Heading up one of the best known ad agencies in the world is a far cry from David Droga’s life growing up as child number five (hence the name of his eponymous agency) of seven in rural Australia, nine hours drive from any major city. His career in advertising also had humble beginnings, specifically in the mailroom at Grey Sydney, but he was able to quickly work his way up to copywriter level at another agency, and before he knew it was Executive Creative Director at an Australian agency called OMON at the age of 22.
Droga’s ECD role was quickly followed by running Saatchi Asia while aged 26, becoming ECD at Saatchi & Saatchi London and, finally, Worldwide Chief Creative Officer of Publicis in New York. He puts his decision to quit his high-flying network job and risk everything to set up Droga5 in 2006 down to a combination of naivety, arrogance and ignorance. Over a decade on, the risk seems to have more than paid off; the agency has worked with everyone from The New York Times to Tourism Australia, and has won countless awards and accolades in the process.
Here, Droga discusses why being a global figurehead just wasn’t for him, making Droga5 a success story, and why now is – genuinely – the most exciting time to start a career in advertising.
Growing up It was pretty remarkable actually, my backyard was a couple of thousand miles of national park and the nearest store was a 45-minute drive just to get milk and stuff. I actually have no memory of watching TV as a kid, I was basically outside for my entire childhood. It was skiing in winter, and during the summer months I had a dirt bike and was exploring and camping. How that segwayed into advertising, I guess is a by-product of my childhood being defined by imagination. I had to make up my own games, adventures and stories, so I guess I was flexing that muscle but didn’t realise I was actually getting ready for something different.
Stumbling across advertising As a teenager, when I wasn’t outside I was reading all the time. I had aspirations to be a writer of any sort, I didn’t care whether I was writing comic books, movies, novels or anything. I think I might have read an article or something that just mentioned this thing called a copywriter, [but] I’d never even heard that term. The more I read about it, the more I thought ‘that actually sounds amazing’. It fitted my lack of attention span, the fact that you got paid to sit around and think of things. I did a short internship in my final year of school at an agency in Australia. It was a terrible agency, but that was where my arrogant side kicked in. I remember looking at their work and thinking ‘I can definitely do better than that’.