Magazine article Marketing

Hard to Be Humbled

Magazine article Marketing

Hard to Be Humbled

Article excerpt

You can tell a lot about a man by the company he keeps. What you can tell about Derek Draper is that he has changed.

The former lobbyist and New Labour spin doctor is seven days into his new existence as a partner in Farm, the brand communications company he has set up with two ex-Partners BDDH directors, Robert Smith and Paul Jeffrey.

When I arrive, he is squabbling with his new associates about the merits of ballet over football, and champagne over lager. The trappings of the New Labour glitterati may be hard to shake off, but his playful goading is very different from the Draper I remember; when I last encountered him 11 years ago, from the opposite side of a Manchester University Labour Club meeting, he was a cocksure, politically pugnacious youth in the formative stages of a rollercoaster career.

That career now appears to be on the up again, having troughed last year with his resignation from GPC Market Access, the lobbying firm at which he was alleged to have made improper boasts about his access to the government inner circle.

The day I meet him is Draper's 32nd birthday, and as he pads about Farm's central London offices in shorts and a floppy shirt, he is relaxed yet at enormous pains to point out that this is a start as fresh as the paint on the walls. The guests that turn up in a few hours will be friends and a few colleagues; two years ago they would have been the hand-picked selection of a consummate networker.

The work that Draper hopes will come through the door soon after will be equally far removed from the "endless whirl of self-regarding and pompous activity" that dumped him into two bouts of depression.

"I took the decision to change my life," he says. "I'm anxious not to come across as someone who knows loads about the advertising business. The Draper image is big-headed and boastful, and I'm trying to point out that's not the case."

Instead, he puts himself firmly in the role of 'advertising trainee' and pushes the professionalism and experience of his fellow partners at every turn. Jeffrey, formerly strategic planning director at Partners BDDH, and Smith,its former new business director, have worked with clients including Microsoft, British Gas, Harley-Davidson and IKEA.

Their notion is that Farm will be a projectonly branding community, working with clients' positioning and then managing media-neutral executions by drawing on freelance creative resources as and when they are required.

Draper goes unusually quiet when his partners start using such vernacular, but perks up like an A-grade schoolboy when Jeffrey applauds his definition of strategic planning - the role he aspires to - as "finding out everything there is to know about a brand and its markets, and trying to come up with the essential message that the brand should be putting across". …

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