Interpublic-owned DraftFCB has bought London creative agency Inferno for a reported £11m up front to pep up its flagging UK operation.
Actually DraftFCB has been flagging all over the place, most notably on its home territory of Chicago, where it used to be the biggest ad agency, but new boss Carter Murray (left), who joined from Publicis Worldwide in September, has been shaking things up with a series of appointments including Havas Worldwide CCO Lee Garfinkel as the new CEO of Draft FCB New York. A creative as CEO definitely would not have happened under the old regime.
Inferno is a middleweight on the London agency scene but that still puts it some way ahead of DraftFCB. Inferno’s Frazer Gibney, Tim Doust and CCO Al Young will run the combined agency. Former top managers ECD David Harris and president Kate Howe have resigned.
According to Campaign, DFCB and inferno have been chatting for two years but the arrival of Murray has clearly speeded things up.
The trouble with DraftFCB is that nobody knows what it is (including, it seems, some of the people who have worked there). Howard Draft’s agency (he’s still around as executive chairman) was the biggest independent direct marketing agency around until Interpublic bought it while FCB dates right back to the first agencies setting up on Madison Avenue. On the face of it – and as history has shown – they didn’t have much in common.
Murray obviously hopes Inferno can provide the firepower the agency was lacking. The agency has a good record of picking up local accounts, which always helps. But these deals, involving one-time independents who now have a big cheque in their pocket, don’t always work.
Two that did were Y&R’s purchase of Rainey Kelly Campbell Roalfe a decade or so ago and DDB’s of Adam&Eve more recently (Adam&Eve was a RKCR/Y&R breakaway interestingly). Murray will be hoping for the same sort of result from Inferno.