Holistic Approach: Draft pushes strategy

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As the heads of DraftWorldwide's various divisions outlined their specialized offerings at a recent worldwide managers' meeting, Chairman-CEO Howard Draft worried his agency's proficiency in tactical executions might lead to the perception the agency was the "Wal-Mart" of marketing-services agencies.

To better position itself as an integrated, holistic business partner able to answer clients' needs at the highest level, the No. 3 marketing-services agency is reorganizing its strategy department by hiring at least 10 high-level strategists and bringing research, planning and database-analysis functions closer together.

In another step toward further integration, Draft will phase out the name Surge at DraftWorldwide. Surge, the promotional unit created in June by consolidating the agency's promotions and events capabilities, was forged as a way to highlight the agency's services outside direct marketing. But today, Mr. Draft sees more value in returning to the Draft brand name for all disciplines.

brand leverage

"It's leveraging a brand, and taking the Draft name, which is so highly regarded, and trying to take it one step further," said Alexia Quadrani, an analyst at Bear, Stearns & Co.

Although the Interpublic Group of Cos. shop already offers strategic planning within each of its disciplines, Mr. Draft hopes the added emphasis and restructuring will elevate strategy to a higher, media-neutral plane.

"Historically, we've been doing it discipline by discipline, but now we're putting a layer in place that's more holistic against the disciplines we offer, against the Wal-Mart approach," Mr. Draft said. "Everybody knows we can do direct and promotional and digital marketing. What I have to make sure all my clients understand is that I can give them strategic, analytic thinking."

Marketers, with tighter budgets and the need to justify investments, are looking for efficient and accountable business partners. "In theory, clients want [strategic planning], and in theory, the agencies want to provide it, but there's a long space between what's laid out and what's reality," Ms. Quadrani said.

Agencies have ramped up efforts to develop proprietary research tools and hire high-level executives to differentiate themselves.

"You've got to continually reinvent yourself and make yourself better. If you stand still, you're going to get caught or people are going to go by you," Mr. Draft said. "The strategic platform I want for Draft going forward is to be an even more valuable partner."

But emphasizing strategy is hardly revolutionary. Draft's rivals-including WPP Group siblings OgilvyOne and Wunderman, units of Ogilvy & Mather and Young & Rubicam, respectively, and Havas Advertising's Brann Worldwide, part of Arnold Worldwide Partners-have done the same.

full integration

"The strategic planning and customer insight have to be integrated into every piece of business that we work on," said Andrea Franklin, exec VP-chief strategy officer at Brann.

Although not groundbreaking, the move makes sense, according to one competitor.

"One of the critical things for agencies is, if you can't do it credibly, don't get into it," said Clive Maclean, president-CEO of Kestnbaum, Wunderman's strategic-analytics consultancy, adding, "Draft comes from a very good background. I think it's a logical extension of what they're doing."