DraftWorldwide, Lowe Launch Unit

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Interpublic Group of Companies Inc.'s DraftWorldwide direct marketing agency and Lowe & Partners Worldwide general shop said yesterday the companies opened a unit called Lowe + Draft as a bridge for joint pitches.


The agency, also called Plus, begins with a staff of three in the United States and eight overall worldwide. Based in New York, Plus will be headed by managing partner Steve Harty, previously CEO of Merkley Newman Harty, also in New York.


"Its mandate is to work with Lowe and Draft on existing accounts from a strategic planning standpoint as well as in a new business mode when we pitch accounts together, which isn't often," said Howard Draft, chairman/CEO of DraftWorldwide, Chicago.


The alliance comes a year after Lowe Live and DraftWorldwide's London office merged operations into Draft London. HSBC, Flora and Saab are clients of the merged agency. It also comes as DraftWorldwide celebrates its silver jubilee, becoming a $3.2 billion billings direct agency in 25 years.


Plus' creation aims to offer clients below- and above-the-line marketing. Once it wins a new account, Plus will develop the initial strategy, then let DraftWorldwide and Lowe hammer out the nitty-gritty. The first account jointly pitched is Rainbow Satellite.


Draft is chairman of Plus, and Lowe CEO Jerry Judge is the president/CEO. Ray Fagan will be chief financial officer.


Plus' founding agencies already collaborate elsewhere globally. For example, the shops are allying on HSBC and Starwood's Asia-Pacific hotels accounts in Singapore as well as HSBC's Malaysian and Brunei arms. In Hong Kong, both agencies are working together on HSBC, Taiwan Tourism Board and Starwood.


Similarly, they are collaborating on the Lever Faberge and Unilever Bestfoods accounts in the Netherlands. SunInterbrew and JTI are clients shared in Russia.


In Britain, Lowe London -- not to be confused with the former Lowe Live -- and Draft Edinburgh work jointly on Tesco Personal Finance. On the continent, Draft Belgium is the new regional marketing services agency across Europe for Chiquita Europe after an introduction by Lowe.


Draft makes it clear that Plus is a collaboration between the agency he founded and Lowe, and nothing else.


"There's no merger, never will be," he said, adding that DraftWorldwide and Lowe will retain their brand identities and distinct operations except in London.


Instead, Plus' ranks will be reinforced as business builds.


"Plus will be built to a couple of dozen people in the U.S. and then worldwide," Draft said.


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