DraftFCB looking for its light bulb moment

August 21, 2013  |  Chris Powell  |  Comments

An agency in transition puts new creative team in place


DraftFCB’s recent hire of Curtis Edwards as vice-president, digital creative is part of a new wave of incoming talent for the agency, which is reshaping itself following the 2012 loss of longtime client TD Bank Group.

Curtis Edwards

Edwards is among four new hires at the Interpublic agency, including Dave Delibato, a former associate creative director at Rain 43 who has spent the past year as a freelance copywriter and who arrives as senior writer; Rob Dean, a freelance art director whose resume includes stints at Dashboard and Publicis Modem as art director; and Jonathan Weiss, formerly ACD at BBDO Proximity Canada, who assumes the same role at DraftFCB.

Dean and Edwards have already started at the agency, but Delibato and Weiss join the agency on Monday.

DraftFCB has been an agency in transition during the past few months, as it also lost Molson Coors’ Coors Light, Keystone and Molson Export assignments earlier this year, and saw the departures of several key staffers including VP creative director Patrick Weir and VP, group creative director Joe Piccolo – who departed for Cossette Toronto in January after 11 years with the agency.

However, chief creative officer Robin Heisey says these changes are simply part of the normal ebbs and flows of the advertising business, which tend to get accentuated when an agency loses a big piece of business like TD.

“The industry is changing dramatically, and our agency is changing as well,” said Heisey. “Some of those changes are exerted by external forces, and some of them you create yourself. The trick is to change in ways that are valuable to clients.”

Even 10 months later, Heisey is uncomfortable talking about the loss of TD to Leo Burnett, closing the book on a 13-year relationship that saw DraftFCB create the enduring “Banking can be this comfortable” platform. “We were very disappointed to part ways with them after such a long and successful tenure,” he said.

However, the recent win of the Sun Life Financial business from Capital C in a competitive review was a welcome validation of the agency’s capabilities in financial services marketing. Heisey described Sun Life as a “fantastic Canadian brand.”

“It’s an interesting client interested in doing interesting things,” added Heisey, who declined to say when the agency’s first work for Sun Life would appear.

DraftFCB has also brought aboard new business including the AOR assignment for Foodland Ontario and the social/digital assignment for DLM Foods Canada, which includes the Milk-Bone and Meow Mix brands.

Major Makeover

The agency left its former offices in midtown Toronto last summer (“they were getting a little long in the tooth,” says Heisey) for stylish new digs in the city’s newest agency hotbed, Liberty Village. DraftFCB now occupies an open-concept glass and metal space developed by noted Toronto design firm Bartlett & Associates (whose clients have included Saatchi & Saatchi, Critical Mass and Edelman PR).

In a nice twist given the use of light bulbs to symbolize creativity, the agency is situated in a building known as the Lightbulb Factory, originally built in 1908 to house the Sunbeam Incandescent Lamp Company and which subsequently produced light bulbs for companies including GE and Edison.

The move has had a profound effect on the DraftFCB culture, says Heisey, encouraging collaboration among staff while placing the agency in what he calls the “cultural heart” of a multimedia oriented talent pool that includes software developers, designers and content creators.

“It reminds everybody what business we’re in, which is increasingly about doing trans-media executions, content creation, social media and all those other aspects of the world that we live in,” he said. “Collaboration is so much easier when it’s organic.”

Earlier this year, DraftFCB was one of only three Canadian winners at the U.S. Effie Awards recognizing marketing effectiveness, with a gold in the LGBT Community category for its work with PFLAG Canada.

The campaign featured the beginning of stories of members of the LGBT community and their family/friends (“I don’t think of myself as gay. I think of myself as…”) and invited people to scan a QR code to see the rest of the story online. The campaign secured $500,00 in donated media and generated 78 million impressions. It was also a winner at both Cannes and the Atomic Awards.

Heisey said that other work, such as a Facebook contest for Kraft’s Habenero Heat shredded cheese that invites participants to sell their friends’ souls for the chance to win a trip to Hell in the Grand Cayman, and a recent campaign for Toronto’s Union Hearing Aid Centre (shortlisted at the upcoming ADCC Awards and at Applied Arts) is emblematic of some of the standout work being produced at the agency.

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