Become a Member
Proudly Sponsored By
articles / advertising know-how and fearless opinions
IHAVEANIDEA.ORG > articles > Slideshow « Agency Profile: Droga5

Agency Profile: Droga5

Posted on June 15, 2007 and read 10,537 times

Agency Profile: Droga5 thumbnail

The SoHo district of lower Manhattan is a neighborhood of contrasts. In the north end of SoHo, you’ll find a number of high-end restaurants, galleries and storefronts for posh brands such as Prada, Coach and Dolce & Gabbana. Head south towards Canal St. and you’ll see a little more grit and grime, as well as a sea of shifty looking street vendors openly hawking everything from bootlegged movies, fake Rolexes of varying degrees of quality, and cheap knockoffs of the aforementioned brands. So where do you think one of the hottest little ad agencies in the world – the one started by one of the most awarded creative directors in the world – sets up shop? If you said trendy north SoHo, you’re wrong. But if you said the hustle and bustle of south SoHo is the place to find Droga5 congratulations, you’ve earned yourself an almost genuine Gucci bag.

Droga5, the brainchild of former Publicis Worldwide Creative Director David Droga, began making a name for itself almost immediately after opening in a spacious yet non-flashy office near Broadway and Howard St. the spring of 2006. In no time at all, Droga5 had won the Interactive Grand Prix at that year’s Cannes Lions Festival. The “Still Free” viral, which depicted designer Marc Ecko seemingly tagging Air Force One, was very different from what many ad people expected in online brand communications.

But doing something different seems to have been Droga5’s mission from even before Day One. When it came to staffing his agency, David took an approach very unique in the advertising industry. “With Droga5, I’ve brought together an eclectic bunch of people who I feel are smart and relevant to each other,” he replies. “I want to bring them together to change the industry. We’re not chasing the newest technology, we just want to prove that advertising people – or rather IDEAS people – can actually have massive influence and create things that aren’t disposable. Even my favorite things that I’ve been associated with throughout my career, I mean I’m proud of them, but so much of it is disposable. It disappears and is forgotten after the media buy runs out.”

To this end, David looked beyond the world of advertising when putting together Droga5’s senior management. “I’m not trying to change the advertising industry by surrounding myself with the same type of unchanging advertising people,” he explains. “Duncan Marshall and Ted Royer, our executive creative directors, are probably the only senior people here with a traditional advertising background. Our CEO, Andrew Essex, was the founder and editor-in-chief of Absolute, editor-in-chief of Details, and senior editor of The New Yorker and other well-known publications. Devrin Carlson-Smith, our executive VP of digital media, used to be the head of media and entertainment for Microsoft. Kim Howitt, our head of programming, was once one of the heads of programming and content for Viacom, and helped build Nickelodeon and Noggin. So we’ve brought in these fucking FANTASTIC people, and it’s an interesting forum, because none of them are seduced by advertising. They can all call bullshit on advertising. So now I find myself sitting in a room of very smart people who have a different way of looking at things, and I never had that at a regular agency because it’s all advertising people.”

The staff is as eclectic as the management, and includes a team that has both a Titanium Lion and a Grand Prix from Cannes under their belts (both for ‘non-traditional’ work) and a team of sitcom writers from NBC. “But we’re not just picking different and wacky people just for the hell of it,” says David. “There is a purpose to our hires. So much of our focus is creating different properties, and we need people that can do that.”

One species of ad person that you won’t find at Droga5 is account staff. Instead, the agency’s producers oversee the duties normally belonging to ‘suits’. “Producers make things happen,” explains Ted Royer. “Don’t get me wrong, I’ve known some great account people over the years. But through our experience, producers are excellent at getting things done, and if something can’t be done a certain way, they have no problems with informing the client without dancing around the point.” David nods his head in agreement, but is quick to add that nothing is etched in stone. “This arrangement works nicely for us now, but I’d be a fool to announce ‘no account people here ever.’ If we need to bring in account people, we will just make sure we bring in the absolute best account people possible.”

So what goes on inside a fairly small agency (Droga5 has less than forty people) that is more focused on ideas rather than ads? Not surprisingly, a lot more than traditional advertising. “We’re experimenting here, which is the luxury of being relatively new,” says David. “One of our clients, we’re developing a television series for them, an animated cooking show for children to encourage healthy eating For another client, we’re helping to design and build a twenty-storey water purification plant in Beijing.”

Whoa, whoa, whoa, ad guys becoming architects now? “We’ve told our clients ‘don’t do advertising, create something impactful that will might still be around for fifty or a hundred years,’” David explains. “All of these totally different things still come from and are rooted in the client’s brand, much like advertising would be, and advertising and other forms of communication can stem from that.”

Does Droga5 have a name for this new way of advertising? “A lot of agencies are scrambling to create things that go beyond advertising,” says Duncan. They’re coming up with these catchphrases that define what they’re doing, they’re setting up all these little pods, trying to turn around a machine that’s not geared to turn around that way.”

David chimes in on this point. “Every agency owns the same thesaurus, so they can all speak the same bullshit. For us it’s not about putting out literature or coining phrases. Our starting point is simply ‘what’s the best thing we can do for our client?’

Droga5 has even demonstrated it is capable of creating a brand out of one of the most common things on earth by joining with UNICEF to launch the Tap Project, a charitable initiative to raise awareness and money for clean drinking water around the world. Simple in concept yet mammoth in scale, the Tap Project encouraged New Yorkers to pay a single dollar for something they’d normally get for free in hundreds of the city’s top restaurants: ordinary tap water. I can’t begin to describe the impact this initiative has had – thankfully Droga5 has supplied the video – but what is very interesting is how the whole thing came about in the first place. “We wanted to see, as an exercise, if we could create a brand out of nothing,” says David. “We couldn’t physically make or distribute a product, so we thought about what we could do. We were already aware of the disparity between those in the world with access to clean tap water and those without, so we thought to turn every city with clean tap water into its own brand, and do it for the common good.”

So Droga5 must be rubbing their collective hands in anticipation for all of the awards the Tap Project will receive, right? Not really. “We’re far from being anti-awards, as award shows have been very good to all of us here,” says Ted. “But generally speaking, creatives want to win awards so that they can move onto even bigger and better projects, and agencies want to win awards so they can attract great clients. Here at Droga5, we’re already in a position where we can work on incredible assignments, and we already attract great clients. So there’s less of a need to be thinking about winning an advertising award for everything you do.”

David is even altruistic when it comes to the Tap Project and awards. “If, five years down the road, this has grown into something where in every major city around the world, people are willing to pay a little for tap water, can you imagine the hundred of millions of dollars that could be raised? To be able to shift the thinking of the world just a little and have that affect so much change, just knowing we helped create that shift, that’s the best fucking feeling in the world.”

Brett McKenzie
Chief Writer/SBN2




Moving Millennials thumbnail Moving Millennials
Thoughts from a Cannes Creative Effectiveness 2013 Jury member thumbnail Thoughts from a Cannes Creative Effectiveness 2013 Jury member


Agency Profile: Advico Y&R thumbnail Agency Profile: Advico Y&R


Copyright © 2001-2017 IHAVEANIDEA inc. All rights reserved. No material contained in this site may be republished or reposted.
IHAVEANIDEA™ is a trademark of IHAVEANIDEA inc. Terms and Conditions | Privacy Policy

Copyright © 2009 ihaveanidea inc. All rights reserved.

No material contained in this site may be republished or reposted. Terms and Conditions | Privacy Policy