David Droga. An advertising man interview

David Droga is the first ever Worldwide Creative Director for Publicis
Worldwide. Droga, who has had an exceptional international career, has
won more awards than any other creative director including 42 Cannes
Lions, 23 One Show Pencils and seven D&ADs. In addition, he was named
“World’s Top Creative Director” by Ad Age in 2002 and named one of the
most influential people in Europe under the age of 40 by Media
Magazine in 2001. Under his leadership as executive creative director
at Saatchi & Saatchi London, that agency was named “Global Agency of
the Year” at the Cannes International Advertising Festival 2002.
Droga, 37, is currently creating a joint venture with Publicis Groupe
called Drogafive. The “brand ideas and entertainment laboratory” will
open this year in New York and Los Angeles .

And next, i found an interview with Droga by Ihaveanidea. com in April
2005. I hope Droga could inspire you as he inspire me…
Enjoy!

1. How the hell did you become a creative director at 21?

Luck.
Circumstances.
I think ignorance and naivety go a long way. I had no idea about the
industry, the structure of the industry, the timeline of what you
should be doing, what titles meant or anything like that.
I was quite wide-eyed when I entered the industry. I was 18, and I had
just finished an advertising school in Australia , which was sort of
the main ad school in Australia and which is run by the ad industry. I
was lucky to be a top student, so I got a job right away in some big
boring multinational.
After only a few months in that boring big multinational I knew what I
clearly didn’t want to do. And by chance there was some big creative
in Australia who was setting up an agency and he asked if I wanted to
join, and I did, so I was the first employee. Essentially there were 4
people in this agency. They didn’t even have a desk or anything like
that, and again they were relatively young as well, 27, 28. So none of
us had any agenda or cared too much about money.
It had to do with the right timing. How ideas just seemed to resonate
with anybody. Suddenly it became the ‘it’ agency in Australia , and
this was sort of the late 80’s. It sort of boomed.
I grew up with the agency very quickly. Suddenly we went from a four
man shop to a fifty man shop. One of the partners decided to leave
advertising. When he left, I was almost writing everything so they
asked me if I wanted to be the creative director and they offered me a
partnership in the agency. So by the will of the agency I found myself
at 21 being the creative director. I didn’t know what I inherited, I
just thought, wow, that’s an interesting title. We were quite removed
from the industry then, we were sort of the whipper snapper. But our
work was not only the most awarded, it was also the most talked about.
So that’s how I became a creative director.

2. Did you mess up a lot? Because from the sounds of it, you smoothly
went into fame. Those three years from 18 to 21, when one is most
scared and insecure, must have been filled with messups right?

I never thought I was more talented than anyone else, but I made a
conscious decision to work harder than anyone else.. I decided to do
whatever it took to get the best ideas out. I slept in the agency two
nights a week. My social life was rubbish.

3. How is it now?

It’s a different type of rubbish.
This industry isn’t ruled by timelines. It’s not like law firms when
you know you have to put 10 years here, 15 years there. You are only
as good as everyone says. You all stare at the same white page. From
the biggest to the smallest names in the industry. I decided to work
as hard as I could to leapfrog past the bullshit and awkwardness of
some of the stuff we do in our industry. I wasn’t at all preoccupied
by money. At that time I was very successful in Australia and I had
lots of offers to go to other places for muuuch much more money, but I
knew that if I did that it would go in a different avenue that I
didn’t want to go.
So I just said, do the work, do the work. And I was learning all the
way along. That ignorance and naivety probably allowed me to present
and say things in meetings that other people would have been too
sensible to do.
I stayed there for a while, but it got to a point where we were taking
ourselves too seriously, and of course the partners were now married
with kids and they were now sitting down to think about their
mortgages and stuff, which is o.k. since it’s part of life, but I was
still a young, angry, restless guy. I didn’t like the idea of having
responsibilities and when I felt the agency was going mainstream I
decided to leave. BBDO bought the agency, I gave up my share and got
out.
4. Then you joined Saatchi right?

Yeah, in Asia .
I wasn’t tied and Asia is an exciting place. The likes of the Neil
Frenches had put a spotlight on that.

5. Was Neil a big mentor for you?

Yes and no. I have a huge respect for Neil, but I have never worked
with him. He proved geography didn’t matter. You could take a country
like Singapore and create waves globally.
This was a very interesting thing for me since it wasn’t about money
or population, it was about ideas. I was there for two and a half
years, and that was like five or six years anywhere else. It’s a
workload that is very rapid and very global. My creative department
was like the U.N. Everyone was aware of everything around the world.
That was very good for me because I was out of my comfort zone. I like
leaving that comfort zone and building a creative culture. From a
great creative culture comes great work.

6. So tell me, we all know about Saatchi’s culture, its origins and
history. But what about Publicis? What does it stand for?

Clearly you gotta look at the beginnings of it. It’s very European. It
started in this very small and iconic shop in France . It had a lot of
business success. It bought out all the major players and suddenly it
also realized it had to stamp out its creative authority. They are
very honest about what they had and what they are lacking.
To me, one of the reasons why I took the job, (while everyone tells me
‘you are crazy’, which actually makes me want to do it even more), is
that the natural thing for me, after Saatchi was to do a start-up. And
that’s exciting on one level. But taking a huge operation and make it
feel like a startup is a great challenge. Fundamentally an agency, no
matter how big, is really a collection of people. You have 20 right
people in the network and you can change it. It’s about picking the
right people in the structure and having an honest mandate from the
top. Instead of starting from scratch.

7. You’ve been a CD for a long time. Has the actual function and role of
a creative director changed over the past years?

I think so, well what’s interesting for me from being a writer to a
creative director was that I am the most selfish person in the world.
I couldn’t work with an art director, I had to do the idea myself. I
was very closed about that. The surprise was, when I became a creative
director, was that I got off just as much, if not more, from my
creatives having great ideas. I could feel my personality in their
ads, but I didn’t have to write it for them.
Gone are the days when the CD was this intimidating force at the end
of the room with a closed door that says yes or no. It’s as much as
setting a benchmark of what work is good enough and setting a mandate
for the agency. It’s about the spirit of the place. I also think a lot
of CD’s are torn between the ‘I want to be a creative director’ and
the “but I also want to do a lot of the glory pieces myself.” It’s
crazy. I knew when I lived in Singapore and London that the more
successful people there were in my department, as opposed to one or
two start teams, the better. If everyone is getting better, it will
reflect on you. I wasn’t worried thinking my name has to be in what
this or that writer is doing.
For me, the best CD’s are the ones who don’t hijack a creative
department and let it be just that, a ‘creative department’.
So you are in the hall of fame. What happens when they put you in the
hall of fame. Do you have to embed your hands on a star in the floor
or something?
It’s another burden. It’s wonderful to get recognition for things. I
get nervous every time there’s too many accolades. I am very
appreciate of getting respect and recognition. But at the same time, I
also beat myself up over it. When I went to Singapore my mission was
simple, to piss off Saatchi London. Which we did, so they hired me to
run Saatchi London.
When I went into London , what happened, which was very interesting,
was that I was one of the first foreign creative directors. The
reception I got was a very cynical cold one.
Who the hell is this 29 year old Australian from Singapore .
What the fuck is he doing coming into our market.
So that made me think, “O.K. Put your head down and do the job. Prove
that a foreigner can do the job.”
Now coming to my new job, which is a global job, the same thing
happens. The American press has been very very good in welcoming me
with open arms. Which is almost the opposite, which of course, creates
exactly the same result, since there has been so much goodwill and
faith that ‘oh no’ I know have to deliver the results as well.

8. How come you are part of the VCU Adcenter board?

I am a product of an advertising school myself. So I really like them.
I think there are way too many ad schools and way too many award
shows, so when the right one comes along, that has integrity and has a
mission that’s more than pumping students out, it really intrigues me.
I have a lot of respect for Rick Boyko. He didn’t need to do this,
he’s really trying to build something substantial. I want to be part
of that.
There’s some selfish reasons cause I want to be in the loop of where
the best young talent is coming in. There’s also something incredibly
refreshing about trying to be involved with the people coming in. You
cannot have a mountain peak without the base of the mountain.
I am trying to take the industry somewhere good, but there’s people
who’s name I don’t even know who will take their turn in redefining
the industry.

9. So what’s the story with Australia . I always think of them as the ones
who do the edgy crazy stuff. I have however read that you side with
the fact that Australians produce great work, but Australia not so
much.

I am probably one of the proudest Australians you’ll meet but I am
also very Australian because I say what I think. We have some great
people, but it’s wrestling with an attitude about (a) it’s not too
interested that much in what’s happening elsewhere (b) Australia is a
very relaxed country.
Why does London produce the best bands in the world and all time?
It’s raining all day and people go to their basements to produce
beautiful music.
Given the choice, in Australia between sitting by the harbour and
having a three hour lunch and spending your weekend working at the
office, what are you going to do?
Who’s the schmuck? No one. It’s a choice you make.

10. How about India ? They are making headlines, and an Indian is the chief
judge at Cannes this year.

India is open minded and cosmopolitan. I think they are looking at the
rest of the world thinking “hey I can do that”. I have a worldwide
creative board and one of the stars in the board is the woman running
our India office. They are such a genuine energy. There is creative
hunger, but it doesn’t have the cynicism of the other markets.

11. It doesn’t seem like they are following anyone.

They have a very unique culture to tap into. There are certain things
you must do compete in global shows and I am sure they fall into some
formulas but its culture is so rich and diverse that there’s a lot of
great stuff nonetheless.
I am very lucky to have been given the opportunity to experience
different markets. There are more similarities than there are
differences. We’re all basic humans moved by the same things.

12. You have won everything there is to be won, so tell me. Is there an
ideal time frame from brief to final delivery that a gold,
award-winning ad needs to be in. Could it be possible that if your
idea is taking too x time too long to produce it will start to get
mushy and grey?

Not really. If you spend too much time you over think it. But I don’t
think there is a benchmark of time.

13. What about that Monster.com stuff you made, or the Army ads you made?
Some of the edgiest stuff I’ve been involved with was the easiest
thing I ever solved. It’s the ones that are built upon bullshit or
generic stuff that is hard. If you can have a rational and honest
conversation with the clients about the product, then the execution is
the easiest part.I have found that the ideas that I’ve loved the most have been the
easiest to sell.

14. You talk a lot about honest advertising and having brands that have a
point of view. But that seems to be something that the Chief Creative
Officer will deal with, not us the creatives.
That’s what the CD is there for. They have to go beyond ‘that’s a
funny spot’. I’ve blown down so many ideas that I know are funny, but
which I know are disposable.
The conversations I always have with the creative teams are ‘what does
the brand stand for?’, ‘what is its point of view?’ There’s nothing
more moving than reality, but reality doesn’t mean slice of life.
I always make my creatives present thoughts, not scripts. They present
conversation starters. We don’t ‘open on’ anything. Don’t waste your
time crafting something that won’t go anywhere. Let’s first talk about
direction.
It’s weird cause it’s sounding I have this massive wisdom, but I
don’t. I don’t have formulas or anything.

15.How do you keep up? What fuels you these days?
I believe in what I do. What inspires is playing with emotions. I am
the youngest of 5 boys so I am massively competitive. Maybe that’s my
fuel.

16.So how do you offset it?
I am into Yoga now

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