Draft Focuses on Results

NAPLES, FLA. By any account, Howard Draft had a lot to contend with as he took the stage at the American Association of Advertising Agencies’ Management Conference here this afternoon.

The crowd, 400 strong just a few hours earlier, had noticeably dwindled as the sun hits its peak and the temperature reached a breezy 80 degrees. And those who were in attendance no doubt awaited Draft’s presentation at least in part to see if he would address the Wal-Mart imbroglio that has ensnared his newly forged agency for the past several months.

On that last point Draft didn’t disappoint, making several self-deprecating remarks within the first minutes of the speech that referenced the scandal in all but name.

“We’ve had our moments. I’ve had my moments. Some were good, some were not so good,” he said, referring to the first months of DraftFCB’s existence.

The presentation itself, “Creating the Accountable Agency,” focused on what the IPG shop is doing to fuse the measurability of direct marketing with the creativity of a traditional ad firm. In Draft’s view, the former will only enhance the latter.

“We believe the way to great creative and great results is not to run away from accountability, but to embrace it,” he said. “Our objective is reduce uncertainty so we can take more creative risks.”

In his 30-minute presentation, Draft explained the techniques now being adopted at his agency that, in his view, foster creative, media-neutral solutions backed by the kind of data that help CMOs prove the worth of their investments.

The centerpiece of the presentation—and the agency, it seems—is what Draft called “The Smart Wall,” a series of screens that constantly flash a client’s up-to-the-minute sales data alongside brand awareness numbers and various other marketing measurements. In the Draft model, the account team sits at a circular table (called “The Wheel”) in front of the Smart Wall when devising strategy.

“We’re having our offices rebuilt with these walls and these rooms all over the world, with teams working in a circle around a table with real-time information flowing in from the night before,” said Draft.

When introducing the video that explained the Smart Wall, Draft quickly muttered that the audience would now see “what we’ve been doing in new business.” He also noted that in order for the model to work, clients must be willing to provide sensitive data in real time.

Draft added that the industry needed to get over the misconception that data would inhibit creativity.

“We think the wall liberates [CMOs] and us,” he said. “We believe that creativity is enhanced by the behavioral intelligence we derive from the wall.”

Other initiatives under way at DraftFCB include improving diversity so the agency could have “one worldview,” and developing a compensation model that tied payment to the brand performance, he said, without going into detail.

Draft closed by asking the audience to judge his agency on its work in the coming months: “I’m only asking you to watch, see if our creative product improves, and more important, if our clients’ businesses grow.”

DraftFCB has been on the upswing this week, adding the $200 million Kmart business and the $40 million Kraft Lunchables account.