Anyone planning a visit to Saatchi & Saatchi’s Charlotte Street
office in the near future might want to have a sick bag handy.
Particularly if they are meeting David Droga, the newly appointed
executive creative director of Saatchi & Saatchi London and the man
whose career trajectory the word ’meteoric’ might just have been
I’m sure Droga will never actually have to produce a CV but if he did it
would be the stuff of most creatives’ dreams. At 18, having just
graduated with top honours from the Australian Writers’ and Art
Directors’ School, he became the first employee of Omon, which was to
become one of the hottest agencies in Australia. There, he quickly
established himself as one of Australia’s most acclaimed writers,
winning awards at D&AD and Cannes.
Five years later, at an age at which most people are just thinking about
getting their first job, he was rewarded with a 25 per cent stake in the
agency and appointed joint creative director. In 1995, Omon merged with
McCarthy Watson & Spencer and Droga decided to sell up. He was soon
snapped up and, at just 27, became executive creative director of
Saatchi & Saatchi Singapore and regional creative director of Saatchi &
Saatchi Asia, giving him responsibility for ten Asian agencies. And now,
having just turned 30, he has landed the job of executive creative
director of Saatchi & Saatchi London.
So there you have it. Youth, good looks, money and success. But before
you slam the magazine down in a fit of jealous pique, spare a thought
for what lies ahead. Droga has been brought in over the heads of the
agency’s two executive creative directors, Adam Keane and John Pallent,
and his arrival will be regarded with some suspicion, in the creative
department at least.
The agency has also made 20 people redundant across all departments,
following the loss of its prestigious Camelot and Schweppes accounts.
Visa, another key account, is under review.
Bob Isherwood, Saatchis’ worldwide creative director, concedes that he
is not entirely happy with the work coming out of London. ’Creatively,
London is one of our top agencies but it ought to be the best,’ he says,
echoing what Kevin Roberts, worldwide chief executive, said back in July
when he announced his plan to spend more time at the flagship
’Could do better’ seems to be the consensus. Work for the Army and for
the Nurses has been impressive, but improvements are needed in many
Droga describes the agency’s work as ’good with patches of brilliance’;
a diplomatic way of saying ’patchy’. ’Saatchis has always enjoyed being
head and shoulders above the rest and that’s what we want to get it back
to,’ he says.
For Droga, consistency is the key. His philosophy - that all the
creative work should be excellent and there should be no creative
ghettos - is illustrated by the following story.
When he first got to Singapore, Droga asked the creatives what their
least favourite client was, that is, the most conservative, the least
fun to work on. The unanimous choice was a brand of Chinese cooking oil
which in its 12 years of advertising had only ever used the idea of a
mother cooking for her family. So the first task was to sell that client
a new campaign.
’The campaign we made wasn’t the best in the world but it demonstrated
how far you can push things,’ Droga says. ’Agencies usually pre-empt
what the client wants and tone things down for clients they think are
conservative. Changing that was one of my proudest achievements. That
becomes what the agency stands for, which is bigger than any client or
Testament to his success is that Saatchi & Saatchi Singapore was this
year named International Agency of the Year by Advertising Age, beating
competition from BMP DDB in the UK, DM9 in Brazil and Hunt Lascaris TBWA
in South Africa. New-business wins at the agency since Droga joined
include Burger King, Visa and Toyota, and the agency has increased its
billings by 45 per cent.
Droga is monumentally dedicated. He confesses to having worked most
weekends since moving to Asia and says he has ’managed to take a few
days here and there,’ but has not had a holiday for five years. When I
met him he had flown in from Singapore that morning and had already
spent much of the day meeting and greeting. It was his second long-haul
trip in five days and he looked like he wanted nothing more than to have
a good kip.
But he was flying back out to Asia that evening and, on arrival, going
straight from the airport to a pitch.
Nevertheless, he is understandably nervous about the challenge that
’The job came up a month or so ago and obviously I was massively
flattered to be offered it,’ he says. ’But I didn’t accept straight away
because it is such a huge job to take and you have to be sure you can
take the creative further. It’s absolutely a job that any creative would
jump for but because it’s such an opportunity you have to have the right
head for it.’
Droga has no illusions about the reception he’ll get here. So far, he
has been a big fish in a relatively small pond and he knows he will have
to prove himself all over again in London. ’I feel quite nervous about
it all but I think that’s a good thing,’ he says. ’A foreigner coming in
is not something that happens a lot in the UK. My past successes will
become almost irrelevant. But this is the opportunity for me. I have to
make it work.’
Editor’s comment, p23.