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Research kills more creativity than it supports: Sir John Hegarty

28-April-2015
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Research kills more creativity than it supports: Sir John Hegarty

Sir John Hegarty, Worldwide Creative Director and Founder, Bartle Bogle Hegarty (BBH), speaks about five points to keep in mind while pitching, shares his views on awards being a curse for the creative industry, the dangers of advertising becoming accountable. ‘Remember money is a tool, it’s not a philosophy. Chase the opportunity, not the money,” he advises creative aspirants.

Hegarty’s 5 points to keep in mind while pitching…

The first thing is you have to accept that the client is asking you to pitch because something is wrong. Identifying what is wrong is fundamentally important. Finding a different way of solving that is also crucial. Making a client realise that you have skills and the people to actually solve that problem they’ve got is crucial and moreover doing it in an entertaining and interesting way  is important too so that when they have seen all the pitches, they remember your pitch, not somebody else’s pitch. You have to remember the pitch is like a piece of advertising, ask yourself the question ‘does it stand out’?

Has advertising become more accountable or quantitative in terms of what are you delivering?

There is a sort of danger with advertising in the way brands are using it in order to get more measurable results. The conundrum of that is that by measuring more, you often become more inaccurate or you actually kill the thing that makes it work and of course, virtually every client I know would love marketing and advertising to be a science. They are desperate for it to be a science. But it’s not. We are human beings, we have all sorts of thoughts and feelings and we change our mind and brands need to be aware of that if they want to be a great brand and appeal to those senses, those emotions, a serendipity of what we like and dislike. Of course brands want it to be the other way around they want us to be someone that will always buy their product on a particular day or a particular time. They may want that, but it isn’t going to happen.

Are you saying accountability is killing creativity?

No I am not. Everything in a way has to be accountable. But at what point do you measure it? When does the measurement come? Are you trying to build something or are you trying to have a relationship with people? because that takes time. The danger of accountability is you decide that I’m going to measure it in three months’ time. It is like education. You teach a classroom of kids something and try it measure it afterwards, please note there will be no change. Six months later, there might be all sorts of change.

From what you said in the past you seem to be extremely anti –research…

There is no point in me saying research is a waste of time. It can be interesting, it can provide information. By the way most of the great ideas I have had and executed were panned by research.

Research on communication is very difficult. The danger with research is that it’s just another opinion in the room, but nobody has the courage to say it is just another opinion and take the risk of ignoring( just in case it turns out to be right)  it’s a bit like what we say about guns ‘guns don’t kill people, people kill people.’

So Research is a gun?

Research kills more creativity than it supports.

Awards are the curse in your view?

I have increasingly begun to think that awards have become the curse of advertising because they are encouraging creativity just to win awards and your career is now dominated by how many awards you’ve got rather than the successes you’ve created for brands.  Awards should be there to support that not to subvert that. It’s all over the world. Scam has become a global problem. And an accepted way of life.  Who said it is an accepted way of life? I didn’t. I didn’t build my career out of building scam. The only way we will change the market is when we make things better by demonstrating in the real world that this piece of communication really works. Look here is the evidence. If you just say ‘here is a piece of advertising, it won lots of awards, at XYZ show,’ the client goes, ‘Yes but what did it do in the real world?’ But unfortunately today even marketers are joining in this nonsense, even they want to win awards.

What do you look for when you are hiring?

I am looking for somebody who surprises and challenges me; challenge me with their ideas because by and large, if I am hiring somebody I am hiring a creative person, so I look at what they have done.

Your advice to aspiring creative leaders…

My one advice is ‘Remember money is a tool, it’s not a philosophy. Chase the opportunity, not the money. ‘

Hegarty’s Take on the ‘Great Idea’

A great idea is one that changes the way people feel or think, whether you are an architect, a painter, a poet, a writer or a filmmaker. Ideas are the most fantastic thing we have. We all have them, you don’t need special permission, a special equipment. They can be had anywhere by anybody, they are the most egalitarian thing that is done in the world today, having ideas. A great idea can change the world. I’m desperately trying to influence consumer behaviour. I’m trying to get them to look at my product vs somebody else’s. Hopefully I do that with honesty and integrity and get them to see it in a way they haven’t seen it before. 

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