Interpublic network FCB, previously known as Draftfcb, has been transformed since Carter Murray (below) joined from the top Y&R North America job as global CEO. Here he describes what he did, why he did it, his plans the future and the role of the UK’s FCB Inferno in the mix.
1/Most people would acknowledge that there’s been a significant turnaround at FCB since you joined from Y&R in 2013. What issues did you identify, nationally and globally, at the outset and how did you fix them?
Progress is never as fast as we would want as a team, but we do certainly seem to be experiencing positive momentum.
Over the last two years we have gone back to our original brand name, restructured, promoted from within and brought in some world class talent. Caring about the creative product and each other, wanting to learn something when you go to work in the morning from those around you and being clearly accountable and then recognized for what you do are all important traits of successful people in our business (or at least people that I would like to work with!) and I think that we now have that more consistently around our network. And that is creating a culture that I think is key to the momentum that we are experiencing.
2/What was the reasoning behind the ‘back to the future’ rebrand to FCB?
Applying the same advice to our brand that we would advise to a client in a similar sutiaton : don’t have two brand names stuck together, which is what we had with DraftFCB. The choice was to go with the older one, which by the nature of time and slightly larger scale had more brand equity in it. The Foote Cone & Belding brand is one of the oldest in our industry and many people in our industry have been linked to it in some way in the past. To make sure it felt fresh and modern and not looking just to our past, we also refreshed the branding (left), a job done by one of our creative leaders Luis Diaz which we are all proud of.
3/There’s a feeling in some quarters that Chicago has lost ground as an advertising centre to, first, New York and then the west coast. Do you agree? Is there a need to rebalance your resources in the US?
I think individual agencies who are ‘leading the pack’ help define at any time where the advertising centre is. Right now there are one or two agencies on the west coast that stand out for their recent creative and/or new business runs, and New York too.
In Chicago it has indeed been quieter of late although we are seeing some significant progress and some new business wins that we have not announced yet in our Chicago agency, where we hope our agency can help become a lighthouse for putting the spotlight back on Chicago.
4/Losing Kmart and Sears was a blow after a good run of new business. Is this just agency life or something you need to remedy?
One of our goals early on was to find like-minded clients and clients where we felt the right chemistry and partnership. That sometimes means a voluntary (and involuntary) change up in an agency’s client roster.
Sometimes client/agency partnerships run their course. Most common in our business is a new client with a prior agency relationship who then moves the business to that prior agency: it’s frustrating but it does run both ways.
In terms of Kmart and Sears, it was one of those relationships where things had run their course and we wish the clients well. Fortunately Chicago has won ten pitches in the last twelve months and has built new relationships with companies like AB Inbev and one or two others we will be announcing soon, so the momentum there is very much forward.
5/ When FCB bought Inferno in the UK was the attraction that it was a similar agency in outlook or did you think it would bring something new to the party? Will FCB Inferno have more of a regional and global role?
Inferno was a hungry, up and coming, focussed London agency with a very driven and talented management team. Combining this with some of the talent and resource of the old DraftFCB London, and having a clear and accountable management team and a strong CEO (which involved some tough decisions), was I believe a formula for success.
Winning BMW last year and getting a Grand Prix at Cannes last summer are proof points of an agency that is hitting at all cylinders.
I am not a fan of regional roles on the agency leadership side. It creates bureaucracy, annoys local management teams that they don’t have direct access to global management, and it’s outdated as each client has different regional models today so you have to custom build for them by account in any case. Frazer (Gibney, CEO) sits on our global executive team and Al (Young, CCO) and Owen (Lee CCO) on our global creative council. As the agency continues to build on its success I hope that it becomes ever more a global destination creative agency.