David Droga On the Spot

After spending two years building a house in London’s Notting Hill, Droga is moving to Manhattan in July as Publicis’ first worldwide creative director. Droga, 34, is expected to work the same kind of creative magic he did as ecd at Publicis Groupe sibling Saatchi & Saatchi in London. His challenge is to steer the creative product for a far-flung network of entrepreneurial-minded shops in the midst of absorbing staffers and clients from the dismantled D’Arcy Masius Benton & Bowles. Will he build a house in the U.S.? “I don’t think I’ll have time to indulge in that,” he says.

Q. How do you feel about your U.S. move?

A. I’m excited. Australians are gypsies by nature. I’ve been fortunate enough to experience different regions of the world. And the U.S. is a must-do. Obviously, it’s the biggest market in the world, so it’s the biggest challenge. I’m very keen to experience it firsthand.

How do you go from focusing on the London market to a global role?

I don’t want to spread myself so thin that I achieve nothing. The best thing to do is focus on the key markets. When I was regional creative director of Saatchi in Asia, my primary responsibility was Saatchi Singapore because I knew its reputation would swing out across the region and attract talent. I don’t want to fly in and give a speech and fly out, because that’s useless for both parties. If you take important markets like the U.S. and the U.K. and Paris, you can change a culture from the center.

How do you approach a company and network that has had so many recent changes?

The chaos of two cultures merging is the best time to forge a new identity to unify people, because everyone is looking for answers and everybody’s looking for leadership. That’s when there’s an opportunity to say, “OK, this is what we stand for.” People aren’t set in their ways because everything is up for grabs.

How would you compare the Publicis network with the Saatchi network?

Saatchi works genuinely as a network. Everyone knows each other; everyone has an interest in everybody else’s success. Publicis is an entrepreneurial network where each office is independent, which is a big challenge because I’m the one trying to devise a web to get everyone together. Everybody wants to succeed. Everybody has egos. If you can tap into those things, then you can get them to realize there’s a benefit to working as a network where you can support each other.

Did you have any reservations about accepting the post?

If you don’t have reservations, you’re a fool. You can’t go blind into something. But the opportunity and the mandate outweighed any skepticism I had. I just worried about the scale of the job. You can get so bombarded that you don’t really achieve anything.

What do you think of Tony Granger as your replacement?

It was a great choice. It’s somebody who’s ambitious, who has a proven track record, who’s going to walk in here and see it as an opportunity. I’m sure we work differently, which is probably a good thing. It’s not a predictable choice, because he’s not a cd from London.

Publicis Worldwide is not known as an award-winning network. How will you change that?

When creatives have a voice in the running of the business, it’s not just about writing better scripts, it’s about understanding that the CEOs and the creative directors should be in partnership. The decisions that influence the agency shouldn’t just be spreadsheets and such. Creativity gives you pride. It’s bigger than, “Oh, we just want to win awards.” You want to do work that the general public talks about and that the clients are proud to talk about. That’s what I’m looking forward to.

What’s your response to the critics who say you’re too young or green for the job?

The number on your birthdate is irrelevant. I’m old enough to know what I want to do but young enough to have the enthusiasm to deliver on it. My battle scars haven’t worn me down yet. Critics are good because they make you want to prove things.

What inspired you to get into advertising?

I always wanted to be a writer. I didn’t care whether I was writing for newspapers or I was writing comics or I was writing books. And someone said to me that a short-term fix was to become a copywriter. I liked the purity of having to be creative in distinct time or formats. It’s creativity, but at the end of the day it’s about business. I have brothers who are bankers, and a brother who’s a sculptor and a sister who’s an actress. So to all parties, I’m a compromise. But I like the marriage between the two.

What was your first ad?

My first ad was for a launch of a new radio station in Australia called Triple M. I was 18, and this client came in and said, “Look, we have a million bucks. We want you to do an ad—there wasn’t even a brief—that launches the radio station.” We created a film with little elf creatures that had guitars. And suddenly they flew out of a radio exploding in someone’s living room. The client said they loved it. I was 18 going, “Wow, advertising is the coolest, easiest thing in the world.” And then the next one was for a pharmaceutical company, and I was smashed back down to reality.

What’s the smartest business decision you’ve made?

Staying loyal to a company and not just bouncing around to get an extra 5 or 10 percent on salary. I benefited from that emotionally, professionally and financially.

What’s your personal motto?

Live up to your own expectations.

What’s the best place you’ve ever lived?