Sign of the Times for Howard Draft

Chicago honors direct mail specialist’s 25 years in business

A block of St. Clair Street in Chicago’s Streeterville neighborhood is known as Daniel Edelman Way, named for the legendary PR man. Now Edelman has a new neighbor in direct mail king Howard Draft, whom the city has honorarily given the next block up, between Erie and Ontario, on the occasion of his agency’s 25th year in business.

The ceremony for the street-naming was held on a sunny morning last month in front of the Capital Grille, which occupies a corner of the agency’s office building. Alderman Burton Natarus, who has liberally sprinkled his downtown and near North Side ward with various honorary street names, was on hand to read from the city proclamation approving the name. The alderman lingered only a few moments after leaving the podium and was whisked away in a cab as Draft (helped by two tots from the Off the Street Club, the official charity of the city’s advertising community) tugged on a stocking to unveil the brown street sign. About 50 staff members from DraftWorldwide attended, a number held down because, agency reps said, city code prohibits large gatherings in close proximity to Northwestern Memorial Hospital.

“Who’s Howard Draft?” bellowed an unshaven man standing slightly apart from the crowd. No one seemed to hear (or chose not to). He probably won’t be the last person in the heavily trafficked area to ask. But if the brief interruption made the choice to honor Draft with his own sign seem like a stretch, it should be noted that the heckler had just arrived in the city from New Mexico.

Draft, 49, joined what was then Kobs & Brady in 1978 and is one of only two employees left at the shop from that time. Like Edelman, Draft can be grateful that he was able to see his honorary street sign go up. The city’s leading marketing icon, Leo Burnett, died some 30 years before his name was hoisted above a section of Dearborn Street near the agency’s world headquarters two years ago.