David Droga Shares Painterly Take On Advertising During Cannes Lions Talk
David Droga
  • CANNES, France
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Creative brush strokes from Pablo Picasso and Leonardo da Vinci were applied to the ad industry canvas by David Droga, founder and creative chairman of Droga5, during his session titled "I'm Not Sure I'm Right But Who Is" at this week’s Cannes Lions International Advertising Festival of Creativity. Droga addressed a capacity throng, sharing reflections and observations--but screening only one piece of work: Droga5’s short promoting a Christie’s auction of da Vinci’s legendary, rediscovered masterpiece painting of Christ--“Salvator Mundi,” a.k.a. “The Last da Vinci,”

Rather than focus on the painting, Droga5 enlisted director Nadav Kander of Chelsea Pictures and a hidden camera to turn the perspective around and capture the emotion of those, including some familiar faces, who came to see it--in the most real and human way. Kander and Droga5 showed exactly how breathtaking and powerful this work was by simply not showing it at all.

“I am obsessed with the emotion of what makes people tick. I’m obsessed with how people feel,” said Droga who added that the best advertising “touches people,” is “visceral” and “makes you feel something.” The four-minute Christie’s short captures the power of the painting through people’s reactions to it. Droga said the short “reminds me of the power of creativity” and breaking away from conventions.

Christie’s “The Last da Vinci” went on to win a Cannes Film Craft Gold Lion for Cinematography. Painted in divine light, each viewer is delicately framed like da Vinci’s depiction of Christ, mirroring the very artwork they are viewing. The response creates an emotional film--a story of awe, admiration, joy, reverence, sadness and beauty--as people gaze upon the last privately owned da Vinci before its public auction. Set to a track which perfectly matches the emotion and expressions of viewers, as the music stirs, so do the faces. 

This year’s Gold Lion is the latest in assorted Cannes honors for Droga over the years. He has amassed more than 70 Gold and 15 Grand Prix/Titanium Lions thus far. In 2017 Cannes presented him with the Lion of St. Mark award which recognizes an individual who has made a significant and outstanding contribution to industry creativity.

Still, Droga noted that creativity often isn’t properly rewarded, which led him to recall during this week's Cannes session a Picasso story as it related to an early career achievement. At the age of 29, Droga became executive creative director at Saatchi & Saatchi London. A chief exec there promised to give him anything he wanted if he could put the agency back at the industry’s creative forefront. Under his charge, Saatchi London reached that lofty status, earning for the first time Agency of the Year at the Cannes Lions Festival in 2002. Saatchi hierarchy wanted to keep its promise, asking Droga to name his reward--a lavish vacation, a luxury car, whatever struck his fancy.

Nothing, however, immediately struck Droga’s fancy--until six months later when he was in New York for a meeting and walked into an art gallery where he saw “a fantastic painting...I found what I wanted as my reward.” The painting has been hanging in Droga’s kitchen ever since--a Picasso, which has since increased in value some 40 times over.

Droga told the Picasso tale as a stark contrast to today when creative people aren’t often properly valued for what they do for agencies and clients. “The work we put out there is the lifeblood of agencies,” he said, affirming that creativity needs to be recognized and rewarded.

At the same time, Droga shared that being meaningfully involved creatively is essential for him as proven during a juncture in his career when he was too far up the chain and wasn’t “touching the work.” In that case, Droga said he couldn’t “bullshit” himself that he was happy--no matter how big the salary or perks. “It’s not worth it...You only get paid twice a month. You have to go to work almost every day.” At the heart of his career happiness is the need to be immersed in the creative work and making a material difference.


Client Christie’s Agency Droga5 New York David Droga, creative chairman; Ted Royer, chief creative officer; Laurie Howell, Toby Treyer-Evans, creative directors; Tom McQueen, sr. copywriter; Sally-Ann Dale, chief creation officer; Jesse Brihn, Bryan Litman, co-directors of film production; Jennifer Chen, sr. producer, film; Isabella Lebovitz, producer, film; Phillip Cheng, Kelly Appleton, Annie Vlosich, Carlos Valdivia, associate producers; Mike Ladman, music supervisor; Tasha Cronin, Justin  Durazzo, co-directors of interactive; Grace Wang, producer, interactive; Cliff Lewis, director of art production; George McQueen, sr. art director; Bianca Escobar, associate director, art production; Daniel Wagner, strategist; Colleen Leddy, head of communications strategy; Ben Nilsen, communications strategy director; Amy Avery, chief intelligence officer. Production Chelsea Pictures Nadav Kander, director; Adam Beckman, DP; Pat McGoldrick, exec producer; Jon Dino, producer. Editorial Cut+Run Gary Knight, editor; Natalie Kasling, assistant editor; Lauren Hertzberg, exec producer; Eytan Gutman, sr. producer; Marcia Wigley, producer. Telecine Company 3 Tom Poole, colorist; Alexandra Lubrano, exec producer. Conform Jogger Matt Dolven, Joseph Grasso, Flame; Yukio Lytle, exec producer. Music Max Richter, composer. Song: “On the Nature of Daylight” Audio Post Sonic Union David Papa, mixer.


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