Publicis Finds Droga’s Replacement At Home

When David Droga announced in August that he would leave his post as the first-ever worldwide chief creative officer of Publicis in December after only three years, a lot of people wondered why.

“People often ask, ‘Why didn’t it work with David? What went wrong?'” said Bob Moore, who today becomes Publicis USA’s chief creative officer, a new post. “My answer has always been that David did a great service to Publicis in raising the creative profile, but it was an impossible job for one person to do on a global level.”

As such, Publicis said it has eliminated the post of worldwide creative chief, so Moore, who had been president and executive creative director of Publicis in Seattle, takes over as creative chief for North America, the only regional creative leader in the 250-office network.

As for why it took nine months to find a creative partner who already worked at the agency, CEO Susan Gianinno said Moore, 45, was her first choice, but she knew he didn’t want to relocate to New York—something she considered necessary at the time. She had conducted an outside search and is known to have talked with creatives around the country whom Moore had suggested. But, she said, “in the end, I looked at their reels versus Bob’s. That kept being the dilemma. Nobody was as good as Bob.”

Droga, in Los Angeles last week getting his Publicis Groupe-backed venture, Droga5, up and running, concurred. “He was always one of my first recommendations,” he said. “I have a tremendous amount of respect for Bob. He has an enormous amount of talent.”

Moore, a native of Traverse City, Mich., joined Publicis Seattle in 2002. A competitive swimmer and triathlete, he has embraced the Pacific Northwest lifestyle, and his wife, a Seattle native, has a large, extended family in the area, not to mention a thriving private French-tutoring service for pre-schoolers. Their young daughters, fluent in French, are happily ensconced in elementary school.

Not least, Moore is also the point person on Publicis’ $520 million T-Mobile account.

So an agreement was reached. Moore remains based in Seattle but relinquishes all management duties for that office to Seattle CEO Randy Browning and senior creative director Rob Rich, who becomes Seattle’s ecd on clients including Hewlett-Packard, Washington State Lottery and Real Networks. Moore is also expected to spend as much as 40 percent of his time on T-Mobile, in addition to being in the New York office for up to two weeks a month.

T-Mobile CMO Mike Butler said Moore’s leadership on the account has helped build “a strong business and a vibrant T-Mobile brand,” and noted he is counting on Moore’s continued “close personal involvement in the work.”

“Bob brings a passion for brand building, drive for creative excellence, and mature leadership which will stand Publicis in good stead,” Butler said.

Todd Waterbury, ecd at Wieden + Kennedy in New York, partnered with Moore from 1998 to 2000 at Wieden’s Portland, Ore., headquarters on Coke and Microsoft. He described him as “a writer’s writer,” skilled at developing client trust in order to do great creative work. “He always walks in with a sense of, and respect for, the business side of client issues,” Waterbury said. “But he can also get them enthusiastic about ideas.”

Jamie Barrett, a cd at Goodby, Silverstein & Partners in San Francisco, overlapped with Moore at both Fallon in Minneapolis and Wieden. “I see him as being a sunny-side-up, smart guy who tends to squeeze out really good work in pretty much any circumstance he’s in,” Barrett said, alluding to the spots Moore helped create for United Airlines at Fallon just after the Sept. 11 attacks. “Bob’s one of those few guys who is a complete package. He has the unique ability to communicate and get along with people on every side of the fence.”

As for the change in structure, Droga himself believes having a U.S. creative leader rather than a global one is a smart move. “One person can only do so much,” he said of the worldwide creative role. “When you’re spending all your time on planes, putting out fires in different offices, you can’t be productive.”

The benefit of such a position is that it serves as a “beacon for creativity in the company,” said Gianinno. “But it proved to be very difficult to actually do that job. What do you work on? What clients do you relate to? What people are you responsible for? So we struggled with whether or not in a practical sense that was a meaningful title—that one person could actually make an impact on the offices throughout the world.”

Some sources have characterized the working relationship between Gianinno and Droga as being fraught with friction, which they both dispute. “That’s not true,” Droga insisted. “We come from different advertising backgrounds and didn’t always see eye to eye, but I always thought she was a woman of her word. There was certainly respect, and we shared similar objectives—to push the business forward and do better work.”

As for Moore’s long-distance arrangement, Droga said he doesn’t see a drawback. “Geography is not the issue. It’s the relationship between the people more than the physical space between them,” he declared. “In some agencies people sit right next to each other and don’t talk.”

The setup may be unusual, but it’s not unprecedented. “There is a divide-and-conquer mentality to this arrangement,” Moore said. “It’s a good idea to divide Susan and me up on the two coasts.”

As for Moore’s priorities, he said “getting New York fixed” was on the top of the list.

There are jobs to fill in that office. Two years ago, Droga hired three executive creative directors there, including David Corr, who is the only one of those remaining since last summer, and he works mostly on Procter & Gamble.

“He’s been doing a great job, but he needs another team to help run those businesses day to day,” Moore said of Corr. “We also need to get an ecd to partner with [Publicis New York president]Gil Duff.”

Lisa Colantuono, marketing director of New York consultancy AAR Partners, described Publicis USA as “a good agency creatively and strategically. They’re integrated, but so are a lot of other agencies. When people think of Publicis, they think of Heineken.” T-Mobile is famous work, but it doesn’t immediately “make an association for you with Publicis,” she added.

Moore, whose creative reputation was built on award-winning work for Nike, Microsoft and Altavista (while at Wieden + Kennedy) and United Airlines and Lee Jeans (at Publicis’ Fallon), wants to strengthen the creative product so that the 550 creatives in the 10 U.S. offices of Publicis and Publicis Dialog can say one year from now: “We’re hitting home runs.”