How Draft/FCB Scored Big In Bentonville

Lewis Lazare has some ideas on how Howard Draft and his team reigned supreme in the Wal-Mart review, bringing the bacon home to Chicago via an estimated $570 million in annual billings.

When the Draft FCB merger was announced, Jonathan Harries, the new global chief creative officer of the merged agencies, even went so far as to say ROI would take precedence over creativity at the new agency. It was a bold statement that rattled the core of many traditionalists who believe creative is the holy grail that makes or breaks any ad agency.
Several other factors also helped Draft FCB, considered the underdog in the account review’s early going.
First, Julie Roehm, Wal-Mart senior vice president of marketing communications and a key player in the review, is said to be a huge fan of Howard Draft and his ROI mantra. Roehm arrived at Wal-Mart only last February from DaimlerChrysler, where she was instrumental in boosting the automotive giant’s presence in online marketing. Online initiatives were among Draft’s strengths before its merger with FCB.
Pricing also cannot be discounted as a factor in Wal-Mart’s decision. When the review commenced, some sources joked that Draft FCB was the low-cost leader among the contenders. And on Wednesday, some sources suspected Draft FCB won its competitive edge with its own low-cost price. At a company famously known for its low prices and a corporate culture that prides itself on pinching pennies to keep its retail prices low, a low-cost contract with Draft FCB would have strong appeal.
Finally, there’s the middle-America image that has served Wal-Mart so well. Both Draft and FCB were founded in the Midwest, and in many ways, they exemplify aspects of the same all-American mindset at the heart of the Wal-Mart corporate culture. Other contenders for the Wal-Mart account, such as the very New Yorky Ogilvy & Mather and the quirkier, Southern-styled Martin Agency in Richmond, Va., might have jarred Wal-Mart’s self-image.

To recap Lazare, Draft/FCB cares more about ROI than creative, is a penny-pinching operation like Wal-Mart and is a Midwestern company with little to no pretense. Sounds like a match made in heaven.



About David Burn

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. Today—after working for seven agencies in five states—I am head of brand strategy and creative at Bonehook in Portland, Oregon.