David Droga

David Droga should be on top of the world. The 33-year-old Australian won agency of the year honors at Cannes last month for Saatchi & Saatchi London, just three years after he was named executive creative director of the agency. Seven of the 33 creative teams that make up Droga’s department won Lions, and the shop snagged the print Grand Prix for its racy Club 18-30 work. But two weeks after Cannes, Droga’s late-night celebrations are over and he’s circumspect about the wins.

“It’s a good benchmark,” he says, “but a bigger challenge than that is consistency.”

A creative director who leads from the trenches, Droga is at work on a new Toyota campaign, updated efforts for Monster.com, the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children and Carlsberg, and some changes in the creative department. The teams on Procter & Gamble, a client that has traditionally been run “a little bit apart from me,” he says, are moving closer to his office. Droga thinks it’s a client that has great potential for creative work, and he hopes to have ads proving just that out by the end of the year. “If I can’t make a difference,” he chuckles, “I’ll deny I had anything to do with it.”

Droga, who grew up in the mountains of New South Wales, attributes his ambition to the fact that he has four successful brothers. “I’m just trying to keep up with them,” he says.

He skipped college, graduating with top honors from the Australian Writers’ and Art Directors’ School at 18. He joined the startup shop Omon in Sydney, later became partner and helped it grow into one of the hottest agencies in Australia. By the time he was 27, Droga was executive creative director at Saatchi & Saatchi Singapore and regional cd of the agency’s 10 Asian agencies. At 30 he took on the challenge of upgrading the London office. Will his next stop be America? Read on. —Eleftheria Parpis

Adweek: What was most surprising about the Cannes wins?

Droga: I was relieved all the stars were aligned. The thing was the diversity of the clients that we won for, everything from quite cheeky ads to the big, mainstream clients like Toyota and issue ads like the NSPCC. I really like the breadth of work that it represents, a depth of style for the agency.

Adweek: Would you show the Club 18-30 work to your mother?

Droga: No chance in the world. I never will. The print stuff I really like. It’s a really clever way to show everything without showing anything. It was probably the most honest campaign in Cannes. It was just a product-demonstration ad. Advertising is about talking in a manner and voice that is appropriate to the target market. We can’t get up our own bottoms. … We don’t all live in a saccharin world.

Adweek: How do you approach elevating work at the agency?

Droga: You have to be transparent about your vision. I am quite approach able and laid back, except when it comes to my expectations. I try to make the office an addictive place to work … one that people are desperate to be part of, made up of people who take every success and failure of the agency personally. To do this, you have to have a department where everybody feels they have an opportunity to shine. It is not just about a few star teams.

Adweek: Which U.S. agencies do you watch?

Droga: I like Wieden, with what they’ve done for Nike. That’s an obvious choice. Goodby, taking creative integ rity to a mainstream level. Cliff Freeman’s comedy—when they do it right, it’s great. Fallon I’ve always liked.

Adweek: When you were considering London, you also turned down a job at Fallon in New York.

Droga: That was the hardest job I’ve ever had to say no to. … [Saatchi] was the job that made me the most nervous … it was the most challenging option. Saatchi London is probably the most famous of all English agencies. Love it or hate it, everyone in this country has an opinion on it, so any failures would be magnified.

Plus, the industry in the U.K. is a very proud one. No foreign creative director had cut it in London before, particularly an Australian via Singapore. Not only had the agency lost its confidence, worse still, it had lost its mystery. And to make matters even tougher, it had slipped to No. 5 in the billings race. I always had faith in my creative judgment and ability to lead—it was the potential for unnecessary politics that made me nervous.

Adweek: What are you most proud of?

Droga: Building great creative environments, more so than individual ads. … The best part of our creative success is that it has impacted on our business.

Adweek: What advice would you give creative directors in the same place you were three years ago?

Droga: Be yourself and don’t act like someone you think you should be. [Some executives] have to act like a boss, live out this personality. Any fool can be a boss—it takes a different character to be a leader and be a genuine leader. You can’t fake sincerity.

Adweek: What drew you to advertising?

Droga: I wanted to be a writer in any capacity. I just thought, How can I get paid for my imagination? [I figured] a stepping stone would be advertising. I would do it for a few years and do something more credible.

Adweek: If you were ready to leave advertising, what would you do?

Droga: The funny thing about advertising is that there isn’t a finishing line, so it is impossible for me to wake up and think the job done. I will always choose a job with hurdles to overcome. I love the thought of influencing popular culture on a major level at a company that is creative and imagination-based. That’s what I’d love to do