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David Droga shares his views on what works in advertising

New­bie art direc­tors or account man­agers in Adland can always use a lit­tle sage advice. Thank­ful­ly, one of the wis­est, David Dro­ga, founder and cre­ative chair­man of one of the USA’s most suc­cess­ful young agen­cies, New York-based Droga5, has been shar­ing his views about the industry.

Lazy ads

An adver­tis­ing genius who’s been show­ered with awards dur­ing his career (he took his first cre­ative direc­tor job in 1992 at the ten­der age of 22), Dro­ga is also an out­spo­ken crit­ic of the indus­try. In a recent inter­view with the Toron­to-based online news out­let, The Globe and Mail, he makes it clear he’s pro­found­ly against for­mu­la­ic, same-old-track adver­tis­ing, which he con­sid­ers lazy. That’s not to say he’s accus­ing indi­vid­u­als of being indo­lent, because he knows that most art direc­tors with media jobs in Adland put in hours and hours over and above the call of duty. He’s talk­ing about a mind­set, not the num­ber of hours worked.

He says:

“No indus­try has worked hard­er at being lazy. We’re doing the same thing over and over. And it gets hard­er and hard­er – the con­sumer doesn’t want to be inter­rupt­ed. I mean, I’m in adver­tis­ing and I fast for­ward through the com­mer­cials. There are whole indus­tries built on tech­nolo­gies to avoid what our indus­try cre­ates. If that isn’t a wake-up call that we need to be bet­ter, and smarter, and more tac­ti­cal and time­ly, and more in sync with the con­sumer, I don’t know what is.”

The art of great sto­ry­telling 

So, the thought­ful art direc­tor may be won­der­ing, what does a smarter ad look like? Droga’s work for Pru­den­tial Insur­ance could well func­tion as a case study. With a mon­tage of pho­tos and short films, it told inti­mate sto­ries of peo­ple expe­ri­enc­ing their first day of retire­ment – and won a cache of awards. Dro­ga believes that con­sumers are more inter­est­ed in great sto­ries than they are in adver­tis­ing: “We’re moved by emo­tions, and char­ac­ters, and sto­ries. We love that.”

For Dro­ga, the prin­ci­ples of great adver­tis­ing haven’t changed – cre­at­ing con­nec­tions, inspir­ing, edu­cat­ing and, of course, sell­ing. But with changes in the tech­no­log­i­cal reach of ads and the mul­ti­ply­ing media, the rules for imple­ment­ing those prin­ci­ples have changed. Today’s most suc­cess­ful ads, he says, “need less glitz and more strate­gic rig­or in the work. That’s some­thing that’s imperative.”

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