DraftFCB's New Global CEO Is 38-Year-Old Carter Murray

Energetic British Exec Will Replace Laurence Boschetto

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DraftFCB's next global CEO will be 38-year-old Carter Murray, who for the past year has been head of Y&R's North American operations.

Carter Murray
Carter Murray

Not only is the embattled Interpublic Group of Cos. agency getting a new leader, it's poised for a major cultural shift under Mr. Murray. He has spent most of his career in Europe and been referred to as charming and super energetic by those who've worked with him in the past. It's not only a quick ascent up the ladder to lead one of the biggest advertising agencies in the world, it's also a formidable challenge.

Mr. Murray has signed on to take the reins from Laurence Boschetto, DraftFCB's CEO of four years, after a brief transition period. A start date for the newly-anointed chief has not yet been determined however.

A formal search began last summer for a leader to succeed Mr. Boschetto, who's overseen the network during a tumultuous three-and-a-half years that have been marked by significant client departures. (Mr. Boschetto joined the search process as part of an attempt at a smooth succession and will continue in a consulting role.)

The selection has been a huge focus for Interpublic senior management including Chairman-CEO Michael Roth, who's acutely aware of the need to turn around the ship at DraftFCB. Mr. Murray is likely getting some broad leeway to make the changes he sees fit to improve the shop's standing in adland.

Howard Draft will retain his executive-chairman post at DraftFCB, working with a number of the agency's major clients and on special projects, but he'll report to Mr. Murray, who'll be based in New York.

"[Mr. Murray] understands consumer advertising and brands, has demonstrated the ability to motivate diverse teams and raise the quality of creative work, nurture client relationships and win global business," Mr. Roth said in a statement. "This combination of skills and experience in a dynamic new leader is what the agency needs in order to evolve its integrated model and drive growth."

Mr. Roth added: "We thank Laurence for his contributions to our search for his successor. ... We wish him well in his ongoing industry activity, particularly in the area of diversity and inclusion, where we will continue to work together."

"Carter brings energy, a new perspective and range of talents that will take us to the next level," Mr. Boschetto said in a statement. "I'll do everything to help him step into the CEO role seamlessly."

Finding someone willing to take the challenge of re-energizing DraftFCB was no simple task. In November, Mr. Roth remarked during a Wall Street investor conference: "Hopefully we'll be able to find someone."

After a lengthy process -- during which a number of Madison Avenue execs were approached, some who felt the fix-it job was too tall an order -- the search was narrowed to three last month. Mr. Murray resigned from Y&R yesterday after just a year there.

In the wake of Mr. Murray's departure, Y&R named Matt Anthony CEO of Y&R Advertising North America. Mr. Anthony is a member of Y&R's executive committee and founding partner of VML.

"I like big challenges and I like big opportunities," Mr. Murray told Ad Age. "And it would take a challenge and an opportunity as large as this for me to leave my current position. I do love [Y&R CEO] David Sable, and I'm really proud of the people I work with at Y&R. But it's not every day that you get this kind of opportunity [at an agency] that we know has had some challenges but also has had some great client relationships. It's one of those jobs that doesn't come up every day.

"If you look at DraftFCB, the last thing they need is someone who comes charging in and tells them exactly how to do their jobs at the outset. I have a point of view on marketing and what I think is important, and am particularly passionate about the creative product and defining groundbreaking work. And that's something I want to infuse more throughout the organization."

A Brit who was educated in in the U.S. -- he attended Duke University -- Mr. Murray started his career at Leo Burnett in Chicago. He soon moved to Europe, where he's spent most of his career. He worked for Leo Burnett in Germany as a regional account director and in London as a regional new-business director for Europe.

He joined Publicis in 2007. That's where he really made his mark. During his tenure at the French holding company, he took Nestle from being Publicis' fourth-largest account, and one that was declining in size, to the agency's biggest account.

With experience in markets from Russia to Korea to Kenya to Switzerland, and with clients such as Nestle, P&G, Barclays, Coke and Ikea, Mr. Murray's pedigree is far different than his predecessor's.

Mr. Boschetto joined Draft in the agency's New York office in 1997, a move prompted by his sale of Adler Boschetto Peebles -- a Big Apple shop he founded -- to Draft. He worked his way up from general manager to more senior roles. It was only a matter of years before he was being touted as Howard Draft's heir apparent, and was promoted to president and chief operating officer, first of New York, and then (around the same time as the agency's very public win-and-loss of the Walmart account) across the network. He's been especially close to some clients, among them Beiersdorf.

His ascension to CEO came more than two years after the merger of Draft and Foote Cone & Belding. The marriage was a move that Interpublic touted as a way to combine the direct-marketing prowess of Draft with the creative abilities of FCB, but many industry executives said they predicted the merger was doomed because of clashing cultures and disciplines.

Initially there were some indications that the critics were wrong, given sizable new-business wins from the U.S. Census, Kraft, MillerCoors and Kmart. Above all, the shop was profitable.

But while Mr. Boschetto was at the helm, the shop's fortunes turned. The past couple of years in North America have been incredibly rocky, marked by a string of account losses -- prompting speculation that it was only a matter of time before there would be a change at the top.

The biggest hit came with the exit of one of DraftFCB's biggest and oldest accounts: SC Johnson. The agency failed to hang on to the business after a review, losing to WPP's Ogilvy and Omnicom Group's EnergyBBDO. The loss stripped several global outposts of their biggest client and shuttered other international offices. The agency laid off about 10% of it staffers in its Chicago office, and 3% globally.

When the massive packaged-goods account departed after 58 years, SC Johnson was estimated to be worth $65 million in global revenue. But at its height years earlier, the account was believed to bring in as much as $80 million in global revenue for the agency. Though it was a small percentage -- about 5 to 6% -- of the agency's global revenue at the time of the loss, the agency has been unable to recover the revenue with another large account win.

That loss was devastating, but another blow came with the loss of its MillerCoors business without a review. The brewer's account went to Publicis Groupe's Saatchi & Saatchi, which picked up Miller Lite, and a new WPP agency dubbed Cavalry was formed to handle Coors brands and new products. Layoffs again followed at DraftFCB, with the agency confirming about 5% of its Chicago office employees were affected.

Another marquee account, Taco Bell, has brought other Interpublic agencies such as Deutsch into the fold to handle creative work. While DraftFCB remains on the roster as the lead agency, TV work -- part of a campaign Taco Bell said was its biggest -- for the chain's new Cool Ranch Doritos Locos Taco was created by Deutsch.

DraftFCB is facing yet another potential significant account defection from Kmart, a client since 2007. The struggling retailer began circulating requests for proposal in January; DraftFCB is said to be defending the business. That same month, DrafFCB shed its media operation, which was shifted to sibling Mediabrands.

While agencies are prone to going through up-and-down periods, two of the biggest criticisms of DraftFCB under Mr. Boschetto's watch has been its failure to attract new business and inability to realize the promise of the benefits touted at the time of the merger. The agency has scored a string of small and midsize wins to help offset the loss of major legacy accounts -- such as agency-of-record account for SeaWorld, Discover Card and Cox Communications -- but it hasn't picked up a major blue-chip lead creative account in some time.

That responsibility will now fall on the young Mr. Murray's shoulders. The question is: Is he up to the challenge? One of the most powerful marketers in the world says Mr. Murray has a decent chance.

Tom Buday, head of marketing and consumer communication at Nestle, endorses Mr. Murray thusly on LinkedIn: "Carter is a highly committed professional who puts client needs at the top of his priorities, and brings valuable insight and perspective to the challenges at hand. Put simply, Carter is someone you can count on to deliver."

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