'Long gone are the days of kudos media'.
For someone who has been the general manager of the Middle East's brand new Blue Barracuda out- post for not even a full 48 hours, Lee Brett appears very relaxed. Especially when you consider that he's just publicly launched the Draftfcb-owned digital agency to a collection of regional media, clients and in- dustry watchers at a high-pro- file event at Dubai's Address Downtown hotel. In the pres- ence of assorted Draftfcb top brass no less, including the worldwide CEO and presi- dent. No pressure then.
Founded in London in 2002 and the brainchild of Martin Talks, Blue Barracuda was snapped up by Draftfcb in April of this year for an undis- closed sum. As well as being Blue Barracuda's founder, Talks has also become Draft- fcb's global digital lead since the buyout and he says his goal is to increase the network's an- nual digital revenues from its current 21 per cent of the globaltotal.Inaregionwhere digital ad spend accounts for approximately - depending on who you believe - less than five per cent of the annual total, it is fair to say that Brett has cer- tainly got his work cut out.
But he's nothing if not a man with a plan and has 10 years of Middle East agency experi- ence to call on. First on his agenda is building a core staff team.Although he can draw on Draftfcb a "beta" organisation - one that should always be responsive to a changing technological and media landscape.
Draftfcb's worldwide capabil- ity and Blue Barracuda's 60-strong team in London and Estonia for support, Brett says the approach here is to estab- lish a team of senior individu- als who know their disciplines, who know what the capabili- ties are and then deliver that locally through the network. Hejokinglywarnstheregion's HR managers to be afraid - Blue Barracuda is after the brightest and best talent.
Also, he wants collaboration to be a major factor in the agency's modus operandi. "A number of agencies will take a brief and deliver a product. That is quite transactional. What we're trying to do is in- stall ourselves in the client's of- fices and them installed in us.
It's an opportunity to collabo- rate and get the best of both worlds," he says.
One advantage that Blue Barracuda has is an off-the- peg portfolio of existing clients from its parent network to ap- proach, both locally and inter- nationally - it is part of the Ho- rizon Group in this region. Not thatBrettseeshisdigitalagen- cy just bolting on a Facebook page here or creating a micro- site there to 'add some digital' to Draftfcb's regional offering. "It's so easy to put together the piecemeal social media exer- cises," he says dismissively.
For him, it's definitely not just about ticking the digital box for 'integrated' campaigns. "We're looking at conversation - yes, 360 degrees in terms of touchpoints - but every single day of the year. It's important the brand platform is consist- ent," he explains - whatever the touchpoint. "We don't just want to be talking about digital capability and talking about digital as a silo.Those lines have gone, there really are no lines, now. People still try and com- partmentalisedigitalasabusi- ness and that's a barrier that we're trying to break down."
Brett says client education will be another focus and talks of the need to distill the con- versation down to a language that clients understand - bot- tom line results or footfall to retailers' stores. "Horizon and Draftfcb is all about results. Everything is measured and everything we do is accounta- ble," he says. Results could be all-impor-tant if the global economy wobbles again. How is Blue Barracuda going to make headway in the market if the dreaded 'double-dip' reces- sion returns to pare ad budgets back to bare bones?
He admits that the Euro- zone debt issue is of concern, but you've also got to look at the trend in the growth areas. "If you look at global spend on channels: the internet, digital or mobile phones, technology is being invested in. Because it's measurable, it's scaleable, people can get a sense of what's happening with their marketing dollar," he says.
"Long gone are the days of kudos media, with the beauti- ful outdoor media buyers try- ing to convince you that a mil- lion and one cars have driven along the stretch of road at 70 miles and hour to see your ad- vert for a blink of an eye. "Whereas, if you create great content, if you give people the opportunity to feedback on your business and your brand, and you give people a chancetoengagewithyou,you have a lot more possibilities at your disposal."
ForBrett,theidealistogetto a stage where the agency lis- tens through its tools, monitor- ing what people are saying and understanding the advocates and influencers. "That's when the fun starts to happen.When you get to the stage of co-creat- ing with those people then the world is your oyster."
Now part of the Interpublic group, the network has been through many varied evolutions
The network's progenitors can be traced back to late Victorian-era Chicago, when the agency was formed as the Lord & Thomas ad agency. One of its clerks, Albert Lasker, worked his way up and eventually bought the whole kit and kaboodle in 1912.
Lasker, having grown the agency, sold it to three of its senior managers - the eponymous Messrs Foote, Cone and Belding (FCB),who then renamed the firm to reflect their initials.
Draft began as a direct marketing agency called Kobs & Brady. Howard Draft was an account executive at the agency. The agency was renamed Kobs & Draft when Draft became chairman and CEO 10 years later. In 1995, the agency performed a management buyout from parent Ted Bates Worldwide and was renamed Draft Direct Worldwide. A year later, Draft Direct Worldwide joined the Interpublic stable.
This year saw the merger of the two distinct entities, renaming itself, unsurprisingly, Draftfcb. Draftfcb is currently the largest advertising agency in Chicago, with more than 1,100 employees split between two Chicago campuses. The agency's global corporate leadership team includes Howard Draft, executive chairman and Laurence Boschetto, its CEO and president.
On the strength of a good 2010, the agency will seek to consolidate and also improve its global standing and more acquistion activity should not be ruled out. Especially, in the digital field as its CEO has often called
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