Debra Coughlin, Executive Vice President and Global CMO, DraftFCB is an award-winning brand marketer whose career is a series of successes on both the agency and client sides. At DraftFCB, Coughlin aligns offerings in the network’s top markets worldwide to ensure seamless integration. As the agency’s CMO, she leads the agency’s Global Capabilities team as well as the development, evolution and promotion of new and existing Draftfcb proprietary tools and intellectual property. She also seeds further awareness of the agency’s 6.5 Seconds That Matter operating system.
In a conversation with exchange4media, Coughlin speaks on the importance of agencies to have their own brand architecture and what agencies can learn from platforms like Cannes Lions.
Do you think agencies today are doing enough to build their own brands?
I don’t think so. Agencies are great in telling clients how to build their brands but they let other people almost take control of their brand. We tend to be known by the work we do, which is a good thing but there are many dimensions in an agency. So unless you don’t manage where you want your agency brand to go, it could go askew. Most agencies, when they acquire a company for instance, they don’t necessarily have a brand architecture like we would tell our clients to do. As a whole, the industry is not great in building their own brands besides the work they do.
But agencies argue that that is their way of brand building, which is let your work do the talking. Is that a mindset problem?
I would think it is. Many agencies feel that they don’t have to pay attention to how their brand is portrayed out there and the work does the talking. While that is true but you still have to manage your brand otherwise you can have a fragmented brand that can look different. When I came in as the CMO for DraftFCB, part of the mandate that Laurence (Boschetto, CEO, DraftFCB) had for me was to see how DraftFCB was managing its brand the way it should. In the last year, we did a brand architecture that is going to launch soon.
Would you like to take us through some of the work you have done?
We looked at all elements of the brand to say does it all work together. I don’t want to handle all elements of its creativity but I want to push its consistency across everywhere DraftFCB is present and seen in.
Is it realistic for the agency to have the same brand image across markets?
I think so. I sit on the operating council of the agency and I bring any initiative of this level to the notice of peers, we talk about it and we gain consensus over it. It doesn’t happen overnight and you have to put down ways to get there. But it is realistic, as long as you know it is a process of evolution than something that will just happen.
In India DraftFCB Ulka crossed a 50-year milestone last year and that is a certain legacy to talk off in a market like India – how does something like that allow DraftFCB to benefit in other markets?
There was indeed a lot of thought leadership that came from that and we shared it across markets. We are a very networked agency and we share intellectual properties and best practices. In fact, things that came from the 50th was shared across the Network. We just did our APAC regional meeting in Mumbai. We said why don’t we take all our regional heads to India and we can also get a better and closer sense of what is happening in the market there. During that three-day session, the Ulka leaders were there and talking about building brand wealth and what other markets could pick from that. India is such a successful agency, so we look at it as leader for us to share best practices. India is on most of the leadership councils that we have in our global capabilities group that represents key disciplines that makes the agency what it is.