Why David Droga Thinks Facebook and YouTube’s Video War Is Good for Creatives

Agency founder laments repurposed TV spots

Between six-second Vines, Facebook autoplay and skippable YouTube ads, marketers are navigating new digital video spaces almost daily. Spearheading that change are agency creatives like David Droga, who are shifting from making television spots to digital videos and figuring out what works best on each platform.

Droga, founder of his namesake agency, Droga5, knows a thing or two about building breakout digital campaigns for clients like Under Armour and Newcastle and recently helped YouTube's ad team make a new spot that breaks down the space for marketers.

Adweek talked to Droga about the growing competition in online video, what it means for agencies and how brands need to move on from viral videos.

Adweek: There are so many types of digital video out there for marketers right now. How does that change how creatives work?
David Droga: Creatives have to be more valuable and open-minded about things. Back in the day, there was a certainty of mediums and time length, so creatives were trying to perfect one thing over and over. But you couldn't be as original.

Now, the canvas is three-dimensional, and you can play in interesting spaces. I feel like that's exciting, and intimidating, for a lot of creatives.

In YouTube's video, you talk about TV having a definitive beginning and end. So, how does that change with digital video?
Sadly, a lot of brands still look at digital video as just basically uploading something they produced for television. Or, they produce something that still smells like a television commercial.

When you think of the context [of digital], creatives have to really put more thought into why would [someone] watch it, and why would they share it?

I like the thought that when you're creating [for digital], the reaction that you want people to have is baked into your concept—it has to be. You have to embed that into your strategy and your creative idea.

Agencies are obviously obsessed with figuring out the context of how a video is being watched, but do brands care?
There isn't a client in the world who doesn't want to create something that goes viral. But going viral is not a strategy, so you have to look beyond that.

People like to reference things that have had success online. It gets difficult because half the reason things hit a nerve or become popular might have been about a moment in time, and you can't be original or go to new places if you're following someone else's footsteps. The idea of emulation, particularly online, is a flawed strategy.

You've been vocal about hating pre-roll, but does that change with new types of interactive video ads or autoplay?
Brands can't just produce something in isolation anymore. The best story doesn't win just because it's a great narrative.

Creatives just have to think more upstream and further downstream and also think about the ramifications of the piece.

I think advertising has moved from just telling you something to hopefully asking you something. And that ask can be really simple—it can be about forwarding something, [which] is more important than views. Views can be bought.

There's also a huge video war going on right now between Facebook and YouTube that we need to talk about. What do you make of that?
Competition is a good thing. I feel like if it forces both of them to innovate more and be more compelling in favor of the consumer, then we all win.

More content on the consumer side [means] better content that we can create. Even if it's less content, we'll just make content that's produced better.

What do you think about vertical video and the things Snapchat is trying to do with agencies?
I'm sort of wait and see on that one, actually. I don't really have an opinion on that.

I'm fascinated by what they're going to do with it, and these platforms that have huge audiences that they want to monetize by getting brands seamlessly in there. But, it's hard to do without polluting the reason that people are talking on these things.

In the video, you also talk about how brands should not turn off YouTube comments, which seems like such an old-school thing to be concerned about nowadays.
It's hilarious because [marketers] want to enjoy and be part of the social conversation, but they do it in a half-hearted way.

You can't have your cake and eat it. You have to hold yourself accountable to the social commentary and stand by what you say by the nature of wanting to have a two-way dialogue.

What do you see coming up that's going to be most interesting in video a year from now?
[Laughs.] I wish I could predict what's going on tomorrow.

I think, [it's going to be] less stuff but better stuff. I feel like understanding how the consumer is viewing and sharing stuff is more important than TV that's repackaged online.

Consumers don't want to interact with brands as much as brands think they do. Sometimes, the brands that have the most restraint are the ones that have the biggest impact.