Success Secrets from David Droga:
- Strive to deliver on your own expectations and to exceed your client’s.
- The minute you feel content with what you’re doing, you’re in danger of becoming stagnant.
- Strive to make sure that everything you do for your existing clients builds their business, and builds your business.
- You don’t have to be the best businessman or manager in the world, but if you look after your people and focus on the work, you’ll succeed.
I got started in my career by default really. I had four other brothers who went to university and that was the last route that I wanted to take. I thought it was quite a boring thing. All I ever had was my own imagination, and I didn’t know how to make money from it. So for me, it was either writing comics, books, screenplays… I didn’t care what I did as long as I wrote things.
Then someone said to me, “Well there’s this thing called advertising where you get paid to write stuff and they make stuff using other people’s money.” It seemed like such an amazing possibility that I got a job in the mailroom of Grey Advertising when I was 18, though I did it only for a few months.
I used to be very cynical. Even then I thought, “I know I can write better.” And that inspired me to enroll in a one year course run by the industry.
I was fortunate enough to be the top student, and I was offered a job straightaway as a copywriter, which was lucky.
I was sort of off from there. I was there six months when a new agency called OMON. It was started by 3 young guys who were very talented. I was their first employee, and I essentially grew with the agency. In a surreal amount of time I became their creative director. It happened just by the nature of the agency and because it grew so fast.
Deciding factors on starting a business:
I’ve been very fortunate in my career to date. I’ve circumnavigated the globe and worked with amazing people. I’ve always felt like I was chasing something. When I got the top job as Worldwide Chief Creative Officer at Publicis, which was strange because I was only 33. I realized on some level that I’d achieved the top rung of the creative ladder.
I thought, “I hope there’s something more to it than this.” I wasn’t looking to retire. And though had this very, very big title and a big corner office, I was quite removed from what I actually liked doing, what I think I’m good at, which is the creative side of things.
I thought, “Do I have the guts to go out on my own and walk out on such security?” and, “If I don’t do it now I never will.” I also wanted to test my own principles. I thought, “In these big jobs, everyone talks about their principles and what they’d do to change things, but usually they don’t. The system around them doesn’t allow that.”
So I thought, “The only way to try is to start my own place and live or die by my own principles.” I’ve always tried to do the things that tested me the most. I’m no fool either. I know the bigger the risk the bigger the reward.
I was quite fortunate. That very first day as I was leaving my office, boxes packed and such, a client just rang me up and said, “Can I come and see you?” And I said, “Sure.” And they came in my office and I said, “You know I’m not here anymore.” And they said, “Yeah, absolutely. We want to be your first client.” As you can imagine, that was very fortunate.
New business acquisition today:
We always look at everything we do for our existing clients as not only building their business, but hopefully building our business. Everything we produce is essentially another bit of bait for another possible client.
We’re finding that a lot of our work is attracting new clients, we certainly are getting a lot of inquiries, which is great. We want to be defined by the quality of the accounts and the effectiveness of our work.
I love the clients that we have now, but I want our next piece of work to define itself beyond our last bit of work.
I’m very proud that I’ve managed to survive and essentially do okay in some pretty ruthless markets, and some big markets. The first time I left Australia, I wondered, “Can a young Australian succeed in Asia?”
I’m proud of what I did in Asia, though that was some time ago. And when I returned to London, I was essentially the first foreign creative director ever to go into Saatchi in London.
I was so intimidated going in there, which is almost laughable because I was 29 and an Australian coming in from Singapore and England’s such a proud country. Saatchi’s sort of the epicenter of that.
To me, striving to deliver on my own expectations and to exceed theirs was a great thing. It was a personal challenge.
On another level, there are a lot of people that I’ve worked with that I’ve seen go off and become creatives in agencies all over the world. I can’t take all the credit, maybe just a tiny bit of credit for it, but I’ve contributed somewhat to many peoples careers, and that’s something to be proud of I think.
David’s thoughts on the keys to success:
I attribute my success in part to being Australian. I keep things pretty bloody simple. I’m not a smoke and mirrors type of person. I cut to the chase. I say what I think, and I focus on the work. I’m not the best businessman in the world. I’m not the best manager in the world. I do what I can, but at the end of the day, I look after my people and I focus on the work. And I think my people do better than average as a result.
I believe my job is to make everyone else look good. And if people’s careers are better off under me than someone else, then they’ll be loyal to me. I’ve always gone out of my way to really try and nurture and get the best out of the people working around me and with me.
On Doing Things Differently:
I’ve been blessed in a way. Even the hardships prepared me for the next thing. There’s no way I could’ve done London, had I not done Singapore. I couldn’t have done the global things, had I not done London. And I probably couldn’t have done, even anticipate, or even thought about starting my own place if I hadn’t been exposed to those high levels in the big network.
It may be quite coincident, some of it by design, but I feel very good about the way it’s working today. That’s not to say it couldn’t be better though. (Laughter)
David’s thoughts on how to build and sustain a career
I know it sounds cliché, but never take anything for granted, ever. The minute you feel like you’ve achieved everything or you’re content with what you’re doing then I think you’re in danger of becoming stagnant. I’m a very, very restless person. And I think you have to remain restless, otherwise things catch up with you.
And always give yourself some credit and assume that you can do more.
Tips on getting new business:
It comes down to the work. Clients are interested in the work and the caliber of your thinking, your strategic thinking. They will come to you if you show that’s what you believe and stand for.
If you’re a smoke and mirrors type of person that can put together a great presentation, you can end up getting the best client in the world, but when it comes to delivery, it’s going to backfire.
In the end, I think people get the clients they deserve. But that’s not to say we don’t all deserve a kick in the bum every now and then.
A final suggestion for people just starting out:
Live up to your own expectations.
About David Droga:
David has been fortunate enough to work all over the world. And in that time, he’s worked with a lot of great people. His past roles have included, Worldwide Chief Creative Officer of the Publicis network, Executive Creative Director of Saatchi & Saatchi, London and Regional Creative Director of Saatchi & Saatchi.
To date, he is the single most-awarded creative at the Cannes International Advertising Festival and the only person ever to win “Agency of the Year?” in four different countries. David has been inducted into the American Advertising Federation Hall of Achievement and been honored with Lifetime achievement awards across the world. However tired of building other peoples companies, in 2006 David founded Droga5 in New York City.
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