The Incredible Rise Of Marketing Services

Once upon a time in Adlandia, a marquis player like FCB would have swallowed up a direct marketing shop like a whale dining on plankton. Today’s New York Times tells a different tale. One where agency holding giant, Interpublic, seeks a union of equals between FCB and Draft.
Yet, when you look at what Howard Draft, the shop’s founder, said in a memo to his staff he clearly hints that Draft is the hotter property.

“I’m not surprised by the number of general agencies who would reportedly like to merge with us, especially when you consider our track record.”

And the funny thing is, he may be right. The Times story indicates some of the possibilities for this merger, including an agency named Draft FCB.

A third option would be for Draft to absorb Foote Cone and continue operating as Draft.

That marketing services has come this long way must shock old school ad men and women. For what creativity is there in a point-of-sale poster or a mailer? What glory in a sampling event?
I think the best below-the-line shops have gotten much closer to the customer than Madison Avenue ever has, and I believe the secret to their growing success is contained somewhere therein.

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. What makes this story interesting is the possibility that Draft may take the lead in a merger with FCB. Such a scenario would be appropriate; Draft is, after all, the better creative shop. But that’s more condemnation for FCB versus praise for Draft.
    Let’s not be too quick to hand the keys to Madison Avenue to below-the-line enterprises. Draft has found success in the new marketing arena where brand managers seek immediate, measurable results. Yet direct marketers like Draft still break out the bubbly when 1 percent of message recipients respond. Sorry, but that’s nothing to brag about.
    Anyone who has spent time in general advertising agencies and direct response agencies will admit the two practices have key differences. They have unique business models, objectives and tactics. And, most importantly, they generate profit differently. If Draft sought to be compensated like FCB, the organization would quickly go out of business — and vice versa.
    Howard Draft may boast a great track record. But he’s running a different race in a completely different arena.

  2. I don’t think it is a different race. Building brands and growing sales go hand-in-hand. One is the engine, the other, tires.

  3. The practices can and must integrate. But they are separate practices.
    There should not be judgment values, prioritizing one over the other. But in many instances, the two practices are overseen by separate brand managers with separate budgets.
    How many brand advertising assignments does Draft get? Probably as many direct response assignments as FCB gets.
    When does Draft pitch directly against general advertising agencies? Or vice versa? Like it or not, Draft is in a different race. Even your car analogy recognizes Draft and FCB are separate parts.

  4. It’s the same race. Each brand runs a car in the race. The car is made of several different but equal parts.

  5. You say tomato, I say tomato. Actually, that phrase doesn’t work well in written form.
    They may be running the same race, but the client is usually in the driver’s seat. The car is made up of several different parts, but it’s unlikely the parts are equal. And the car is often pieced together from separate agencies. Does Draft handle the brand advertising portions of any account in the shop? Doubt it. In most cases, the brand advertising agency “partner” is not even in the Draft/IPG network.
    Try to name successful, integrated mergers starring brand advertising agencies and below-the-line enterprises. The few successful ones usually involve a strong brand advertising agency acquiring a below-the-line boutique.
    Besides, if they’re in the same race, why merge?

  6. Merge to make the tires and the engine work more fluidly together, so the car wins the race.
    This is not about what has ever happened before, but what’s about to happen.
    As the media pyramid turns, dropping TV from the throne it’s held for 55 years, a reshuffling of the deck is at hand.
    Nothing lasts forever. Nothing’s meant to.

  7. Did the car run faster when Wunderman merged with Y&R? Wunderman handles a lot of direct response work for Citi. Who handles Citi’s brand advertising? Not Y&R — it’s handled by Fallon.
    It would be nice if the Draft/FCB merger were some paradigm shift. But it’s unlikely. Our business (and maybe even society) continues to be run by perceptions and positioning. Draft is firmly positioned in everyone’s mind as a premier direct response shop. FCB is known as a mediocre, account-driven ad agency. Combining the two will not have other ad agencies or direct agencies in shock and awe.
    This merger is probably about money. Let a cash cow like Draft subsidize the stagnant ad shop.
    And by the way, Draft would eat his own right arm for the chance to produce more TV.