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5 Minutes With… Carter Murray

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FCB CEO on rebranding from Draftfcb and why fear kills creativity

5 Minutes With… Carter Murray

It’s been a busy six months for Carter Murray. Since taking over as the global CEO at Draftfcb he’s overseen a massive rebrand (the network has reverted to FCB), been getting to know the 150 offices under his charge and has been driving forward a slew of new business wins – as well as making time for his new born twins. Luckily for him then that he unequivocally loves his job and the industry – when LBB’s Laura Swinton caught up with him last thing on a Friday he was brimming with enthusiasm and energy. Here he talks about the rationale behind the new rebrand, how he caught the advertising bug and the beauty of thinking local in a global network.


LBB> What was the decision-making process behind the move to change Draftfcb’s name to ‘FCB’?

CM> When I arrived it was a question that first cropped up in the job interview stage. I went into it with a completely open mind. What I did say was that I thought we needed to apply the advice that we give our clients to ourselves. I think that while both Draft and FCB are storied brands with storied histories, it had been eight years since the merger and I thought it was time to distil it down to one name. 

FCB is the third oldest advertising brand in the world so for me, after talking things through with people, it was clear that that was the name we wanted to move forward with.  


LBB> What does the move signal for Draftfcb as a network? Was it only about simplifying the branding or does the rebrand signal other changes or a sense of renewal?

CM> I think what we do and who we are is more important than the name on the door. We have people who have been doing a good job for a long time and I want them to continue doing that. There are many places where we have strong people doing effective work and I want to do that more consistently moving forward. I think it’s another step on the journey rather than a complete re-direct. It’s not a brand new name; it’s a distillation of an existing name. I’ve been very clear that our creative product and our thinking about that creative product are at the heart of the company. The FCB brand was always about that.


LBB> The big news in the UK was the Inferno acquisition, which was really interesting. From a UK perspective the Inferno merger and the FCB rebrand together do seem to signal if not an overhaul then at least a re-focussing.

CM> I think in the UK, absolutely. As well as the Inferno brand there’s the leadership team. I think Fraser [Gibney] is really a great CEO and leader and I think he’s the right person to take us forward. I think we have some great people from the Foote, Cone & Belding legacy like Simon White. 

I think in London the simplification of the branding and architecture that we’ve done celebrates the local brand and the local business. In London’s case it’s going to be Inferno. They’ve got Al Young who has a great creative reputation and they’ve beaten some of the best agencies in London over the past 18 months. 


LBB> Ad agencies spend so much time working on branding for clients – what was it like ‘being’ the client in this instance?

CM> It’s a reminder of how tough some decisions are for clients to make! It’s nice to be able to work on your company’s own brand. We did it all internally so there was a real opportunity to see the creativity and the thinking of some of our best people around the network. It was interesting and it was fun but obviously I wanted to make sure throughout that people weren’t distracted from their main job, which was focussing on our clients. 


LBB> In the end who did you work with on it?

CM> The main person who came up with the design was Luis Diaz; he is our creative director for our international markets who is based in Portugal. He has a very strong design pedigree and has a real passion for the agency and has worked here for a long time. He led a team of people that created it, with Jonathan Harris (Global CCO) and myself partnering up as the clients, so to speak. 

Branding can be so subjective and when you hear the thinking behind the brand identity it was very well thought out. It’s been heart-warming to see the incredibly positive response I’ve got from clients, employees, journalists.  It’s all about the product and about our clients.


LBB> So what was the thinking behind it?

CM> In size we’re quite similar to a Publicis or a Young & Rubicam as a network but we have many more local clients than global clients, so we are intrinsically local. What we wanted to do is celebrate the local nature of our creativity and client base around the world. 

According to Luis, the thinking was inspired by Ancient Greece. In order to prove that people knew each other they would take a statue or a piece of clay and would break it in half. If a member of one family came to ask for help they would bring their half of the statue and put it together with the other half to prove that they knew each other and were never complete without the other half. That’s actually where the word symbol comes from. It was called a ‘symbolum’. The idea was to have that same interplay by having that slice through the FCB – it says that we’re never complete without having a local name with us. 

The use of the colour is interesting too. If we are using just FCB on its own, for example if we are representing the global team for global pitches, the colour is in the FCB. But whenever we have the local brand name in the logo, the FCB turns to black and the colour moves to the local brand name to show that we always celebrate the local brand first. That’s just two examples – there’s a hundred-page deck on it. 


LBB> You joined the network in September last year – what attracted you to FCB and what did you feel you wanted to bring?

CM> Foote, Cone & Belding is one of the most storied brands in our industry. Again, being the third oldest brand in the world, it’s a brand that I wanted to be a part of. And there aren’t many opportunities in the industry when you have a global company of a considerable scale (the network has about 7500 people) with a creative background, an integrated background, and a direct background, and that agency is looking for a fresh direction and a new step in the journey. I looked at what I’d done in the past and I looked at my brief and thought this is a job I would relish. Like I said to Michael Roth in the interview, I think if you really love this business and you get offered a job on this magnitude on a brand with this much  heritage, it would be strange to turn it down. 


LBB> How did you get into the industry in the first place? Was it an intentional thing or did you fall into it by accident?

CM> From a very young age everybody always told me that I should go into advertising; I still don’t know why they did that and I still don’t know if it was a compliment or not! One year I interned at Saatchi & Saatchi London for a week and I ended up staying for the whole summer. I worked for someone called Chris Clark who now runs HSBC’s marketing. Leo Burnett once said, ‘You don’t get into advertising, advertising gets into you’. That’s what happened to me. I caught the bug. 

When I finished university in America I took a little bit of time to go travelling and help out with the family business and I realised that I just had to go into advertising. I went out to Chicago and had several interviews and I was very lucky to get four or five job offers – I started at Leo Burnett in Chicago. I had missed the milk round in the UK that year and I thought the opportunities would be better in America at the time. 


LBB> What was it like starting off your career at Leo Burnett in Chicago as a young Brit?

CM> It was amazing. I loved it. I will always have a strong affection for Leo Burnett – it taught me a lot of the basics of advertising and there are still many great people working there. I would run to the train station to get to work. I was an assistant account executive working in a cubicle that I couldn’t fit in properly because I’m 6’ 7” – and I couldn’t get enough of it. It was a brilliant training ground.


LBB> When you were starting out in the industry, what’s the one piece of advice you wish someone had given you?

CM> I’ve been thinking about it and I was given so much good advice when I started off. But I guess one thing would be ‘don’t sweat the small stuff’.


LBB> You’ve been involved in the new business, accounts and marketing side of the industry for many years – how do you think the relationship between clients and agencies is evolving?

CM> In the best relationships, nothing has changed. It’s a real partnership and agencies demonstrate every day that they care about the client’s business. That respect is reciprocated. As a result you get great strategy, great creative work.  When times are good and bad clients stick together. And I think you still get these relationships. 

I definitely think with what’s happened with technology and digital, and with procurement taking an ever stronger role in negotiations, there’s been an undermining of client-agency relationships.


LBB> The growing involvement of procurement is an interesting one because it seems to also be fed by what’s been happening in the global economy. These days clients are so much more willing to up sticks and change agencies really quickly and frequently. With that and the recent recession in Europe and the States, it can seem that there’s more of a ‘fear’ on the account side of the business. Is that fear something you’ve noticed – and is it a good or bad thing for the industry?

CM> I think fear is absolutely a bad thing, especially in a creative business. Some people would vehemently disagree with me about that. My belief is that I don’t think people thrive in a hostile environment… or if they do, they don’t work well with me. I prefer a more creative, collaborative environment.

I think procurement has created concerns for people. I think clients are right to ask for value and accountability – I don’t think that’s where the issue comes. I think that tension comes when critical elements of the partnership are no longer held between the brand’s marketing director and CEO and the agency’s marketing director and CEO. It becomes a widgets discussion instead of one about how to use branding and marketing as a competitive advantage. That’s where the challenge comes – when you start to see advertising as a cost rather than as an investment. 


LBB> How do you think the industry could and should nurture new talent? At a network level, what can be done to attract young people to the industry and give them the tools they need?

CM> That’s one of my main jobs, to make sure we attract talent into the agency at all levels. I think, again, it’s all about following the advice we give our clients. Are we clear who we are? Why do we get up in the morning? How we can be inspiring to people, how we can help people? How can we make it exciting to work here?

I’ve even got my Instagram account to try and demystify the CEO role. When I was younger I don’t think I even knew what the global CEO did, so I take photographs of my day. I’ve got open access, anyone can get onto it and people can see what I’m doing. I think part of it is trying to lead by example and show that this is a company that cares about people. And it’s difficult. There are hard decisions to make and sometimes you have to let people go. In some parts of the world you can be booming and in other parts of the world you can be struggling, but really, how you treat people is the most important thing in our business. 


LBB> Which recent pieces of work from Draftfcb have really resonated with you personally?

CM> The Oreo Daily Twist is probably the most game-changing project that I hear people talking about around the place. That work is fantastic. And obviously the Driving Dogs campaign from New Zealand is one that everyone loved. Then there’s the drinking water billboard in Peru where we took media and had it produce water – that was just unbelievable. It’s creative, it’s doing good, it strikes a chord and hit the brief. We’re very lucky that we’ve got some talented creative people who can produce work like that. 

LBB> And what does 2014 hold for you?

CM> We’ve had a busy first six months. We’ve had the rebrand, we’ve promoted some people from within, we’ve had some management changes, we’ve won the global Levi’s account. We have some new business momentum in North America – we’ve just won four out of five pitches in California. We’ve won a big pitch in South Africa, a big pitch in Brazil. So I think in the next six to twelve months you’re going to see a real focus on making sure that people come into work in the morning and understand the journey that we’re going on together and focus on great work for our existing clients. We have to make sure that we’re doubly committed to our clients while also building on that new business momentum. It’s as simple as that really. 


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FCB US, Wed, 19 Mar 2014 17:27:53 GMT