Opinion: Perspective - Where does beleaguered Draftfcb go from here?

Barely a year ago, Draftfcb was luxuriating in its swish new offices in the heart of Westminster.

With a 360-degree view of London and a design concept based on no lines ("no above the line, below the line; no online or offline," Howard Draft said), the offices always spoke of an ambition that seemed rather oversized for the agency's stature in the London marketplace. Still, the statement of intent was clear: a truly integrated agency that promised accountability.

The agency had had a stuttering start: the decision to have co-presidents (Nigel Jones, the former chief of FCB, and John Minnec, the former chief of Draft) backfired early and Minnec returned to the US. But by the time the Draft and FCB cultures were fully united in the new building, a fresh start was top of the agenda.

Barely 12 months on and the agency has lost a president (Jones), lost an executive creative director (Logan Wilmont), and now, this week, lost a chief executive (Enda McCarthy).

The showiness of the offices has ultimately belied a lack of substance on the ground, an absence of culture, of management strength. The turmoil speaks of a dysfunctional agency that has failed to build a stronger proposition from the two lacklustre brands that were brought together to form its foundations.

The agency's staff - all of whom were offered voluntary redundancy last autumn ahead of a planned restructure - must be feeling shell-shocked again this week. And persistent rumours that the parent company Interpublic Group is considering merging the agency with its sister Lowe won't help.

There is a certain logic to the idea of a Lowe/Draftfcb combo. For starters, both agencies have gaping holes in their management teams and, in London at least, have struggled to meet expectations both in terms of new business growth and creative work.

Last week, IPG folded Draftfcb's conflict shop Rivet into Lowe. So far, there's no more to it than that, but the latest drama at Draftfcb this week will certainly fuel speculation that the two agencies are heading for marriage.

And not for the first time. Five years ago, IPG was close to merging Lowe and Draft but pulled back at the last minute, plumping instead for an alliance called (ta-dah) Lowe & Draft, which was designed to allow the pair to pitch together for business and share some back office operations.

Cost savings were, naturally, a major driver in the alliance and are sure to steer considerations of any fresh tie-up now. And the failure of that original alliance will not deter a reopening of discussions now that economic imperatives are again at the fore.

The difference this time round is that - the beleaguered staff of both agencies aside - the chances are even fewer people will actually care.

Hopefully by now you will have noticed what a bumper package Campaign is this week. First, to mark our inaugural Big Awards, we have all the winners available in a beautiful book (free to all entrants, available online at campaignbigawards.com or you can buy a copy for £30 from steven.lewis@haymarket.com).

Big thank yous must go to all the judges who took so much time and care selecting the winners, and particularly to Nigel Bogle, the chairman of the jury, whose contribution to our thinking was invaluable.

And this week we're also celebrating Campaign's 40th birthday by launching a British advertising Hall of Fame. We're kicking off by inaugurating 40 advertising superstars who have helped to shape the advertising industry over the past four decades and we will be adding new members every year.

The Hall of Fame supplement that's included with this week's issue has been lovingly compiled and beautifully crafted by Campaign's John Tylee. I hope you enjoy reading it. Please add your thoughts at brandrepublic.com/campaign/halloffame.


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