Nine insights into Draw's captain, Fred Brown


Draw is the perfect example of the saying ‘the whole is greater than the sum of its parts’. Sure we consider ourselves a group of talented individuals but it’s the way we interact with each other that is key to our success.

At Draw we are very proud of our team, and with so much knowledge and experience among us, it makes sense to share some of this with you all and hopefully shed some light on the many ‘parts’ that makes us so proud.

What follows is the first of a series of interviews where we hope to give you a better understanding of who we are and why we love and truly enjoy doing what we do.

The first interview has to be with the captain of our ship, Fred Brown, Draw’s Managing Director. Fred founded the agency in 2003 and in addition to setting and envisaging the direction of the company, he also leads our work with key customers while providing strategic advice.

Now sit back and enjoy!


1. Why did you start Draw?

I was lucky enough to be Managing Director of an agency in New York at the age of 28; after that you are virtually unemployable by anyone except yourself. Actually, the truth is Simon Gifford and I started one of the strands that make up Draw thanks to the generosity of Ian Dryburgh (CEO of transport design firm Acumen). Ian encouraged us to build an agency of our own around one of his clients - quite remarkable. But do ask Rob (Draw's Creative Director) why he started Clicked Creative and Steve (Draw's Commercial Director) why he started Flint; their DNA is in Draw and I would like to know!


2. We know you like your cars... If Draw was a car, which one would it be and why?

Excellent question. Draw would be a Land Rover Discovery, because it is adept at handling whatever life throws at it. Also handsome without being flashy.


"...[cars] are like the modern cathedral; a great example of what mankind can create."


3. In a parallel universe, what would you be doing if it wasn't digital marketing?

My father was a doctor but strangely that never appealed. In my dreams a racing car driver or movie star, pilot or inventor. Apple and Dyson are both inspirational. In reality probably an accountant. Actually scratch that - not much would give me more pleasure than designing or selling cars. I remember cleaning them as a kid at the car lot at the end of the road to earn some pocket money. I would pretend I needed the keys to clean the insides and then just sit in the driver’s seat imagining what it would be like to own one. I still get a buzz from cars today - they are like the modern cathedral; a great example of what mankind can create.


"...I have learned about the importance of talent in the business."


4. Can you name a person who has had a significant impact on you as a leader? Maybe someone who has been a mentor to you? Why and how has this person impacted your life?

Actually there are a number of people. Otto Stevens, at the time CFO of ad agency Iris, who made the mistake of sitting next to me at dinner one evening and asking me what I did. By midnight he was our Chairman. From Otto I learned a lot about how to run a business, to think about the future as well as the present and to take better decisions. It is very easy for leaders to feel like they are letting everyone else down (not a good enough solution for a client, not enough sexy brands in the portfolio, not enough salary for an important team member, not enough desk space) but Otto makes people feel good about the businesses they run, and for that alone I am grateful.

From Rob Robinson, Kent Valentine and my wife Helen I have learned about the importance of talent in the business, and from Steve Blackman I have come to understand what genuine courage is. David Malcolm is loyal to the core and that is rarer than it should be.

Calmness under pressure is a quality I really admire - Ian Dryburgh (CEO of Acumen and my second boss) and Nick Elsom (MD of our Connect business) both embody that and I emulate them poorly.

Brian Smith, my first boss and Design Director of PDD and Marcus Willox (CEO of WARL) leave me in no doubt that hard work (usually commenced before the sun has risen), good ideas and integrity are necessary for success. The first anyone can do but not many people have the others.

Aaron Gilboe (formerly of this parish and now at Tesco) always tackles tricky things immediately and admits his mistakes; for those any many other reasons he is someone I greatly respect.

The person who probably brought out the best in me was Gary Lockton, one of the Deepend founders who simply instructed my friend Nuri Djavit (from whom I learnt the importance of a great business partner) and me to get on a plane to New York with a promise to fly us home on Concorde if we made the office a success. Clever chap!

Finally my mother, to whom it didn’t occur that I wouldn’t be successful - so it never really occurred to me either - and from whom I came to believe that the good guys win in the end.


"...and as the years go by the people we work with matter more than the brands they work for."


5. If you could choose an organisation for Draw to work with, which one would it be and why?

As a client, you mean? Actually, I would pick one that is not competitive now, and help it to become best in class. Argos is a pretty good example of that - they have reinvented themselves to tremendous effect. Gilding the lily doesn’t interest me much, and as the years go by the people we work with matter more than the brands they work for.


6. What is it what you enjoyed most about your job?

Seeing other people, our clients and the agency succeed.


7. Who would play you in the film of your life?

Colin Firth, Tom Cruise, Daniel Craig. These are just some of the actors who are too handsome to play me. Ant or Dec probably!


8. What do you think is the future of digital?

I saw an interview with Martin Sorrell recently where he was asked what was going to happen in the next five years. He replied that he didn’t know what was going to happen in the next five minutes. Bravo! How can anyone know! And if we did we would know which start-ups to invest in and take public. What matters most is having the right tool kit for the journey.


9. What is your bucket list?

I don’t have one. But I really believe in doing things sooner rather than later in life - not so much because I am afraid of dying soon, but because I can sense energy levels reduce with age. Long haul travel - impossibly exotic when you are younger and a great badge to have on your cub scout sleeve - becomes far less appealing. I am so fortunate to have travelled a lot, to have in Helen the most wonderful companion, to work with a great team and to be surrounded by incredible friends who enrich my life, tolerate my cooking and make me laugh. My bucket is completely full.



And there we have a glimpse into the life of our Managing Director and a great start to this series of interviews. Fred offers us an insight into how Draw began, the importance of talent and people beyond the brand and a vitally important lesson about the road to success being one of courage, integrity and above all, the importance of remaining calm under whatever pressures the world may throw at you.

And the golden nugget of the interview?...If you're more Ant and Dec than Colin Firth, all you need is a Land Rover Discovery and you'll be just fine!








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