Draft began as a direct marketing agency called Kobs & Brady in 1978. Howard Draft was an account executive at the agency. In 1986, Kobs & Brady was acquired by Ted Bates Worldwide. The agency was renamed Kobs & Draft when Draft became its Chairman and CEO in 1988. In 1995, the agency regained its independence in a management buyout and was renamed Draft Direct Worldwide. A year later, Draft Direct Worldwide was purchased by The Interpublic Group of Companies.
The two agencies were merged in June 2006, becoming Draftfcb. Draftfcb is currently the largest advertising agency in Chicago, with over 1,100 employees split between two Chicago campuses. The agency’s global corporate leadership team includes Howard Draft, chairman and CEO; Laurence Boschetto, president and COO; Jonathan Harries, worldwide chief creative officer; and Neil Miller, CFO.
In October 2006, just months after the announcement of the merger, Draftfcb was awarded creative advertising duties for Wal-Mart, estimated to be worth $580 million per year in billings. Draftfcb later lost the Wal-Mart account, following an investigation involving the Wal-Mart executive who led the account review. Foote, Cone was Advertising Age's Agency of the Year in 1986 and 1988. The publication had planned to name Draftfcb its Agency of the Year for 2006, but reconsidered after the agency lost the Wal-Mart account.
However, despite losing the Wal-Mart account, Kmart switched its $740 million account from Grey New York to Draftfcb in Chicago without a pitch in April 2007. Kmart's chief marketing officer, Bill Stewart said: "Grey has been a good partner over the years, but we feel Draftfcb is uniquely qualified to assist our needs right now." Howard Draft, Draftfcb's chairman, commented: "Our two organizations have a shared commitment to accountability and loyalty."
The agency has built a reputation for polarizing work; in 2006, they published a trade advertisement with the tagline "It's good to be on top", prominently featuring an image of a male and female lion apparently engaged in sexual intercourse - one of the factors reported for the Wal-Mart/Draft split. Similarly, an advertisement from the agency's South Africa offices using a photograph of the attacks of 9/11 to promote a radio station threatens to generate comparable levels of controversy.
The company has also acquired a $103 million account by Kraft Foods. In a major blow to JWT, Kraft's former ad agency, the company has put six brands into review and has assigned the $42 million Lunchables account to Draftfcb.
In April 2008, the Business Ledger named the agency’s Chicago office one of the Top 10 large companies to work in the state of Illinois—one of three such honors for the Chicago office in less than a year. In March 2008, the agency was named one of the best places to work in Chicago by Crain’s Chicago Business, and in August 2007, the National Association of Business Resources named Draftfcb one of the “101 Best and Brightest Places to Work in the Chicagoland-area” for the second consecutive year.
Other awards have included Agency of the Year honors for Draftfcb's New Zealand, Indonesia and Durban offices.