Agency A-List 2018

Droga5 Is No. 10 on Ad Age's 2018 A-List

By Published on .

(From l.): Sally-Ann Dale, Sarah Thompson, Jason Severs, David Droga, Susie Nam, Jonny Bauer and Amy Avery.
(From l.): Sally-Ann Dale, Sarah Thompson, Jason Severs, David Droga, Susie Nam, Jonny Bauer and Amy Avery. Credit: Robyn Twomey for Ad Age

When Droga5 shows work to prospective clients, there's a rule: Don't show anything more than a year old. Founder and Creative Chairman David Droga says the agency would rather offer fresh work than dash off a reel of its greatest hits.

"It reminds us that we need to keep moving," says Droga. "We have to live up to our reputation."

During its 11-year history, Droga5 has consistently focused on creative excellence for clients such as Under Armour, Chase and Google. But even the most outstanding work doesn't insulate an agency from controversy, and our choice of Droga5, tied on our list at No. 10, has been complicated by the recent departures of two key creative leaders under murky circumstances.

In February of this year, it parted with longtime Chief Creative Officer Ted Royer after an internal investigation. The nature of the review was not disclosed, though a spokesperson at the time said, "We are committed to maintaining a safe and inclusive environment for all our employees." A few weeks later, London Executive Creative Director Rick Dodds left without explanation. When asked to comment, Droga5 said, "Since day one, Droga5 has been a growing community, built around outstanding ideas and driven, dedicated people. We are always learning and striving to become an even better version of ourselves. We believe in our values, the power of purposeful creativity and, most importantly, our people."

Droga5 emphasizes "purposeful." Since its founding it's been drawn to work that "creates a disproportionate amount of positive impact," says David Droga. Its campaigns for Ancestry, the YMCA and the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence have set out to promote diversity and liberal values. "We're not shying away from what we stand for," says the agency founder. "Clients come to us because they want work that's smart and appropriate. We're not creating ripples just for the sake of it."

"Smart" is an apt description for the agency's integrated campaign for email platform MailChimp, which Droga says, "almost said to us, 'We're not sure we like advertising.' " Instead, MailChimp asked for something that added value.

Droga5's solution was an effort that played on how people use the internet, with absurdist creative that riffed on possible mistaken interpretations of its name—MailShrimp, for example, featured a singing prawn sandwich in a mail room—but didn't mention MailChimp at all. It also created a host of fake products, such as FailChips, NailChamp, WhaleSynth and SnailPrimp, each with its own web presence that eventually led the viewer to MailChimp.

The campaign picked up the Cyber Grand Prix at the Cannes Lions and, the agency says, garnered 775.3 million total impressions and 3.8 million organic searches and delivered 29 percent more visits than anticipated to MailChimp's online properties.

For The New York Times, Droga5's "Truth Is Hard" campaign confronted the U.S. political climate head-on, provoking conversation around topical issues. The first spot debuted during the 2017 Oscars and used typography and sound to portray the publication as a "safe harbor" in a noisy storm of information. The campaign helped lead to the publication's best quarter for subscriber growth, the agency says. Creatively, it also won big at Cannes, earning several Gold Lions for film and film craft. (Some online conversation, however, ended up being directed at Droga5 itself after one execution of "Truth" this year focused on the #MeToo movement—right around the time Royer left.)

The agency's lifeblood is creativity, and that continues to result in a healthy business performance. The agency's 11th year in business has also been its 11th year of substantial year-over-year growth, in which it reached $205 million in revenue, an increase of over 20 percent ($35 million) since 2016, with over $58 million in new business, it says. New clients in 2017 included Ancestry, CoverGirl, Dos Equis (Heineken), ESPN, IHOP restaurants, Mattress Firm, The New York Times, Sprint and Tencent.

David Droga says the agency is "flirting" with the idea of opening in China, and is speaking with local talent there.

While advertising is still at its core, Droga5 is focused on shaping a more integrated practice. It has added an in-house production company, Second Child, to its offerings. Some recent pitches have been won purely as consultancy clients.

Most Popular