PROFILE: Dave Droga

The boy who started out in the postroom at Grey, Sydney, is about to become the creative supremo at Publicis in New York. What's driving him?

Everyone loves Dave Droga. Not just Saatchi & Saatchi creatives, many of whom were reduced to tears on hearing he was leaving to join Publicis, but many people you talk to in this typically vituperative industry.

Not one to hang out with ad folk particularly, the amiable Aussie is generally admired and respected from afar, while those who know him better think he's also a genuine bloke who likes a laugh.

And while there were a few sniggers over a recent article which claimed Droga had the 'IT' factor, there have been ladies I've lunched with who've quietly admitted he has a certain something - a compelling combination of cheeky chappy with a dark, mysterious edge.

David Bjorn Droga, the product of a mad hippie Danish mother and a Jewish businessman father, greets me at the door of his three-storey house in London's fashionable Notting Hill.

Like a nosy neighbour, I'm eager to snoop around, particularly as Droga has spent the past two years working with architects and builders to design his ideal home.

At the window, a Greek God in the form of an enormous sculpture strikes an arabesque, while modern art adorns the walls. In the middle, sits a cherub with enormous brown eyes - Droga's son, Fin, who leaves reluctantly, persuaded only by the promise that Dad will play rocket ships later.

Droga has only just moved into the house after the construction work but now has only months left before he ups sticks to New York to take on the mighty-sounding role of global executive creative director of Publicis.

It seems typical of the 34-year-old. Throughout his life he has taken on huge challenges and just when he could sit back and enjoy things, he's off like a hungry wolf, searching for something juicier to sink his teeth into.

And so he began in advertising from the bottom rung of the ladder - the mailroom boy at Grey Advertising, Sydney who wanted to write, saw the work on creatives' desks and thought he could do better. He signed up to the Australian Writer & Art Directors School, came top nationally and was immediately offered a job at FCB.

After just two months, he was poached by the industry's leading lights to join their start-up, Omon. Three years later, at 21, he became creative director, and when the agency was sold to Clemenger BBDO, he opted for freedom instead of the cash.

So at 26, he was offered the job of regional executive creative director of Saatchi Asia, based in Singapore. Not a traditional creative stronghold, Droga put the region on the map by winning more awards than other offices in the network, including London.

So, with Asia conquered, Droga once again sought a fresh challenge. This came in the form of creative head at London, where the agency was floundering after losing key accounts and staff. It was a difficult start for him, with the typically blinkered UK ad community asking 'Dave who?' and wondering what on earth this young Australian had to offer.

He began by ripping out the carpets. It sounds stupid, he admits, but he felt that the environment was miserable, the creative department was on the back foot, and that energy, new ideas - and a nice new glass-tiled floor - would work wonders.

It certainly helped. One of the first campaigns Droga oversaw was the nurses recruitment ad. The powerful piece has been the most successful recruitment campaign the Government has ever run. Then came the Army, an award-winning campaign, both of which helped the outsider feel that he had proved himself and would be taken seriously.

A raft of awards followed for subsequent work, including the darkly humorous monster.com; the shocking, powerful and moving NSPCC campaign; and Club 18-30, which won the Cannes Print Grand Prix.

Droga's aim was to have a mix of creative teams and clients - the latter ranging from the quirky to the traditional. He prides himself that Toyota also became an award-winning client. For the first time, the agency had a car account which creatives were fighting to work on.

Droga's parting shot was winning Global Agency of the Year at the Cannes International Advertising Festival last summer and it's probably about that time that he got itchy feet again.

So it's on to Publicis, where he has the tough task of managing global creative output across disparate offices.

And if he succeeds there, what next for this ambitious high-achiever? "I'd like to run Disney."

Watch out Michael Eisner, your days are numbered.

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