Ted Royer thinks that being called Adfest’s badass creative head is funny. And it is. The Adfest 2017 Grand Jury President is no badass, despite the nickname the Adfest crew has given him. Royer is an affable bloke who doesn’t mind getting a double-bunger interview sprung on him at the end of a long day of talking. Here’s what he said in the interviews by Adfest and The Stable.
The Stable: At Adfest in 2014, grand jury president, Tor Myhern, gave Asian creativity a less than flawless report card. It’s three years later What do you see?
Ted Royer: I can only really go on the work that I’ve prejudged, the Innovation and Branded Content categories, but I was very encouraged by what I saw. I thought some of the Innovation stuff was pretty cool and in terms of technology, the agencies seem really forward thinking – I guess a lot of that came from Japan. The little bit of film I’ve seen so far is pretty good too. So I’m optimistic. I hope it turns out to be as good as I want it to be. Asia has traditionally been so print focused in the awards shows, and not as digital as other parts of the world, but hopefully that has changed.
Ted Royer & Candide McDonald
TS: Last week, Havas Group Meaningful Brands survey announced its finding that “60% of all content created by brands is poor, irrelevant or fails to deliver.”
Royer: I think that’s probably true. 60%? Seems like the industry has changed for the better. If you’d asked that question when I started, I think the answer would have been 98%. OK, people hate advertising. And there’s not a day goes by where some new technology is invented to avoid what we do. Why is that? Because ads are, for the most part, annoying. They yell at us. They try to cajole us. They try to make us feel guilty. That’s one of the reasons why companies like mine exist. To try and up the game of advertising. To show it doesn’t always have to be annoying and avoidable. That’s why any great agency exists, why anybody like Tor has a career. Because he produces work that’s above and beyond. There has always been a struggle between trying to get in your face and sell, sell, sell and trying to charm you and persuade you with real creativity.
In one show you’ll see that same ad four times. That’s quite annoying. Of course that is a media buy thing, maybe they got a great deal. It would be better if you saw a different ad in the same campaign four times and were charmed by it. And paying attention to it? this is the real conversation. There isn’t much faith that anyone’s paying attention to an idea so a lot of times, I guess a client will tell you to hammer it into them, make sure they understand it when the sounds off, make sure you dumb it down so it can’t be missed. Well when you have something dumbed down so it can’t be missed, it becomes old pretty quickly.
TS: Do you regret leaving Australia?
Royer: I love Australia. I think it’s the best. My time at Mojo in 2004 was one of the most fun times in the industry. The agency had great energy. The people were just fantastic and I wish I could have stayed longer. I work for an Australian. I married an Australian. My kids have Australian passports. And one day we will go back for sure.
TS: Do you regret taking Droga5 out of Australia?
Royer: I don’t regret that. I wasn’t really involved with Droga5 Australia but, of course, I knew the people there very well and for a while was quite proud of the agency and the work it was doing. But, sometimes agencies just lose the plot a little bit. We’ve taken a bunch of the people who were there to New York. We’ve kept on great terms with almost everybody there and hopefully we’ll still be able to. But that experiment just didn’t work out the way we hoped.
Adfest: What did you bring with you from O&M and Publicis to help you build a great team at Droga5?
Royer: You know, some of what I learned in big agencies might be what not to do. Much of what I brought over was what not to do. Big companies have certain principles and the real impetus comes from the top. The top has to believe in great creative or it doesn’t happen. We’re founded and run by David Droga. He’s ambitious. He’s creative and he wants to do what’s new. We don’t make decisions based on fear like some others. We don’t hold onto what we have – we’re not defensive. We like to be adventurous. We like to go into new territory. We have great partners and great leaders and we’re all on the same mission.
Adfest: What creative method do you use to give Droga5 an edge?
Royer: We have no set method really. We approach problems in whatever way they need to be approached. Right at the start, we think as big as we can and we get deeply strategic. Then, hopefully, we make something that works and is unique. We like brands that have a point of view in the world. The last thing we want to offer is something that’s not relevant.
Adfest: What trends do you see on the horizon in advertising and marketing?
Royer: I’m actually going to talk about that during the Festival. Advertising is desperate. It wants to be liked. It pleads to you. But what if, in the future, brands were cooler? What if they didn’t beg? What if they were OK to say, “maybe we’re not for everyone?” What if they followed the rules of attraction in the real world? Skipped the deals, skipped the free stuff and learned how to be attractive to real people using the real laws of actual attraction? That’s what I’m wondering.
TS: #GirlsCount is a striking way to make gender equality matter. Do diversity and equality matter at Droga5?
Royer: Girls Count is something that a really great group of people put their passion and their time into, and hopefully we’ll get millions of videos out of it. So far we have thousands, I think. And, it’s one of those things that we love to put our energy into – it’s pretty much pro bono. We like doing things for the world that hopefully will do a little bit of good, not just sell products for the brands that we work for. We love doing that, of course, that’s the reason we’re in business. But we’re very passionate about using our muscles for things we really believe in. And the plight of girls around the world who don’t have access to education is shocking when you hear that figure – 130 million. Whatever we can do to help fix that is fine. It’s a huge labour of love.
Lauren Costa & Denise Zurilgen, Kevin Brady, Rachel Kornafel and Yardley Hansen through their hearts and passion into that project. We’ll keep on doing stuff like that all the time. As great agencies do.
TS: So long as it’s not their agencies that they have to make diverse?
Royer: Sure, that’s the great debate raging right now. Advertising has a long way to go to be truly diverse and truly gender and age unbiased.
Droga5 London is kicking ass too right now: