Draftfcb: Creative rumbles

Draftfcb's worldwide chief creative officer, Jonathan Harries, explains what the company's multinational, multilingual venture is all about, while four creatives share their experiences.

The Creative Rumble started as an antidote for the "not invented here" syndrome. Six creative teams from at least four countries shared a room for one week to come up with a campaign that was truly global. It was extremely intense, unbelievably exhausting for everyone and certainly when we first started to do them, awkwardly hit and miss.

It has evolved radically since then. Today we focus on individuals rather than teams. People who can work together on how to take a global idea across all lines and express it in different channels.

It's still a pressure-cooker exercise - we get briefed on Monday morning and present to the client on Friday afternoon. It's still multicultural - we don't make it language-specific.

But it's not about TV, or print, or radio, or even digital. It's about ideas that drive business and insights that allow the most creative expressions. We even bring in various experts at different points to help us see things from a non-advertising perspective and bring the ideas to life in unexpected ways.

In Chicago, you may find actors from Second City, an improvisational theatre troupe that launched the careers of John Belushi, Mike Myers and Bill Murray, performing radio spots. In Paris, we asked two cultural anthropologists to talk about communities.

We had a Rumble a few weeks ago, during which the client stood up at the end and said she had four years' worth of work. That's probably an exaggeration, but she certainly had enough stimuli to see how different minds from different cultures can come up with ways to transcend borders with the right communication.

The Creative Rumble isn't a gang-bang. People don't compete with each other to see whose idea is best. Its soul is taking a well-thought-out strategy and showing how far it can reach. It is coupling the eye of a digital artist from Chile with the words of a copywriter from China. And the one thing that amazes everyone who takes part is how similar we see the big picture.

Planning is critical to a good Rumble, and no Rumble starts without it. It has brought together our network and it makes people feel involved in things that they normally wouldn't get to work on.

Obviously, clients get more than a single agency. They get the best brains in the network focused on their business. It is gruelling, but more stimulating than anything anyone can imagine.


I heard the word "Rumble" when I first started at Draftfcb, but I was sure that I'd heard it somewhere before - and that it involved fists and weapons. Surely I must have been wrong, I reasoned. Not being from an English- speaking country, I decided to consult the dictionary. And there it was: "Rumble: informal, a street fight between gangs or large groups."

So I got ready for war. But despite the multi-cultural, multi-lingual, multi-disciplined, multi-aged line-up, and all those personalities (not to mention egos), the people locked in that room for a week didn't throw a single punch, and they were still friends at the end.

As the cliche goes, you can't make an omelette without breaking eggs, and part of what makes a Rumble work is the way it channels creative tension. People genuinely spoke their minds, which doesn't always happen in life. It's that honesty that really benefits the client.


Rumbles allow people to work with amazing focus. You get cross-cultural stimulation, a global perspective, and, more practically, all the international people are cut off from their normal jobs and other distractions. Most of all, they're intense.

At my first Rumble, in Seoul, I brought my own kettle from Toronto so I could have Canadian tea. I made a lot of it. Once, at a Rumble in London, my partner Joe Piccolo and I were working in the basement of our old office on Newman Street. A colleague overheard us, got concerned, and told Jonathan Harries we were having a big fight. We weren't, of course. We were having a blast.

Recently, Draftfcb adopted a new agency model, with all the disciplines represented at the same table. It's a big change - it feels like your creative purview stretches further. When you're on a Rumble, it feels like it stretches around the world.


Perhaps the single-most important thing for me about the Creative Rumble I attended earlier this year for MoneyGram in Chicago was that it was just that - a creative rumble.

Following the briefing with the account group and the client, we, a group of eight creatives, were left alone until we presented our work at the end of the week. The night before the presentation, the creative directors in charge ran through the routes we were working on with the account group to ensure there was nothing completely off-piste. And that was it. We were left entirely to our own devices.


First, it brings the client into direct contact with the people who produce their work. This gives them a real sense of involvement.

Second, it gives creatives direct contact with the people buying their work. Knowing that you will have to justify your work forces you to think a lot harder.

Third, more work is produced in a very short period of time. No client could fail to be impressed.

Most importantly, the Rumble puts creativity at the heart of the client-agency relationship, and when this happens, everyone is happy.


I didn't have the best introduction to the Rumble. My partner Matt Lee and I were sent to Paris to work on Oust, an odour eliminator. At the time, we were sceptical - it seemed like a waste of the agency's money and our time. We protested, saying it would make more sense to do the work from the UK.

Thankfully, no-one listened, and over the next 12 months we travelled and worked in Rumbles on EA Games in San Francisco, Diet Coke in New York, Mall of the Emirates in Dubai, Discover credit card in Chicago, Hyundai in Amsterdam and Diet Coke in Sweden.

We're now a Lean, Mean, Rumble Machine. We can operate through jet-lag and continental-beer hangovers. We understand English-speaking French people and we've learnt not to giggle when the Americans applaud presentations. It's been a great experience both socially and professionally, and Matt and I are a stronger team for it.