Draftfcb’s Chief Media Officer on the Benefits of Real-Time Marketing

Draftfcb last week merged its media, digital and CRM practices into a single unit called the Real-Time Marketing division. The move was designed to, among other things, make brands more responsive to happenings on the Web, good or bad, which can drastically affect the way consumers perceive the brands. Brandweek editor Todd Wasserman spoke with Draftfcb chief media officer Richard Gagnon this week to see where direct fits in with all this and how the unit will work in practice. Some excerpts are below:

Brandweek: What was the thinking behind this?
Richard Gagnon: The Real-Time Marketing Group combines our digital and CRM abilities and let me give you a little background: In digital, we have digital strategy, which helps create the content and creative expression. We have a technology team to make sure we’re staying on top of all the innovative technologies. We’ve got a media group with search capability-which is digital, but had resided with our media group. Plus a CRM capability. We took all of those disciplines, which had emerged since we created Draftfcb, to really formalize a way that we have evolved a way to be working as Draftfcb.

BW: As an outsider, it seems like it’s a no-brainer to put all these things together. Why were they silo-ed before?
RG: I wouldn’t call them ‘silo-ed.’ Within an integrated agency-Draftfcb is a little different because we’ve never unbundled media, most traditional agencies don’t have search capability, it resides within maybe an expert group within a holding company’s structure. So we’ve had these capabilities under one roof, but even though there are departments or areas of expertise within Draftfcb, we felt by putting them together in a more unified way was the next evolution of where we could go. It grew out of the best practices of how we were already working together, so formalizing that just made a lot of sense.

BW: With the emphasis on real-time marketing is there a danger that it could turn brands into followers rather than leaders—make them more reactive instead of setting the agenda?

RG: We think just the opposite: When we think of real-time, we think of the industry had to evolve from ad time to real time. We’re all familiar with all the different advertising units that we create-a 30-second spot, a print ad or even a banner-the world that we created is really important and it’s not going to go away. What Real Time does is add because of digital greater interactivity across every media form. A newspaper ad can be a call to action to drive to a Web site. It’s all about new ways to create participation across all channels, which can be connected to cultural events, which could affect content. We think of it as sure you might have an annual marketing plan, but that only takes you so far. It constantly has to be proactively managed and you have to think of the ways all of the different media and general experiences can adapt over time, but you have to think proactively about it, not necessarily just react to it, but quite honestly you’re going to have to react to things you didn’t plan for.

BW: How is the direct business doing right now?
RG: It depends on how you define direct. Because we think direct the traditional way of direct marketing where you might only sell a certain product or good through a marketing channel. We look at every category we operate in. Digital is enabling more one-to-one communication. So we look at all the capabilities of what Draft had brought to the table the infusion of CRM. We think there’s a opportunity to take that CRM mentality to any relationship.