Droga5 Ups Bauer to Chief Strategy Officer

Will oversee strategic planning across digital, brand planning and analytics groups

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In an effort to swim insight further upstream in client talks and compete for new business on a larger global canvas, Droga5 has promoted Jonny Bauer, its head of strategy, to the newly created role of chief strategy officer.

Bauer will oversee strategic planning at the agency across digital, brand planning and analytics groups. Recent Droga5 hires Chet Gulland, Ted Florea and Becky Wang will lead those teams, respectively. Droga5 has a total of 22 planners in its New York headquarters.

“This is an effort to make sure our strategic output is current in order to help build and sustain the most influential brands of the 21st century,” said Bauer, who joined the agency four and a half years ago from BBH New York.

Droga5 has a diverse client list, with Puma, Kraft and Prudential among its biggest. The agency also posted a big win with Coke Zero in early August.

A large part of Bauer’s mandate is to grow the agency globally beyond New York and Sydney. Agency founder and creative chairman David Droga said his team is eyeing Asia and South America. Droga said the agency won’t move into a region merely for the sake of being there but will expand as the opportunity arises. “We want it to be predicated on a like-minded client,” Droga said.

Still, the subtext is that day is coming soon, which is where Bauer comes in with strategy.

Droga had high praise for Bauer’s abilities. “He’s one of the biggest brains in the industry,” said Droga, adding that Bauer’s promotion “frees him up to think, which is what he does best.”

The Australian-born Bauer, 36, cut his teeth at London-based branding consultancy A Vision before jumping to BBH London and New York and then Droga5.

In concert with his promotion, Bauer has put together what he’s calling a “cultural consultancy” group. The group, called Point, is made up of hundreds of global advisers ranging from rocket scientists to experts on Greek culture (one of the six Kraft brands Droga5 works on is the Athenos line of feta, hummus and other Mediterranean foods). “This takes us beyond the traditional communications channel and shows us where to point our potent creativity,” Bauer said.

Echoing Droga, agency president Sarah Thompson said Bauer is at once restless and intellectually generous in his approach to planning and insights. Thompson said Bauer would be charged with thinking not only about clients strategically but Droga5 as well.

“We don’t aspire to be the biggest agency, but the smartest,” Thompson said. “We want to grow in the right way, and we’re elevating Jonny to help us do that.”

Asked who in the agency/media space is particularly smart about insights, Bauer singled out Pixar for keeping technology and humanity in balance to “produce things that people actually want.”

Pressed for what kind of businesses he’d like to take on as his agency girds for growth, Bauer’s ambitions are clear. “We wouldn’t say ‘No’ to an automotive client,” he said. 

@jcoopernyc james.cooper@adweek.com James Cooper is editorial director of Adweek.