The big red notebook was missing. That was the first thing we noticed — how could we not? — when Draft FCB/Chicago chief creative officer Todd Tilford barreled into the office where we had just settled in to chat with him and DraftFCB co-leader and president Michael Fassnacht.
It took us a second to adjust to that stunning development because the big red book Tilford had in hand during our first meeting last fall was such a prominent detail about the way he presented himself at the time.
So we couldn’t wait to ask him what happened to it? Well, as Tilford quickly told us, he no longer carries the red book around every minute of every day as if it were an extension of his very being. Early on in his tenure at DraftFCB he found the red notebook useful to jot things in as he was getting to know the agency and assessing the situation.
“I used it for my ‘to do’ lists,” explained Tilford. By Monday, when we sat down with Tilford and Fassnacht, the new co-leaders had evidently finished all their to-do lists and were well along in dealing with items on the lists.
What have they accomplished so far?
They were eager to tell me progress had been made on the all-important new business front. Most specifically, two well-known brands have been added to the client roster — Discover Card, for which the agency is charged with developing digital work; and Cox Communications, for which DraftFCB is the new agency of record. Cox is the nation’s third largest cable and broadband company.
Together, said Fassnacht, these two pieces of business have made up for about 50 percent of the huge loss the agency suffered last summer when longtime client S.C. Johnson moved its entire account from DraftFCB and split it up between Energy BBD0/Chicago and Ogilvy.
Massive creative department overhaul
Aside from helping land two nice chunks of new business, Tilford has been busy restructuring the agency’s creative department. Interestingly, he said there has not been a massive overhaul of the department, as we might has suspected.
But Tilford has added at least one new group creative director. He also has brought in three design pros from Wieden & Kennedy/New York to work on various accounts. It should be noted the three staffers have been allowed to remain based in New York, where they like the vibe in their trendy Soho office.
“They are here in our Chicago office at least one week a month,” said Tilford. Apparently that is enough direct face time for now.
And what of the work that has begun to emerge from DraftFCB in this new Tilford era?
We were shown a nice chunk of it Monday — new commercials (some yet to break) for clients ranging from MillerCoors to Cox to KFC and Dow Chemical.
Relationship with MillerCoors is solid
Of course, everyone has been hanging on the gossip about the possibly precarious status of the MillerCoors account at DraftFCB/Chicago. Fassnacht and Tilford brushed aside the gossip Monday and, instead, pointed out they have just broken a new Miller Lite campaign that features the resurrected — and timeless — tagline “It’s Miller Time.”
Both agency leaders insisted this new round of TV commercials is evidence a solid relationship with MillerCoors remains very much intact.
Still … Fassnacht is nothing if not a realist. And he did concede what is happening at agencies around the nation on a daily basis could one day come to pass at DraftFCB — namely the phone could ring, and he or Tilford could get some sudden and devastating news from their high-profile beer client.
But for now Tilford is touting this new “It’s Miller Time.” campaign. We weren’t quite so sold on it as he is, but this may very well be the first truly “bar ready” campaign we can recall.
Tilford explained the new male-oriented commercials are heavy on rock music and light to nonexistent on spoken ad copy to make the spots more effective in pubs where the decibel level often makes it nearly impossible to hear any talking in a commercial.
As the new Miller Lite spots unfold, the viewer does see some nicknames for male characters splashed on the screen in big white letters. “This is part of what makes the work cool,” explained Tilford.
Well, one person’s “cool” may be another’s “I don’t get it.” Even so, we found it telling that “It’s Miller Time” has been brought back into the spotlight — more proof, perhaps, that it’s getting harder for advertising creatives to improve on the great lines of yesteryear.
“Miller has a lot of equity in that line,” noted Tilford. Indeed. Perhaps that’s because it’s a great line.
Second City-improv spots for Atlanta client
Though the work will not air in the Chicago market, new TV spots for Atlanta-based Cox Communications were some of the best new work we saw on the updated agency reel. The Cox spots include fun scenarios, especially one involving a “cherry picker” truck that has some well-turned comedic schtick.
To help conceptualize the new Cox commercials, Tilford reignited an old agency relationship with the local Second City improv troupe. Company members actually sat in on creative meetings and offered up their own ideas. Or helped sharpen suggestions from others.
So the work goes on. Whatever the future holds for DraftFCB, Fassnacht and Tilford right now are trying to make their mark as co-leaders. Some progress has been made. But there’s room for more.
“We’re not satisfied yet,” said Tilford.
Draftfcb credits: Miller Lite “Girlfriend” and “Roadie.” CCO, Todd Tilford; EVP/CD, Chuck Rudnick; SVP/CD, Doug Behm; SVP/CD, Pat Durkin, senior producer: Kelly Durham;
SVP/group management director, Sean McGrath; VP, account director: Michael Beaudoin.
Click here to see the new Miller Lite spots.
Contact Lewis Lazare at LewisL3@aol.com.