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By The Drum, Administrator

December 3, 2003 | 6 min read

Mulvey: Following speculation, Draft's former MD has emerged with his own start-up BOB.

Ward Mulvey enters the reception room with a huge smile, proudly displaying his England rugby shirt. “It’s great, isn’t it,” he says, commenting on the England Rugby World Cup win. “I mean, in some ways I would compare the England Rugby team’s performance to mine over the past few months. It really has been a roller coaster ride.”

Indeed it has. The past two months of Ward Mulvey’s career have been full of speculation and intrigue. First he leaves Draft, with rumours of a start-up on the cards; next the jungle drums are beating out that he is in fact going back to the agency. But Mulvey says that he never really had any intention of going back – although at one stage there had been some negotiations. “Draft had indeed asked me to come back. They made it clear that this could be a key factor in their plans for the Edinburgh office, which led to a brief period of uncertainty in my plans. The people at Draft are some of the best people I have worked with and, despite the inevitable bout of redundancies, there were 25 jobs or so still worth fighting for. I know Andy Smith felt the same way. Unfortunately, as is now public knowledge, IPG did not share that view.”

Mulvey admits that launching his own firm, named BOB, is a big step for him, but having spent the past three years with Draft, following on from time spent at previous incarnations Boroughloch and Clarke Hooper Scotland, he is undoubtedly happy to be getting on with the job at hand.

But speculation still persists that the departure of Gary Smith, followed swiftly by Mulvey’s, was not coincidental and that the two will work together in the future. While Mulvey conveys a never-say-never attitude, he is adamant that this was never the long-term plan. “The timing of events at Draft was entirely coincidental. Gary is his own man and he made up his mind to leave before I did. While I don’t know what will happen in the future, I think that it is safe to say we won’t be working with each other soon. He has a young family, and I think that he wants to spend time with them and have a bit of a break from things, instead of going straight back into work.”

As for working with chairman Andy Smith, Mulvey is more forthcoming, hinting that the two will once again be reunited. “I believe that Andy is on gardening leave from Draft right now. He is one of the cleverest and most astute marketing brains I know and I think that one day soon, after he has fulfilled his contractual commitments, we will work together once again. My only worry is that he’ll get hooked on having so much time for his beloved fishing.”

Mulvey is adamant that some jobs will be saved when Draft succumbs to the inevitable and shuts the Edinburgh office, due to IPG’s decision to pull out of Scotland. The news has meant that Mulvey has forged ahead with plans to launch his new consultancy, BOB, which aims to offer, according to Mulvey, something different from the traditional agency practices.

He comments: “In a tough economic climate and against a backdrop of closures, there were a few raised eyebrows when I decided to start up the new agency. On the contrary, I felt that the time was right.

“There are more opportunities than ever before and, in a climate where every penny in marketing counts, the requirement to deliver expertise and experience at a competitive price is now greater than ever. This is how BOB Marketing Solutions came into being. Quite apart from it being a funny name, BOB meant something – the Best of Both. In a nutshell, the ability to deliver high-calibre planning and creativity at an affordable price.”

For Mulvey, that means a timely Christmas present for both staff and clients. The company, while still in its infancy, will take on staff from Draft within a matter of weeks. Mulvey comments: “I’m delighted to say that, happily, many of Draft’s current staff have expressed a strong interest in joining the new agency. Even more happily, we have some very loyal clients who have made it possible for this to happen.

“I can only say that many of them have already pledged their support to the new agency – hopefully, a testament to the work that the team has delivered to them over the years. Again, it proves the old adage that, in our industry, it’s the people you work with rather than the name above the door that counts for the most.”

Both the closure of KLP and the rumoured imminent closure of Draft have meant that Mulvey has decided to take a different tack when it comes to setting up BOB, offering what he believes is quite a radical change, with a back-to-basics approach. He comments: “BOB is going to deliver on both quality and price. It will have a bedrock of some very talented and creative people. There will be no ‘bag carriers’, and although we will retain a core creative team we will turn the concept of freelance on its head by using the right people – both attitudinally and experience-wise for the right job. This approach will keep us fresh, with some longstanding, existing clients.”

For Mulvey, plans for the future are bright, with the prospect of a hard but, hopefully, fruitful 12 months ahead of him. While he is unwilling to name any of the clients that might follow him to BOB he is adamant that the company will continue to grow and grow. He comments: “I hope that we will grow and expand as and when we are ready to. Hopefully, by the end of next year we will be employing about 20–30 people, taking on people as and when we need them in order to cope with the work that we are doing.

“I am not going to go out and seek lots of new business; instead, we will make sure that the clients that we bring on are happy. The future is bright and I am looking forward to the forthcoming year.” And, while he might not have the powerful forward kick that brought Johnny Wilkinson triumph, it is fair to say that the success of the company should be a safe bet for those who have a bob or two to spend this Christmas.


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