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Ad guru David Droga on the positive powers of advertising

By Laura Allsop for CNN

  • Advertising guru and founder of agency Droga5 is a giant of the business
  • Previous campaigns include "The Great Schlep," encouraging Jewish people to vote for Obama
  • He is the most awarded creative at the Cannes Lions Advertising Festival
  • His company, Droga5, is committed to representing brands with a social commitment

London, England (CNN) -- He is behind some of the most infectious advertising campaigns of recent years, creating online sensations and forging communities of followers.

Australian David Droga is the maverick adman who became an executive creative director -- the chief creative thinker at an agency -- at just 22.

He now runs his own New-York-based advertising agency Droga5, following stints as executive creative director of Saatchi & Saatchi, London, and worldwide chief creative officer of Publicis.

You may not recognize the man regularly called the "guru" of the ad world, but you will probably know his work.

Some of Droga5's best-known campaigns include "The Great Schlep," for which U.S. comedian Sarah Silverman made a viral plea encouraging people to visit their Jewish relatives in Florida and convince them to vote for Barack Obama.

Video: David Droga on art and commerce

Droga5 also masterminded the spoof video of graffiti artist and entrepreneur Marc Ecko apparently breaking into an Air Force One base in 2006 and spray-painting the words "Still Free" onto an airplane.

The video became an online smash and got so much media attention that the Pentagon issued three statements denying that the footage was real.

On the back of it, Droga5 won the top digital media award at the Cannes Lions Advertising Festival -- the ad world's Oscars -- in the same year.

Indeed, Droga is the single most awarded creative at Cannes, with over 50 Lions under his belt and since forming Droga5 in 2006, has acquired clients Coca-Cola and Microsoft.

The youthful Droga, who co-presents this month's edition of CNN's arts and culture program "icon," is not resting on his laurels, though.

Advertising now takes on a far greater role of social responsibility and contributing to society.
--Droga5 founder David Droga

He told CNN, "Perhaps one of the greatest and biggest changes in the advertising industry has been the way brands sell themselves and the mediums in which they do that.

"It's as much about the communication," he continued, "But also now it is the body language of a brand ... how it actually operates and exists in the real world."

Some of Droga5's clients include Method, the environmentally friendly cleaning products company, and sportswear brand PUMA, a company that prides itself on its ethical and ecological record.

Droga believes that a respectable brand can wield considerable power.

"Advertising now takes on a far greater role of social responsibility and contributing to society," he explained.

"It seems like not a lot of the world's issues can be solved by big government," he said, "But they can be solved by brands, and brands putting their best foot forward need advertising."

Droga5's prowess extends to successfully marketing charitable projects.

Its campaigns include the UNICEF "Tap Project," which asked restaurant-goers across New York and beyond to donate a dollar for the tap water they received for free, and the "Million" project for the New York City Department of Education, which awarded mobile phones and minutes to schoolchildren based on classroom performance.

"I set up Droga5 because I really believe in the power of advertising," Droga said, "But I believe in the power of advertising that's in synch with what consumers want."

"I believe in creating ideas that consumers actually want to engage in, creating movements with our thinking and not bombarding them into submission," he continued.

That's why he thinks behaving responsibly is the best way forward. "There is good business doing good," he said.