What’s the question you wish people would ask you more often?
Why aren’t more clients demanding better work? That’s one. A lot of [chief marketing officers] are in a transient job – they’re only doing it for 18 months so their biggest objective is just not to screw it up as opposed to trying to be distinctive. … I always find it really fascinating, where a category can go along unnoticed and looky-likey all the same, and then one brand in a category has the courage to step out and do something that elevates it above everyone else, and then suddenly everyone follows suit. So car insurance will be boring and terrible and someone does something interesting and everyone thinks they have to do a gecko, like what’s their thing? There’s always one leader and so many followers. In every category. It’s amazing. It always pays dividends for the first to do it, but very few want to be the first. It’s crazy. I always find that a shame.
This interview has been condensed and edited
Droga’s career highlights
1992: At age 22, becomes partner and creative director of OMON Sydney.
1997: Named executive creative director at Saatchi & Saatchi Singapore at age 27. The following year, the shop is named Advertising Age’s Agency of the Year. 1998
1999: Becomes Saatchi & Saatchi’s executive creative director based in London and in 2002 the firm is named the Cannes Global Agency of the Year.
2003-2006: Worldwide Creative Director at Publicis.
2006: Founded Droga5 in New York. Droga5 is named to Advertising Age ‘s agency A-List in 2010, 2011 and 2012; Adweek agency of the year in 2012; Creativity Magazine’s agency of the year in 2007 and 2011; and is on Fast Company’s list of the “world’s most innovative companies” for 2013.
Among his awards: 2012 Art Directors Club Hall of Fame 2005 American Advertising Federation Hall of Achievement
David Droga’s work is awarded both at industry shows and by the clients who he says pay a premium for his agency’s services. Here are some campaigns that stand out (see links to the video above):
A classic campaign from Droga’s time at Saatchi & Saatchi in London, that played on a very relatable insight: that people can’t always trust themselves when they are trying to make big career moves. The “beware the voices” campaign used dark humour about people making bad decisions and encouraged them instead to seek out some solid career advice.
Droga5 has done a lot of good work for Puma, and some – like this one from 2011 – show off the artistry and craft that can go into an ad. The strategy was to market the brand to “after hours athletes.”
Why take out an ad when a news hoax will get your message out online, on television, and all over – for free? That’s what Droga5 proved in 2006 when it mocked up a plane to look just like Air Force One and made a video that looked like security footage capturing graffiti artists painting the words “still free” on President Bush’s ride. It was the perfect fit for the brand created by designer and graffiti artist Marc Ecko. The story racked up more than 100 television news appearances, coverage from 17,000 news outlets, and 23-million visitors to stillfree.com in its first two weeks alone.
Insurance and financial services advertising, in Droga’s eyes, was “patronizing.” Retirement planning ads either fooled consumers into thinking they could retire like kings in tropical climes, or used fear-mongering to make them worry about not having enough money for old age. In 2012, Droga5 decided instead to tell real people’s stories on “day one” of retirement. The agency received more than 5,000 photographs from people cataloging that day, and went on to make touching, intimate short films about how they were facing this new stage of life.
More than a billion people in the world don’t have access to clean, safe drinking water. So the Tap Project sought to actually brand something that nobody owns: tap water. It enlisted restaurants in New York City to invite customers to pay a dollar for the tap water that is normally free, all going to UNICEF. The project attracted media coverage on World Water Day, and raised about $100,000 from restaurant diners. Following the first campaign in New York, it spread around the world. UNICEF said this was its most successful campaign in 56 years.