Gideon Spanier
Jun 23, 2023

We need ‘more lighthouse work, not just fireworks’: David Droga on creativity and Cannes

Accenture Song CEO talks to Campaign.

David Droga: 'There are two types of advertising'
David Droga: 'There are two types of advertising'

The advertising industry needs to focus on making more “lighthouse” creative work, not just “fireworks”, because it is potentially “so much more valuable” to clients. But “there's a lot of talk about something being a lighthouse that's not really a lighthouse”.

That’s according to David Droga, the jury president for the Dan Wieden Titanium Lion, who spoke to Campaign ahead of the final round of judging, which has included live presentations by the shortlisted entrants in front of the jury and watching delegates during this week’s festival in Cannes. The winner will be announced on Friday evening (23 June).

Droga, who is the chief executive of Accenture Song and founder of Droga5, said he used the lighthouse and fireworks metaphor when he met the jury at the start of its judging process.

“I said: ‘There's two types of advertising: there's the fireworks and there's the lighthouses and I want us to be great at both.’

“There are things where it’s there to be momentary, entertaining, thrilling, engaging, emotive, and worth the time but it's gone in a certain period of time. Great! Make that great if you're going to do that, make it the very best – [for the] Super Bowl or whatever.

“But there are other things that we can build that are going to stand the test of time, they're going to be helpful and they're going to be meaningful, and we can be in both camps.”

While Droga said he still appreciates “old-school levers” such as film, TV, outdoor and radio that “allow you to create fantastic, important bright flares", a lighthouse-type approach “can show up and manifest itself in many ways” that have more lasting impact.

“This is where technology allows us to do things that we could never do before” and produce creative and experiences that are “going stand the test of time and get better over time and be helpful and add value and it can still be beautiful as well", Droga explained.

“And when we can show that type of range as an industry, we are so much more valuable to businesses,” which is part of the reason he sold his ad agency, Droga5, to consulting giant Accenture in 2019, he added.

Droga did not comment directly on any of the work that is up for awards at Cannes Lions this week, because the judging was ongoing, but he made more of a general point about the creative that has emerged in the last 12 months, once the worst of the pandemic had passed.

“I think we’ve never been short of fireworks – and, again, I love them, and we should do more of them. [But] I feel like there's a lot of talk about something being a lighthouse that's not really a lighthouse,” he said.

Originality and critical thinking are never going to go out of style in the AI era

Droga, who has been a jury president of various other Lions categories in previous years, added that overseeing the Titanium was of particular interest because the work can “expand the definition of what marketing and advertising is”, particularly given the growing overlap between creativity and technology.

“You can't be a creative person or be a person who's trying to be at the centre of business influence and understand customers and consumers and culture if you don't have technology on your side – you just can’t.”

The rise of artificial intelligence offers huge potential, he added, citing Accenture’s recent $3bn commitment to invest in generative AI.

“In the long term it's going to automate a lot of what our industry does and there's a huge proportion of our industry that can be done better by gen AI.”

Examples include “the majority of stuff you see on television, the majority of websites you look at, the majority of copy, the majority of stock photos”, according to Droga, although he was upbeat about the implications for creative and other industries.

“Gen AI is not going to replace people. People who understand gen AI are going to replace people [who don’t]. I do really believe that.”

Droga went on: “We still need to create relevance for our clients. We're still going to drive efficiencies and drive productivity and growth. That's still our business for them.

“There are parts of it [the business] where the shape of our team may change. But originality and critical thinking are never going to go out of style. Taste is never going to go out of style. Craft is never going to go out of style at the highest level.”

Campaign UK

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