Droga Thinking Globally

NEW YORK If David Droga is nervous about the task ahead of him, he’s hiding it well. When Publicis Groupe CEO Maurice Levy offered him the top creative post at Publicis Worldwide last month, Droga’s initial reaction was, “Why not? It’s the biggest challenge I can think of.”

And when Droga, ecd at Saatchi & Saatchi in London, was asked recently about jumping to a worldwide role, he responded, “It’s a massive, massive thing, really. I like the thought of that.”

The challenge starts with helping the agency absorb staffers and clients from dismantled Bcom3 sister shop D’Arcy Masius Benton & Bowles. Then there’s the fact that Publicis is not seen as a creative leader here. And Droga, a native of Australia, has never worked in the U.S. market.

Droga is expected to arrive at Publicis’ New York office sometime before March. He is now helping Saatchi find a successor in London.

Colleagues described Droga, a copywriter by trade, as a “straight shooter” who is “very competitive.” It’s perhaps not surprising that he’s a Muhammad Ali aficionado. He is also said to demand a lot from his troops. In person, Droga comes across as affable and approachable.

It is his confidence that has allowed Droga to lead a creative turnaround at Saatchi in London and notch an impressive list of awards-42 Cannes Lions and 23 One Show Pencils-in the course of a career that started in 1988, with a job as a writer at Omon in Sydney, Australia.

Droga said the quality of the agency’s reel will ultimately prove whether he is up to the job. “Judge me by the work, please,” he said. “Just not in the first six months!”

His work at Saatchi brought Droga into the spotlight last year when the shop won the print Grand Prix at Cannes for its controversial Club 18-30 campaign. (The ads slyly promote one of the resorts’ main draws with double-entendre-laden images of sexy vacationers.) The agency also earned Network of the Year honors.
The high-profile success came three years after Droga joined what was seen as an office whose glory days were behind it. “He’s leaving it in far better shape than he found it,” said Tod Seisser, chief creative officer at Saatchi in New York.

Before his tenure in London, Droga spent three years in Singapore as ecd of Saatchi’s office there and, eventually, as regional creative director for Asia. There, he caught the eye of several U.S. agencies, including Fallon, which in late 1998 offered him the top creative post at its New York office. Droga turned that down to take Saatchi’s counter-offer to head up the London creative department.

While the stage is bigger in the U.S., Droga reasoned, “We’re all pulled by the same emotions.”

His new colleagues at Publicis said they expect to benefit from Droga’s international perspective, as well as his sales skills. “He knows what it takes to get good work sold through clients, and pretty big clients,” said Peter Nicholson, chief creative officer of Publicis in New York, who will report to Droga. (See On the Spot with Nicholson on Page 22.)

As Paris-based Publicis’ first worldwide creative head, Droga will likely promote more collaboration among the various offices working on global accounts such as L’Oreal, Siemens and Nestle, Nicholson noted.

Publicis Worldwide claimed $1.1 billion in revenue and about 9,800 staffers in 2001.