Draftfcb’s New CEO Carter Murray Discusses Upcoming Challenges

Finally beginning after the six-month wait

Carter Murray begins his new role as Draftfcb’s global CEO today after a six-month wait while still under contract at Young & Rubicam, where he was North American president, CEO and chief of its Manhattan headquarters. That required him to stay close to Y&R and avoid contact with Draftfcb people and clients. Still, he’s kept busy planning the first steps in turning around Draftfcb, hit by high-profile client defections such as MillerCoors and SC Johnson, and a dearth of new-business wins. The break also gave him time to spend with family and turn an abandoned inn built in 1780 into a second home. Clearly Murray doesn’t shy from a challenge.

How frustrating was it to have to wait six months to start this job?

I haven’t hit the pause button in a long time, so spending time with my family was important. While the frustration about not getting started was definitely there, it also allowed me to think and read more about what I’m taking over and reconnect with old friends and get perspective about what I can do.

On paper, the Draft-FCB merger made so much sense, marrying direct accountability with creativity. Why has it struggled to live up to that vision?

North America has gone through challenges, but this is a company with offices around the world. If you look at the case studies that win at Cannes and what clients say they like about us, you see examples where we deliver on the promise. The challenge is, we haven’t done it as consistently as one would have hoped, and it hasn’t been done in a way to attract big, new clients.

How quickly will we see changes?

You don’t want to change everything immediately. Once I’ve met people and evaluated the situation, I’ll make decisions. One of my agendas is to create a much stronger new-business culture. Clients always come first, but I will definitely look at the new-business team, the new-business organization. I wouldn’t be surprised if that’s one of the first places you see changes.

How relieved were you when Draftfcb kept Kmart’s creative business?

When you have a company of 8,000 people, it’s very easy in social media or among people who are not in the trenches to single out a few people at Draftfcb who are not doing a good job, rightly or wrongly. But there are a lot of people who work incredibly hard for this agency. Retaining Kmart is an example of people like that who are rewarded with success.

Draftfcb executive chairman Howard Draft now reports to you. What will his role be?

I want Howard to help me drive some new-business contacts and discussions at a senior level. I want him to tell me how he sees Draftfcb, where he thinks it should go, and I will meet with the team and use Howard as a sounding board. I will try to persuade him to stay because I like Howard, and he can be a great advisor, which I think is a chairman’s role.

Draftfcb is a global network with a shortage of global clients. What marketer categories will you target?

That will be a focus with the new-business team. With the loss of clients like SC Johnson, we’ll obviously look at that category. There are others where we are open, and that’s exciting. People are surprised to hear Draftfcb is approximately the same size as Y&R advertising, but we have substantially fewer global clients. The bulk of our clients is intrinsically local. That’s appealing to global clients because we can provide local creativity, local insights, the right scale and opportunity in certain key markets for them.