unless they change, the old school will still be doing marker layouts below deck as the Titanic slips quietly beneath the surface.

  5. theo kie says:

    If someone can direct me to all of the “big ideas” coming out of direct marketing firms, please do. I believe most of the “non-traditional media” ballyhoo is connected to places like CPB, Anomaly and others – all places whose genetics come from the traditional, general agency family.
    I’m not one to say good creative can’t come from anywhere. And creativity that doesn’t sell is wasted effort. I simply haven’t seen evidence of big ideas coming from places like Draft.

  6. Here’s a start:
    But you’re not going to see much “ballyhoo” from marketing services firms, or their champions. As Lazare has proven, such shops (that do a whole lot more than direct) are still flying under the mainstream press radar.

  7. Promo Magazine’s “Promo 100” was also just made available. If you download the PDF, you’ll see a section that ranks shops by creative output. Arnold Brand Promotions ranks first for their VW work. Arc Worldwide ranks second for their Cadillac work. Draft comes in at number 10 for their M&Ms work.

  8. theo kie says:

    Thanks for the link, David. I only looked at the case studies for the Chicago office (their US presence), so there might be huge ideas on the international front. Still, the three case studies Draft chooses to highlight are:
    • A movie tie-in for Kellogg’s that involves POS and packaging that features movie characters.
    • New milk carton packaging to make flavored milk seem “cooler”.
    • Some average, “techie” packaging/POS print work for Nokia.
    I’m not trying to be mean-spirited, or proposing only ad agencies can be creative. But none of these are breakthrough, new thinking. Which of the three would inspire you post a piece, David? Perhaps this is why such shops fly under the mainstraim press radar – because the creativity of the ideas doesn’t merit mainstream attention.
    My point being…I still don’t see the “big ideas” t says are mostly coming from outside the agency world.
    The reality ad agencies are waking up to is one of a splintering media landscape and shifting client spending. It has little to do with the emergence of brilliant thinking in non-traditional shops.

  9. Carl LaFong says:

    I can’t help but wonder. . . what would Vinnie think?

  10. David,
    I love you, dude — but I’m not buying your positions on this scenario.
    Yes, Lewis Lazare is a pompous jackass. Yes, traditional advertising is becoming less dominant. Yes, this is probably a good thing overall (the lessening dominance of traditional advertising, not Lazare being a jackass).
    But how is Draft offering alternative solutions? With new twists on number 10 envelopes and business reply cards?
    Here’s a quote from a newspaper story:
    “I don’t think the 30-second commercial will ever go away, but its value in the marketing mix has been diminishing,” Draft said in an interview. “The consumer controls the experience now.”
    That’s right, Mr. Draft. And let’s remember that the consumer is currently tossing over 98 percent of your work directly into the trash.

  11. I’m glad there’s so much love in the room. Thanks man.
    Let me state that I’m no great fan of direct mail, even though it can be done well. So I will not defend the medium here. But I will say IT ALL SUCKS. Consumers are also “throwing away” 98% of the print ads they see and 98% the TV spots they see.
    Back to Draft for the moment, I know they do a ton of DM, but they also make TV spots, websites, print ads, etc. Almost all marketing services firms do. At Integer, I went head-to-head a number of times with FCB and Deutsch on the Coors business. I won some and I lost some.
    To me this whole argument is about the approach to solving clients problems. One camp is media specific in their thinking. The other is free from that box. For sure, an agency on either side of the line can get trapped in their own little boxes. Lots of promotions I’ve been involved with did not make me proud, I’m sad to say. But here’s the thing, there’s no rule against promtions being great. Likewise for TV and print and every other discipline. It’s either bullshit or it connects.
    I believe the best marketing services shops know their client’s customers really well. Better than many ad shops do. Hence, they often make better connections with the customer. Ads, by their very nature, talk at the customer. But that’s not true at a brand-sponsored event, for instance. There the connection is real, for better or worse.

  12. Gotta respond to a few comments:
    “Consumers are also ‘throwing away’ 98% of the print ads they see and 98% the TV spots they see.” Not in the same way. If 98 percent of the targeted audience rejected your TV spot, it would be deemed a failure. In direct response, those results will get you into the Hall of Fame.
    “Back to Draft for the moment, I know they do a ton of DM, but they also make TV spots, websites, print ads, etc.” Maybe, but they make a lot fewer TV spots, websites, print ads, etc. than FCB. What’s more, FCB’s TV spots, websites, print ads, etc. are probably a lot better than Draft’s. And we’ve already remarked that most of FCB’s work sucks.
    “To me this whole argument is about the approach to solving clients problems. One camp is media specific in their thinking. The other is free from that box.” Draft is hardly free of its own (mail)box. I agree that we all must strive to create new ways to connect with consumers. But Draft is not exactly doing that, despite the fact that they’re successful with their direct response work — much of which is totally traditional in the direct response arena.
    “I believe the best marketing services shops know their client’s customers really well. Better than many ad shops do. Hence, they often make better connections with the customer.” Agreed, but does Draft really fall into this category of visionary shops? Draft is a typical (albeit gigantic) below-the-line shop. They usually play off the campaign concepts created by ad shops. Not making a judgment here, but you’d be hard-pressed to find truly breakthrough work from Draft. Draft supports the overall brand relationship. I’m not convinced they build the relationships.
    That said, Draft will have the bigger challenge in the coming months to rebuild FCB into something respectable.
    But as always, it’s just my opinion.

  13. I hear you. Thanks for the thoughts.
    Defending Draft is not my intention here. I just want to send out some props to all the unrecognized people doing good work in relatively unknown shops from coast-to-coast. And I want to deconstruct the idea that TV advertising belongs atop the media pyramid.

  14. A couple of points worth mentioning:
    * A good chunk of the coolest stuff happening in the advertising world right now fits the definition of direct marketing.
    * General advertising people who still believe that creative direct marketing is an oxymoron simply don’t know what they don’t know. They may want to start checking out the Caples Awards.

  15. Robert,
    A couple of points worth mentioning:
    * Yes, a good chunk of the coolest stuff fits the definition of direct marketing — but almost all of it is not being produced by direct response shops like Draft.
    * By all means, start checking out the Caples Awards — and see that most of the award-winning work is not produced by U.S. direct response shops. Additionally, the next cool stuff produced to promote the Caples Awards will be the first. The entry campaign is routinely clichéd, hackneyed and downright embarrassing.

  16. Lazaras at Large may be a pompous ass. Then again, it’s got to be a pre-req for that job.
    Agree with his point that ROI is sucking the personality out of brands. A good creative can keep that from happening. But so few in the biz these days appreciate that. Caples notwithstanding.

  17. I smell IPG synergy!!! Well I smell something, that is for sure.

  18. Hmm. Wanna revisit this post?