DM Visionary Assesses
April 1, 2005
BY MICHAEL KRAUSS
it was the music from The Motorcycle Diaries that got
me thinking about Howard Draft. A song from that movie, “Al
Otro Lado Del Rio” by Jorge Drexler, won an Oscar. Listening
to it I started recalling serial revolutionaries in the worlds
of politics and marketing. I kept thinking about the translation
of the song’s title: “At the other side of the river.”
Early in his career, Draft crossed over to the other side of the
marketing river. While others sought the comforts of a career
in general advertising, Draft headed for the new frontier of direct
marketing. Along the journey, he conquered direct marketing and
Draft is an entrepreneurial capitalist who studied philosophy
at Ripon College in Ripon, Wis. I don’t know if Draft can
ride a motorcycle, but I do know this--at 51, Howard Draft has
lived through multiple technology marketing revolutions and prospered.
Draft started in direct marketing in 1977 when it was considered
a backwater. He esteemed pioneering direct marketers like Lester
Wunderman and Bob Stone and cast his lot among them.
were the first to go from the old ‘down and dirty’
direct marketing to consulting for Fortune 500 companies on how
to use direct marketing,” Draft says. He began as an account
executive making $12,000 a year at Stone & Adler. For a $2,000
raise, he joined a fledgling direct marketing agency called Kobs
& Brady. Soon it became Kobs & Draft and then simply Draft.
growing the agency, he sold it to New York-based Interpublic Group
of Cos. Inc. in 1996. Today Draft serves as CEO of the global
agency he built.
“I was lucky to work for Bob Stone for a year. I probably
learned more in a year working for Jim Kobs and Bob Stone than
I learned at any time in my life,” Draft says.
“I couldn’t get a job in a general agency,”
he adds and subsequently received numerous offers to run general
advertising agencies. He’s turned them all down.
His exploits as a direct marketing pioneer and his agency’s
work for such tech clients as Verizon, HP and Computer Associates
make Draft an important spokesperson on the future of technology’s
impact on marketing.
“If you think about how Michael Dell started his business,”
Draft says, “he started doing direct response print ads
for computers. He built a brand using direct marketing.”
point: Media rates for splashy prime time 30-second commercials
have skyrocketed. They don’t necessarily sell all that well.
In the last 15 years there’s been a paradigm shift. You
can build a brand using direct marketing. You can build a brand
and boost revenue and profits. Tie in the Internet and
the solution is even more potent and effective.
“Look at Verizon,” Draft says. “Five years ago
Verizon didn’t exist as a brand. Eighty commercials are
produced a year by Draft. The general agency produces two or three
annually. The brand was built off of 60-second direct TV spots
and newspaper ads that had a call to action … direct mail
… Internet advertising.”
was smart enough to realize the power of what we do is build a
brand and generate sales at the same time,” Draft adds.
His career spans a unique period of time in modern marketing from
the era when television advertising was supreme to the rise of
direct marketing to the dawn of the digital age. Today, some young
novices might think marketing is entirely about selecting Google
ad words. Their parents thought it was all about 30-second “slice
of life” television ads.
are wrong. Draft is pulling it all together.
you use television, you use mail, you use print; your goal is
to drive the consumer to the Web site,” he says. “If
you drive the consumer to the Web site, you are building an even
stronger relationship with that customer.”
believes most forms of advertising are suspect in the consumer’s
mind. He feels company Web sites have more persuasive power. “When
a consumer goes to his computer and gets online and is reading
stuff about the corporation, I think psychologically they are
more likely to believe it is the honest truth,” Draft says.
my next revolution,” he goes on, “To understand the
psychological difference of a consumer that has been driven to
a Web site and how much more loyal they can be with a product.”
You can see Draft building quantitative revenue models in his
mind factoring in the impact of increased loyalty rates for consumer
impressions gained at Web sites.
Draft sees the power of the Google revolution. “I think
it’s brilliant. You know key words are critical,”
Draft says. Even with search advertising, Draft sees the power
of the marketing mix as crucial.
“Being able to get keywords that drive people back to a
Web site is a lot of the future of this industry,” Draft
says. “How do you get far enough up on the decision so that
your company shows up? You are still going to have to use other
media to build the brand so the customer can find you.”
What does this revolutionary see happening next?
“There is going to be some intersection between digital
television and the digital media itself. I think segmentation
will continue to become much more effective. There will be more
ability to segment more quickly, less expensively. There’s
going to be some mix between streaming digital media and television,”
Where would Draft go if he were just getting started today? Instead
of crossing a river, he’d cross the ocean: “If I were
22 today, I would work for a communications company in China.
I would spend a couple years doing that and I would start my own
business in China.”
likes to quote an old adage, “Be in businesses where the
wind is at your back. When you are in a business where the wind
is at your back, even the average succeed,” he says.
I guess having the wind at your back doesn’t hurt when you’re
crossing to the other side of the digital river.
Krauss is a partner with Marion Consulting Partners based in Highland
Park, Ill., and can be reached at Michael.Krauss@Marionpartners.com