“I told you Accenture underpaid.”
David Droga is joking—sort of. Two years ago, when the founder of Droga5 inked a deal for his agency to be acquired by Accenture Interactive, the industry reacted with skepticism bordering on derision. The agency would lose its edge, it was said. Droga5 would become a dry, unimaginative cog in a consulting company wheel.
It’s now two years later, and Droga has gotten the last laugh. The agency posted the winningest year in its 15-year history despite a pandemic that ravaged many of its peers. The shop topped both R3 and Comvergence’s new business rankings, notching 20 new clients, including Petco, Maserati, Paramount+ and Allstate—the last breaking a 60-year streak with Leo Burnett. Droga5’s total revenue swelled 17% in 2020, including 25% organic growth among existing clients. And while it was forced to lay off 7% of staff in the early days of the pandemic, the agency closed out the year with 122 new hires—many of whom have never set foot in its Wall Street office.
And just last month, it was announced that Droga5 would be opening an office in Tokyo, with additional outposts planned for China and Brazil.
“I don’t want to say we proved everyone wrong, because that is not why we did it,” says Droga of the sale. “But it is great to prove everyone wrong.”
The timing was prescient, given that COVID forced a rethinking among marketers seeking business transformation solutions as the world went into lockdown. “It was a moment when you stopped worrying so much about ‘Oh gosh, how do I defend the fee?’ and started thinking ‘What do we have to work together to help?’” says Susie Nam, Droga5 chief operating officer. Retail businesses “were pummeled,” while other clients “weren’t sure what stand they should be taking in the world,” she adds. So the agency focused on “just rolling up our sleeves and saying, ‘OK, client X is going to move to more digital transformation three years earlier than expected, what does that look like?”
“Accenture was a big part of that,” she adds. “We know only so much. They made us better and smarter.”
“Clients—or at least a lot of clients—suddenly have a greater appreciation for really creative lateral and smart strategy” coming out of the pandemic, says Droga. “That’s also why we attracted so many new clients. Because actually, under duress [of the pandemic], we value creativity and strategy more than we ever did.”