Timeline: The Bold Work That Made Droga5 an Iconic Independent Agency

As Accenture acquires the creative powerhouse, we look back at Droga5's formative years

From left: Anna Kendrick for Newcastle, Michael Phelps for Under Armour, and Rihanna for the Tap Project.
Droga5 has often leveraged celebrities in inventive ways. From left: Anna Kendrick for Newcastle, Michael Phelps for Under Armour, and Rihanna for the Tap Project.
Headshot of David Griner

In one of the more dramatic pieces of agency acquisition news in recent years, Droga5 today announced it will be acquired by Accenture Interactive. The 13-year-old creative agency founded and led by David Droga has been one of the most notable independent players in the agency world throughout its run, and Droga5’s work has often generated global attention and avalanches of awards.

As the agency’s independence comes to its end, we’re looking back at the campaigns, client wins, transitions and personalities that defined Droga5’s evolution.

Here’s a brief timeline of how the agency came to be, came into its own and came to dominate discussions of advertising for more than a decade.

2002 — David Droga, Rising Global Star

Adweek names Saatchi & Saatchi its Global Agency of the Year, crediting much of the network’s success to U.K. executive creative director David Droga, whom Adweek described as “one of the hottest creative directors in the world.”

2003 — David Droga Moves to NYC

David Droga, an Australian native who’d been working at Saatchi in London since 1999, moves to New York City to become the first worldwide creative chief for agency holding company Publicis.

2006 — Droga5’s Founding, Ecko’s ‘Still Free’

David Droga founds Droga5, naming the agency after the tag his mother would sew into his clothes to help identify what belonged to David (the fifth of six children). Named as CEO was Andrew Essex, who would eventually take on the role of vice chairman before exiting in 2015 and authoring “The End of Advertising.”

Shortly after its founding, Droga5 was approached by fashion designer Mark Ecko for help reinforcing the connection between his brand, Ecko Unlimited, and graffiti art. The resulting project, “Still Free,” used grainy, handheld camera footage to show a team of vandals breaking into Air Force One’s storage facility at Andrews Air Force Base and tagging the president’s airplane with the brand motto “Still Free.” Widely reported by news media as real, the cleverly doctored clip led the Pentagon to issue a statement denying any graffiti had been painted on Air Force One—and the video became an instant icon of viral, guerrilla marketing.

The Ecko project would net Droga5 its first Grand Prix at the Cannes Lions—not bad for the first year of the agency’s existence.

2007 — The Unicef Tap Project, Royer Joins

Ted Royer, a U.S. creative who’d worked alongside Droga at Publicis, joins as one of the earliest employees and would eventually rise to the role of chief creative officer.

Challenged by Esquire editor David Granger to come up with a world-changing idea that could fit on one magazine page, David Droga was inspired to create what would become the Unicef Tap Project. The campaign launched by asking NYC restaurant goers to pay $1 for tap water that usually came free of charge, with all proceeds going to families in drought-stricken nations around the world. Esquire donated not one but three pages to kick off the project, and the magazine also brought in celebs like Sarah Jessica Parker. The first World Water Day raised $5.5 million, and the charity effort has continued and grown since.

2008 — The Great Schlep

To help ensure Democratic candidate Barack Obama won the tossup state of Florida, Droga5 and the Jewish Council for Education and Research launched “The Great Schlep,” featuring comedian Sarah Silverman calling for young Jews to visit their grandparents in Florida and convince them to vote for Obama. Florida ended up going to Obama with a scant 170,000-vote majority, and Droga5 says Obama won the largest support among elderly Jewish residents in 30 years.

@griner david.griner@adweek.com David Griner is creative and innovation editor at Adweek and host of Adweek's podcast, "Yeah, That's Probably an Ad."
Publish date: April 3, 2019 https://stage.adweek.com/agencies/timeline-the-bold-work-that-made-droga5-an-iconic-independent-agency/ © 2020 Adweek, LLC. - All Rights Reserved and NOT FOR REPRINT