By Published on .

Most Popular
I first met Howard Draft in 1978 when direct marketing creative was at a crossroads.

It was an extraordinary time for all of us in the creative end. Clients were viewing creative with increased sophistication and higher expectations. Our work was turning from the world of "direct mail" to a world of endless possibilities.

Across the next two decades, Draft Worldwide would play a central role in the changing face of direct marketing creative, and all of us would be involved in revitalizing the old rules to accommodate new methods and new media.

Today, our creative philosophy can best be summed up as research-based, results-oriented and brand-enhancing. I wish I could say I personally constructed it with Aristotelian insight, but truthfully it evolved from random thoughts expressed, conflicts overcome and challenges met. And as happens in agency life, each element was either proven on the battlefield of real results for clients or tempered in the crucible of new business presentations.


I learned about research in a nightmare: One of those stomach-dropping phone calls, on the night before a new business presentation. "Meet me downtown; there's a problem with the presentation," I heard Howard say as I reached for a roll of Tums.

In his association with the large general agencies, Howard had been influenced by the close relationship between research and creative. The creative product had to be a logical answer to the needs and problems identified by research.

I seem to remember agruing for about 45 minutes that we should change the new research to fit all that great creative. No sale there; but as we worked and revised through the night I saw something quite clearly.

It wasn't just that the creative was enriched and invigorated by the research; the research people helped provide a direction and structure to the creative product that I hadn't seen in direct marketing creative before. It made for a great program and from that point on, creative and research became the most welcome partners in the agency.


For years, high response was the name of our game. The creative goal was to cost-effectively coax the largest response from each program.

Yvonne Furth, president and chief operating officer of all our U.S. offices, was the first one I knew to question the basic premise. As the agency grew, we became involved in an ever-widening circle of programs.

It was no longer a given that our creative was initiated from direct response alone. Much of our work was touching the perimeters of sales promotion, public relations, even general awareness.

Yvonne got in the habit at every creative presentation of asking right off: "What's the objective here? What are we trying to accomplish?" Getting the right response percentage became too limiting. Our creative had to be results-oriented, serving as a legitimate solution to the marketing objective at hand.


The third part of our creative philosophy grew out of our involvement as the direct marketing arm for so many general accounts: HBO, American Express, British Airways, etc. But the platform was actually crystalized for me in a conversation with Lee Hill, our current president in Chicago.

Lee, a noted force in sales promotion and general advertising, had stopped in with some comments on a TV spot I had done, and I was boasting about the 4% response figure I'd just found out about. Four percent was awesome to me.

Lee, though, was obviously unimpressed. His first question: "What happened to the other 96% of the universe?" Making a half-hearted joke, I responded with "Well, hopefully, they liked what they saw."

This remark instigated a four-hour conversation. The outcome helped forge one more facet in our creartive philosophy. Essentially, if your creative isn't working to help build the brand, you're probably undercutting your efforts for the client in the long run.

Over the years, I've watched this creative philosophy grow and significantly impact the work we do and the results we get for clients. It perhaps isn't particularly glamorous in either its inception or content, but it's as tight as a drum in the thinking behind it. And after all of the talking, the inspiration and talent, the hard work.

. .it really is the thinking that makes for great creative in the end.

In this article: