Q&A With Draft New York president/COO Laurence Boschetto

Laurence Boschetto is president and chief operating officer of Draft New York, a sibling to Draft Chicago and one of the main offices with the direct and sales promotions agency’s global network. He discusses the agency’s direction, work for key clients, industry direction and his philosophy in this Q&A with executive editor Mickey Alam Khan.

Where was Draft New York three years ago?

Three years ago, the economy was obviously not what it is today. And Draft New York wasn't what it is today. When I was named president in 2002, our American Express business wasn't growing according to our initial expectations. We opted to resign so we'd be open in the financial services category. Our Compaq business was being consolidated outside the agency following the merger with Hewlett-Packard.

It was a dark time of layoffs and uncertainly. Our staff numbered far less than half of what it is now. It was one of the toughest points in my career.

And today?

Well, it's a whole other world. That experience several years ago taught me many things. The first being, never rely on one client to make your agency, because they can also come near to breaking you.

We began a concerted effort to start the new business wheels turning. In fact, we've seen an unprecedented winning of new and incremental blue-chip business from clients including Computer Associates, Hewlett-Packard -which we won back after the Compaq merger- and United Health Group/AARP, and Bank of America. And we're still knocking on doors.

While it's true that agency relationships come and go, this year we are celebrating our 10-year anniversary with Verizon Communications, for whom we serve as lead agency. Whatever changes occur in the future, we are positioned to attract and keep top clients. I'm especially proud of that.

Because of all this, we've more than doubled revenues and staff over the past two years. We've seen 13 consecutive quarters of growth, and have even opened a second office in Manhattan, which is significant in light of agencies like Fallon shutting down their New York operations.

What are some of the key initiatives and milestones that have happened under your watch?

While it was an agency-wide honor, Draft New York played a significant role in Draft winning a 5-star rating from Advertising Age this year, the first time “integrated” agencies were allowed to compete against the BBDOs and DDBs of the world. We were the highest ranked agency, alongside fellow Interpublic Group shop McCann.

Internally, we launched our cross-cultural group, becoming the first agency to offer multicultural marketing expertise in below-the-line services. We launched a new planning group, Insight Services, that, for the first time, overlays attitudinal insights and hard core data to determine what we call “Datatude.” These insights breathe life into campaigns, and drive ROI for clients.

We've launched DraftWorks, a separate department that specializes in updating and turning around pre-existing creative, which is an extremely efficient option for our high-volume direct mail clients.

What is your vision for the agency?

My vision for Draft New York is the same for the whole company. To be the best in everything we do – for ourselves, our clients and our shareholders. We also embrace a distinct company mission, which is to be our client's competitive advantage by offering insights, process, attitude, and, of course, product.

What are some of your key accounts and key recent campaigns?

Draft works with some of the biggest brands in the industry. Two campaigns we're proud of are ones we've launched for Verizon and for Computer Associates.

Our effort for Verizon's FiOS work is amazing. This new fiber-optic service is being rolled out slowly, town by town, allowing us to take a domination approach to marketing. With the launch last year in Keller, TX, we blanketed the town with everything from coffee cups to Hummers to dry cleaning bags. Our awareness rates were through the roof and we exceeded our goals.

On a global scale, our work for Computer Associates is amazing. We won this account at the end of 2004 from Young & Rubicam and in rapid time created a series of global Draft hubs to service this account.

Our first campaign was a $6 million “brand credibility” and awareness campaign, consisting of both print and online work that broke in nine countries, including the U.S., Canada, the U.K., France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Australia and Brazil.

The work targets C-level executives reading key business publications such as The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, The Times (London), Financial Times, Business Week, Forbes and The Economist.

How does Draft New York compare with Draft Chicago and other Draft offices?

Every office has its strengths. Draft New York has an extremely prolific broadcast production team, which produced over 700 variations on almost 30 spots last year. Our direct mail capabilities are unmatched, even more so now that we have DraftWorks.

The Chicago office leads in promotions and retail. We partner with them at every opportunity to tap into that expertise. Both offices have an exceptionally strong digital offering. Overall, any client working with either office can tap into the resources of both. And of course, we overlap. Chicago's TV campaigns are brand-building efforts, and our retail and promotions work is also extremely strong.

Globally, each office has its own strengths, but all of them make excellent partners for us, especially with global clients like CA. Overall the New York office is the largest with regard to revenue and staff.

What is the state of direct and interactive today?

There's never been a better time to be in this industry. According to Advertising Age, direct revenue reached an all-time high in 2003. Its share of the marketing pie continues to grow at the expense of traditional media.

According to the Direct Marketing Association, direct mail spending increased 6.5 percent in 2003, outpacing newspapers, TV and radio. It also outpaced total advertising spending overall. There was $10 billion spent on Internet advertising in 2004, up 32 percent from 2003.

But it's not about the money being there. It's about the attitude. I mentioned the Ad Age 5 stars? That represents a change in mindset. We're not relegated to the below-the-line category anymore. We're welcomed alongside “traditional” or “general” advertising. In fact, we've really become general advertising.

Where do you want to take Draft New York next?

I am all about growth. My staff knows that as soon as they come to me having reached one milestone, I will look them in the eye and say “What's next?” I always remind them that it's not about never being satisfied. I love what we have achieved. I just know that with the people I have under me, we can do anything.

I want us to grow. I want us to attract even more clients. I want our creative to continue to get better and better. I want it all, and truly believe we can have it all. We just need to keep our focus and discipline and never take a momentary setback as a permanent condition.

Tell us about you personally. How did you come to have the role you have now?

Believe it or not, I started out studying to be a priest, even taking first vows. But the secular world really called to me and instead of taking final vows I entered the marketing world, client side at first, and eventually founded my own agency, Adler Boschetto Peebles. We sold to IPG in 1997. That's how I came to Draft. I first joined Draft as general manager of the New York office and was named president in 2002.

Is marketing as a career as uplifting and challenging as you thought it would be?

More than I thought it would be, and it's because of the people – the ones you hire and work with, the clients you forge relationships with, the creativity you surround yourself with day-to-day. Really, it's inspiring.

I love going to work in the morning. I invite new hires to a joint breakfast once a month and I bound in with all this energy and can't wait to meet everyone from the assistants to the new officers. I don't believe in corporate “rock stars.” I believe in having chart-topping bands. If you hire people who form a cohesive whole and who look out for each other, you reap great success. And I love seeing that happen.

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