Heading into 2010, the biggest question about Droga5 was whether the startup agency could maintain its momentum without sacrificing the obsessive creative spirit that made it such a phenomenon.
On the eve of 2020, one could argue the same question hovers over the agency—though it’s by no means a startup any longer. The New York-based creative shop that began the decade with 80 staffers packed into a space that “felt like a student dorm,” according to founder David Droga, is ending the 2010s as a 500-staff powerhouse with increasingly global ambitions that are likely to be fulfilled thanks to its recent acquisition by Accenture Interactive.
No agency has dominated the discussion around creative advertising more often in the 2010s than Droga5, which was a three-time winner of Adweek’s U.S. Agency of the Year and was crowned Cannes Lions Independent Agency of the Year for 2015, 2016 and 2017.
Droga5 was only 4 years old when the decade began, but it rapidly grew into one of the industry’s most high-profile players, expanding its annual revenue from $14 million to $200 million over the past 10 years (averaging more than 30% growth per year) and producing several of the best ad campaigns in modern marketing.
Now, in recognition of its consistent creative excellence and skillful evolution in the face of industry uncertainties, Droga5 has been named Adweek’s Agency of the Decade.
‘The dual lenses of strategy and creativity’
While Droga5 is often honored within its own industry—David Droga notably received the Cannes Lions’ lifetime achievement award, the Lion of St. Mark, when he was just 49 years old in 2017—what’s more telling is the praise and appreciation it receives from its clients.
Jill Baskin, CMO of The Hershey Company, is a three-time client of Droga5, having worked with the agency during her time with Athenos, Honey Maid and now on the Twizzlers account.
“Droga5 is the kind of partner every brand needs on its side,” Baskin said. “Each time, they surprise me with their creative ideas while completely nailing the strategy. That is what makes them special, their ability to deliver topical, relevant creative that is founded on exceptionally strong strategic thinking.”
Droga5 might be best known for its dramatic, hilarious or even confounding creative (think IHOb, a laughably bizarre name change that quadrupled burger sales at IHOP), but it’s the agency’s eye for strategic campaign underpinnings that clients most often praise.
“Droga approaches every project with the dual lenses of strategy and creativity,” said David Rubin, CMO of Droga5 client The New York Times. “They blend the two disciplines, which is really hard to do. What is The Times’ brand and business objective, and how do we accomplish that objective in a way that both fits the brand and will break through with people emotionally? That ability to marry the functional objective and emotional resonance is hugely valuable.”
Perhaps counterintuitively, the secret to Droga5’s consistency might just be how it embraces constant change.
Unlike many of the agency’s senior leaders who’ve been with Droga5 since its earliest days, David Kolbusz joined the shop halfway through the decade, becoming creative chief of its London office—currently Droga5’s only extension outside New York. As both an outsider and an employee, he’s been impressed by the agency’s ongoing strategic evolution as media and marketing underwent constant disruption.
“It was the first agency not just to predict but also to adapt to the rapidly changing communications landscape that we found ourselves in after the internet exploded,” Kolbusz said. “It’s been 10 different agencies in 10 years.”
For David Droga, the key factors that have enabled Droga5 to adapt incessantly without sewing internal chaos are camaraderie and craft.
“Our culture is defined by how we treat our people and the quality of the work we put out,” Droga said.