Adland’s brightest star: Cannes and the cult of David Droga

It’s hard to remember a time when one figure was so dominant in the advertising industry, but David (don’t ever call him Dave) Droga has taken on official guru status. He was the king of the Croisette last week, and it was hard to have a conversation at Cannes that didn’t include him.

The rumours were preposterous. Or were they? Have you heard that he told Cannes Lions he wanted to be a jury president, so they invented the Sustainable Development Goals Lions just for him? Did you know that Accenture actually paid $1 billion for Droga5, not $475 million?

He was also the target of the “#FreeDroga” movement, whose posters on the Croisette artfully replaced the “O” in Droga with handcuffs. David Droga’s potential saviours (independent agency Terri & Sandy) hired a plane to fly across the beach trailing a #FreeDroga” banner, all in aid of raising $475 million so he could buy back his agency.

David Droga himself didn’t seem to want to be freed, and put in an appearance on the main stage with his new captor, Accenture Interactive global CEO Brian Whipple, where he explained why he sold his agency to the consultants: “The way to save creativity is to make sure that it is effective all the way through. This is a bit dismissive but I don’t want to be the best interior decorator in the business if the house is going to fall down. It all has to work.”

Cannes Lions chairman Phil Thomas showed favouritism towards Droga during a session about in-housing. Thomas asked Uber ECD Paulie Deary: “You could invest in using any agency you wanted in the world… What is the issue? Why don’t you go to David Droga and say ‘let’s do some work together’?”

Anatoly Roytman, Accenture Interactive’s head of Europe, African and Latin America, talked to MAA about the Droga effect, saying that since the deal, he’s been “bombarded” with clients keen to experience some of the great man’s stardust.

And there is still stardust to be sprinkled. Droga5 had a good showing at Cannes 2019, particularly for its “The Truth is Worth It” campaign for The New York Times, which beat Nike’s Colin Kaepernik masterpiece to the Film Grand Prix, and was the first work ever to win a Grand Prix in both the Film and Film Craft categories.

Droga5 came third in agency of the year, behind Wieden + Kennedy and McCann New York, and came second to Wieden + Kennedy in the Independent Agency of the Year category. It will be interesting to see how Droga5 performs as a non-independent next year – Accenture Interactive has a lot riding on the agency.

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About Emma Hall

Emma Hall
Emma Hall is the former London Editor of Ad Age, where she covered European marketing advertising, digital and media stories. She has written for newspapers including the Financial Times, The Guardian, The Times and the Telegraph, and was previously a section editor at Campaign. Emma started her career in New York as a researcher for a biography of Keith Richards.

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