Agency A-List 2013

Droga5 Is No. 5 on Ad Age's Agency A-List

Indie Shop Continues to Make Its Mark With Some of the Most Cutting-Edge Creative in the Business, While Adding Big-Name Brands to Its Roster

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Droga5: Andrew Essex, Sarah Thompson, David Droga

Once a year, David Droga gathers his agency troops to celebrate Australia Day, with meat pies, AC/DC and libations -- an homage to his birthplace Down Under.

When staffers gather for this year's event, held the last Monday in January, Mr. Droga will be lifting his glass to another stellar year at Droga5, and another Agency A-List nod.

The indie shop continues to make its mark with some of the most cutting-edge creative in the business, while adding big-name brands to its roster.

"We had immense scaling-up of the business without any compromise," said Mr. Droga, founder and creative chairman of the 6-year-old shop. "We're still a youngish company ... so we are paranoid about retaining our mojo, or our soul," he added.

The shop still chases business, but only if it fits the Droga5 culture, which led it to recently decline an invite to pitch a major fast-food account.

Fortunately, there are plenty of good fits. Droga5 says it grew its U.S. revenue by a whopping 43% last year, marking six straight years of 30%-plus growth. New wins included nabbbing Coke Zero from CP&B, project work for Diet Coke and Heineken USA's Newcastle Brown Ale.

The agency, which employs nearly 300 people at offices in New York and Sydney, also added to its Kraft Foods/Mondelez International business, with Cracker Barrel cheese and Honey Maid, while launching the debut campaign for Mondelez's new ID Gum. Droga5 says 16% of its billings growth came from existing clients.

Booze marketing is one area where Droga5's work has been original and category-redefining.

For Hennessy, a cognac brand that Droga5 won in 2011, the agency this year launched a campaign that tapped into lore from Cognac, a French town and the drink's namesake. The town is home to rabbits that are rarely seen that are considered the driving force behind people's successes, according to legend. The campaign, called "Wild Rabbit," includes one ad starring Filipino boxer Manny Pacquiao in artfully filmed training scenes. The result: brand sales outperformed peers by 21% in dollar sales, gaining one point of market share, according to Droga5.

For Newcastle, the shop took a more humorous approach with "No Bollocks," which features lighthearted ribbing of conventional beer-selling ploys, such as fancy glassware and signs. It's been a hit on Facebook, where the brand's fan base increased by 235%, according to the agency.

As it created breakthrough campaigns last year, the agency expanded its service offerings, setting up a PR practice, and sought to stay ahead of the innovation curve with the launch of "DE-DE," an internal software development studio. The first product out of the gate was "Thunderclap" a "crowd-speaking" platform that allows a single message to be "mass-shared" on social networks. The studio represents the "infusion of technology expertise as agencies shift toward more thinking about product," said Andrew Essex, agency co-founder and CEO.

And if that's enough to keep the troops satisfied, Droga5 last year gave everyone at the agency a free iPad. Other perks include free dinners nightly (meat pies optional).

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