Although there is no public evidence that the agency's recent account woes are linked to Wal-Mart, O'Leary writes that some claim reviews of the $1.5 million John Deere and $3.5 Applebee's account may both be linked to the scandal. (DraftFCB will not participate in these reviews). Along with these accounts, Qwest Communications, a $95 million client that generates about $15 million in revenue, confirmed it is launching a creative review. The story also implies that S.C. Johnson and Verizon Communications are less secure.
"Whenever there's negative press, there's going to be short-term damage. But I don't think there's any fundamental damage to Howard or his agency," said Michael Roth, chairman of Interpublic Group. "In this business, you're only as good as your last account win. This model of the future, of putting these two companies together and winning Wal-Mart, proves the validity of it. I'm still very bullish about this (the DraftFCB merger)."
Others disagree. One former FCB employee described the mood at the company's New York flagship as "grim," according to O'Leary. "Everyone knew from the beginning that Draft would take the lead, but still, it's as if 100 years of FCB heritage is being shredded by Howard Draft."
I think Roth might be right. If DraftFCB can land a major account that gives it the opportunity to demonstrate creative result-driven work (which has not been easy for the Draft side, some say), it may be able to reverse its course. However, this is a very tall order and will require a sympathetic high-profile major account.
Part of the challenge will no doubt be reflective of the ADWEEK poll that revealed 29 percent of the 2,400 respondents said Draft fared the worst in recent industry scandals, second only to Roehm, with 46 percent. Although recent publicity that revealed Wal-Mart's past electronic surveillance and other espionage missions against employees was extreme, only 10 percent said Wal-Mart fared worst.
Here's my unsolicited take for the three most visible parties might consider for turnarounds and wins in the months ahead:
DraftFCB — Since you already made amends by supplying e-mails to Wal-Mart, take a page from the JetBlue crisis communication plan (sans apologizing forever) and create an agency ethics guide. Take a breath and consider some Ragan Communications findings that suggest: more than 60 percent of mergers and acquisitions fail to deliver the benefits that are promised—often because of the poor quality of communication. You need a message beyond picking up 90 smaller accounts worldwide. The message you have, Draft ROI with FCB creative, doesn't seem to be working. Spark up some integrated social media pitches and that will frighten other agencies, after they stop laughing.
Julie Roehm — Stop calling yourself a "change agent," drop the suit, get out of the press, take an extended vacation, come back refreshed (perhaps a bit remorseful), and start your own "marketing 2.x" firm, whatever that is. Your first few clients will likely be smaller accounts, perhaps in the automotive industry, but sometimes smaller accounts can turn into giants if your ideas really work. (Bonus tip for Sean Womack: stay away! Stay far, far away!) Marriage counseling wouldn't be a bad idea either, even if you didn't do anything as you said. (By the way, I'm married. Don't e-mail me!)
Wal-Mart — Sure, you asked Roehm to pass on perks from vendors and it didn't work. It's not your fault. But the time has come to give up on the notion anybody will make you happy with traditional marketing. You do need something new, but new doesn't mean Roehm's "progressive" and "sexy" that would have never reached your target anyway. So the best advice for the fine folks working on your next campaign is simply this: to get back to basics and rekindle that grassroots shopping for common people concept you once had before all the public relations nightmares and bad communication consulting distracted you. Who knows? Maybe what I call "income marketing" would be right up your aisle.
"Income Marketing" is marketing that generates income instead of simply producing expenses so that even CFOs might like it. Sure, it sounds like something that goes against my shell game post, but one of my colleagues told me to call it something. Besides, that was part of Amitai Givertz's excellent comment at RecuitingBloggers.com.
Have a nice weekend and happy Easter!