David Droga Curated
Founder and chairman of Droga5
CURATED BY :
What's the bravest thing you hope to do next, personally and professionally?
Not just Droga 5, what's your expectation of what we should be doing to continue to be brave as an industry moving forward?
What the bravest work that you've ever done?
What was the bravest work that you ever saw and what impact did that have on you?
Bravest man in the world too you?
Who is the bravest woman in the world to you?
Is there bravery in saying "I don't know"?
When was the first time you realized you were brave?
Apart from money, what holds people back from being brave in our industry?
Bravest act you've seen outside this business(advertising)?
A lot of clients pay you just for having an opinion. Does that cloud thinking? Does it cloud bravery?
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.
Has advertising become fundamentally lazy?
It's not like we don't work hard. People work all the time, work weekends. I wrote [in Esquire]: No industry has worked harder at being lazy. We're doing the same thing over and over. And it gets harder and harder – the consumer doesn't want to be interrupted. I mean, I'm in advertising and I fast forward through the commercials. There are whole industries built on technologies to avoid what our industry creates. If that isn't a wake-up call that we need to be better, and smarter, and more tactical and timely, and more in sync with the consumer, I don't know what is. But when it's done well, it's second to none. There's myriad great examples of brands that have been built on the back of great advertising; pop culture referecnes that are built on advertising. … I'm not singing from the hilltops that our industry is going to disappear. But I'm saying that it has to reinvent itself. … Our industry has some of the best, diverse thinkers. If we just point it in the right direction, we can do wonderful things. It's not just creating effective advertisements, or new products, but also contributing to raise awareness for some of the biggest social issues.
Your views on bad advertising?
I’m a critic of the industry. But I love the industry, too. I don’t want to kick it to the kerb, per se; I want to kick the shitty advertisers there. It’s like architecture: most buildings are horrendously made and designed around efficiencies rather than practicality or beauty or relevance. But a beautiful building is unbelievable. And so is good advertising. I always feel bad for architects, actually. In our industry, you create something bad, it’s gone soon. Architects have to live with that for a hundred years.
How are you as a person?
Apart from being restless beyond belief, and competitive beyond belief, I’m not a revisionary person. Living off past glories annoys me. I want to know that what I’m doing is right now – not living off the good fortune of what’s come before this. I can respect the past, yes. But isn’t one of the missions of life to be relevant now? To be able to contribute to any conversation around you, to add something meaningful to interactions. That’s real wealth. I’d rather add value in a boardroom, a project, or a conversation than be sitting around exceptionally wealthy in a room looking at awards.
Your views on peers?
I’m not necessarily interested in what my peers think, but what the real world thinks. I made a comment at Cannes last year, along the lines of, “You’re good if your peers think you’re great, but you’re great if the real world thinks you’re good.” That’s it. When no one has a vested interest in what you’re doing and it touches them in the right way, that is amazing. That’s what excites me.
How do you disengage and relax?
I don’t mind pressure. That’s different from stress, but I don’t mind things being at stake. And I’m not obsessed with the industry. I don’t spend all my time socialising with advertising people or researching advertising. I sit on several boards and so I get involved with things that are culturally creative and different and that reminds me to put things in perspective, and I draw inspiration from it. Day to day I live in the hustle and bustle of New York City but I’m lucky enough to own a farm upstate. At heart, I’m a country boy, so I spend more time chasing chickens and riding dirt bikes than doing anything. Also, I have four kids and the stress of having four kids outweighs the stress of the job!
You’ve been part of so many extremely successful recipes. How did it feel when you came up with a game-changing idea? How do you know it’s a good one?
I wish there was a formula, but there isn’t really. I don’t evaluate things on a surface level, just by asking, “Do I like that?” or “That’s cool, that’s funny.” I really think about the situation we’re trying to target. I think about “Why would anyone care about what we’re saying, producing, and doing?” Obviously, we’re trying to create something that’s incredibly influential and effective. You want to touch a nerve. You want to cause some sort of a reaction. But people are busy, they have lives. I’m paid to think about how we can earn their attention. And most often, that’s based on a gut feeling. When you do have a big idea, it’s very exciting, and you can’t put your finger on what it is. You just sort of feel like, wow, this could really spark something, it will touch an emotion. And you can’t help it, it will get you excited and you just know, yeah, that’s more than just a disposable, gimmicky thought.
: Creatives often find it di cult to communicate what they’re looking for in music when they talk to composers, music companies, and so on – especially when they‘re not musicians themselves. Is there anything that has worked for you in the past?
: You’re successful when you know what you’re looking for. I think if you have a broad sense of taste and you’re not just projecting your own personal taste of audio onto whichever brand you’re currently working on, then that’s good. And you have to beware of which reference tracks you’re using to create a mood. It’s a slippery slope and it happens a lot in our industry: Everyone falls in love with the reference track that you put on a piece of film, and then you can’t get it. The result is that you’re almost always set to be underwhelmed and disappointed, because whatever you put on it alternatively seems to be a compromised version of your demo. We’re trying to be a lot more thoughtful about what we put on, be it licensing or scoring. It has to be in sync with the brand. And it’s hopefully not going to date or turn people off. I feel like it’s a question of giving it the right amount of energy and time in the process much further upstream than it currently is. I think when it’s considered as much in the creation of it, then you have more options and can explore and experiment more.
The music should fit to the brand, absolutely. It shouldn‘t distract from the message you‘re trying to communicate. So how do you end up with the right track, paired with the visuals, on air?
It has to complement the mood you’re trying to create and the emotion you’re trying to project. Levi’s is still a fantastic brand in that sense, particularly in the UK. They had these great little stories, really well shot, and they always had an amazing track with each story that was complementary to the mood they were trying to create around the brand. But then you see ads on TV of insurance companies or cars, and it’s so out of sync. People can get annoyed when a good track is compromised by being used in a pharmaceutical ad, for example. You have to be conscious of that.
People in our industry tend to struggle with decisions around audio, because it‘s such an emotional tool, and it can be very subjective and personal. Where do you see the biggest challenge in finding a brand’s voice?
Finding something that isn’t just trend-based. That happens a lot in marketing, and especially with brands that have the money for it. They just buy a track that they can get a kick out of. Just because you get a hit song for a car commercial doesn’t make the car more desirable, though. There needs to be some logic as to why: Is it in synch with the audience, or the brand message? There has to be a thought process into the audio as there is to the narrative, as opposed to just going, “Let’s pick something people like.” At the end of the day, you can spend a million dollars buying a track and remind people that they love that track and that they want to buy the track – but that won’t serve as an association to the product.
If we know that audio plays a huge part in the consumer’s buying decision, why are advertisers not spending money in a more ROI-based way?
People are conditioned to focus on the details of the narrative, the story, and the visuals. Then there are a few difficulties with music – one is that it’s so subjective. And a good track can cost you a million dollars plus, unless you score something for a couple of thousands. You also have to distinguish between great music, a great track or just audio stings at the end of an ad. But we know the impact audio has. Again, it’s something we’re desperately trying to course-correct. It’s such an anomaly in a sense that we all understand the power of it, professionally and personally, but for some reason it’s not as high on the totem pole as it should be, at the right time. It drives me crazy.
I believe that if we get better at testing and at understanding big data, we’ll be able to isolate the return on investment of music. That will make it easier to get people to think about audio in a strategic way, too. At a point where we can really read numbers, I think we’ll wake up and realize that we need to spend our money much more ROI-based – and not 90% on visuals and 10% on audio. What do you think?
I think we’re already moving in that direction. The more we help brands realize their return on investment when putting as much energy into the audio of a message as into the visuals, the better it will get. However, you don’t want to rely too much on research. Your creation can’t be too rounded, without any edge or distinction to it. You don’t want to end up all looking the same.
Some of the world‘s most successful brands have a very strong audio identity. Do you believe there’s a link between economic success and the audio behavior of a brand?
Well, it completely depends. When it’s done well, absolutely. But a strong audio is no substitute for having terrible visuals or terrible messaging. They all have to work together. If you look at Apple or Nike, they don’t necessarily have an audio sting, but they have a general appreciation of the power of good complementary audio. We’re in the business of emotion, and attention, and there are very few things in our lives that are as memorable as good audio. I feel like it should be looked at as a whole, and how it works together as the objective of it. If it’s an afterthought, then you’re playing catch-up the whole time.
So do you think video and audio should be treated with the same discipline?
100% percent, definitely. It’s probably also easier to test than words on a page or visuals drawn up. Before you go into production, test the audio.
How important is music in building a brand?
I think it’s imperative. Music is one of the most influential parts of a brand – at times as influential as visuals and verbals. It resonates with people and makes a connection. But at the same time, it’s usually completely undervalued during the process. Too often it’s a secondary thing. But we’re trying to course-correct that.
How is the culture at Droga 5?
Will artificial intelligence one day be a part of the work of creative people?
What is the right way to communicate to the consumers? Which values should be added to the communication?
What should we do to get the best talent in our industry?
Young talented people who have already decided to come into the marketing and communications industry are always advised to learn coding. What is your advice to them?
What do you think of the role of creative clubs in general?
Do you think the creative clubs should open their doors to all creative people, not just advertising people (for e.g. architects,designers etc.)?
Can you even be a creative person unless you're curious?
What did it say about the future of the industry when you chose WME as a partner and not a holding company?
What is your political ambition?
How do you stay motivated? How do you make sure Droga 5 is relevant? How do you stay on top of all the changes going on?
If an 18 year old came to you now and asked you should I go into advertising or should I do something else with my creative energy, what would your honest advice be?
Talk about the very first ad that you ever made.
Talk about the creative you made to raise money for UNICEF(Reinforce world water day, which made the headlines?
Tell us about your very first brief, your very first client(GE)?
How do you persuade a reluctant client to be brave and to take a risk?
What was the first thing you made at Droga 5
When you became global CCO of Publicist,was that a difficult decision to make, to take such a broad role?
How long did you spend in Singapore before you were poached?
You've worked for both big and small networks. What is the difference in the creative process in these different scale organizations?
Why did they sell your agency to an entertainment company instead of a communications company?
What do you think about sustainable brands?What is the future of brands that are able to invest in social and sustainable innovation?
What can young creatives(under 30) do to be successful?
Many creators say that every idea has been done and there is nothing new under the sun. What is your take on that?
Are you worried about the increasing number of people using Ad blockers?
A lot of advertising brands work on giving social messages. Is it a trend or just a way to win awards?
Talk about Tough clients vs Bad Clients.
Have you always been so optimistic?
How do you hire? What are you looking for when you hire?
There is something about how ypu approach your work or how you think. What makes you different from other creatives?
You have always held positions too early for your age? How do you deal with the transition? How do you exert your new found position?
What are your views on the relationship between money and work?
What consitutes a really great career? What does success look like in your industry?
How important is work ethic?
What are your thoughts on big gatherings of human being? Do you think it'll come back?
What are your views on advertising on tik-tok?
What's about to come? What are you exited about?
Given the implications of the post pandemic world, what's your prognosis on the state of the holding companies?
Is it all about data and A.I.?
What advice would you give to people who are just starting? What could you tell them from your position of experience about producing great work consistently?
Is the primary engine of sustaining creative excellence cultural?
What is the secret to maintaining qualitative excellence over time?
Do you think it's possible that ads could be generated by bots?
Talk about the tendency of brands to follow rather than to lead. How can we break that cycle for brands?
What is the role of brand communication in these times (Covid-19 virus)?
It is fair to say that Droga5 invented viral marketing. Do you think the term can still be used? What is it about virality that is a positive thing?
When do you say 'No' to a client?
What do you think about data and creativity? Does data exploit creativity?
Do you think that technology is evolving the art of storytelling?
The technology explosion right now is pretty unique.There are multiple platforms on multiple devices. How important is technology to your fundamentals?
What aspects of Australia do you carry with you in your work?
Where do you see your career taking you over the next 10 years?
What advice would you give to your 15 year old self