‘The Droga5 name has been both blessing and a curse’ admits Sydney CEO Sudeep Gohil

Droga5 Sydney CEO and partner Sudeep Gohil has admitted the agency has failed to live up to the reputation forged from its flagship New York office, but said the reintroduction of creative chairman David Nobay to the agency was “getting the band back together”.

Sudeep Gohil

Gohil: Under-delivered on the reputation of New York

His candid comments to Mumbrella come after the news executive creative director Steve Coll had quit the agency after fifteen months to take on a creative partner role with the With Collective, following a tumultuous two years which has left the agency in a “tough situation”.

“We’ve under-delivered on what the reputation of New York is. New York has done a brilliant job building an amazing agency,” said Gohil.

Droga5 New York was named independent agency of the year at this year’s Cannes Lions festival.



Coll joined from Havas Media in March 2014 just days after the agency lost its biggest client Woolworths. However it has failed to pick up any substantial clients to replace that business and has shrunk from 130 staff at its peak to just 43 now.

That has left many in the industry questioning how an agency which once boasted clients including VB, Toyota, Telstra and regular work from Qantas, has struggled so much in recent years.

“In the initial days having the Droga5 name has been both a blessing and a curse,” admitted Gohil. “On the blessing side, we get opportunities because we’re Droga5, on the curse side there’s an incredibly high bar for us to live up to.

“Which in part is why we’ve gotten the band back together to a certain extent with Nobay coming back in. We were doing award-winning work when we kicked off.

“You look at what our partners are doing in NY and they’re very supportive of what we’re going through and also helping us out wherever they can, but there are expectations that we do work that is better than what they’re doing in New York, but we realise there’s a long way to go to get there.”

Gohil said there is “no denying” the agency is in a tough situation, but rejected the idea Droga5 was unable to afford Coll anymore.

“Steve leaving is not a reflection on Steve and it’s also not a reflection on the agency. It’s a totally separate thing,” he said. “At the end of the day there’s no denying we’re in a tough situation, but we get it.

“It’s not like when we started the agency we went wouldn’t it be great if we were 130 people. We started the agency with the view of doing some great work with the view of building ourselves up to that position and that’s exactly what we’re doing now, we’re refocusing now at what is at the core of the agency now and rebuilding.”

On what type of agency Droga5 is looking to be following Coll’s abrupt departure Gohil said it was about delivering on the “promise” of the William Morris Endeavour Entertainment (WME) deal.

droga5 logoThe American talent agency took a minority interest in Droga5 globally in 2013 and acquired IMG, a global sports and media business, last year.

“We’re having conversations between us, the IMG team and the WME team locally on how we can better service our clients as a group, what kinds of services and products can we offer,” Gohil said.

“Ultimately we are in discussions about moving in together as a combined offering for clients as well,” he added.

Gohil, who is also chairman of industry body the Communications Council, insisted Droga5’s differentiation in market will not be around price.

“I don’t think you could come in lower than a lot of agencies are coming in already, our differentiator is not going to be price,” he said.

“When we started the agency there was three of us and a dog and we picked up the biggest beer account in the country (VB). The way we did that, and the way we will continue to regrow the business, is to focus on the creative side of it, the strategy side of it and building the right teams around the bits of business we’re going after.”

On the agency’s current clients, Gohil said the agency has a “couple, three or four, of core retained clients” with the rest the client relationships based on project work.

“There’s a whole bunch of project work we’re doing with a bunch of different companies from Unilever to educational brands,” Gohil said.

Heineken-Tiger and Coca-Cola Asia-Pacific are the agency’s two largest retained pieces of business, with Netflix and travel brand Helloworld rounding out the retained list. The agency has also recently picked up work on makeup brand Nude by Nature.

When pushed on the agency’s lack of local clients, Gohil admitted it was something the agency was looking to “rectify”.

“We haven’t been focusing that much on local clients, we’re involved in a big chunk of local pitches at the moment,” he said.

“It’s not that we don’t want local clients,  it’s not that we don’t think we can work on local clients, the agency was obviously started off the most iconic beer brand in the country, that’s just the way things have turned out. We’re looking to rectify that.”


Miranda Ward


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