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Advertising has a huge responsibility : Sir John Hegarty

Sir John Hegarty, Founder, Creative, Bartle Bogle Hegarty, has some sharp words regarding the state of creativity in advertising today. According to him, most of the creativity is crap, with only 10 per cent of it that is good. “The problem of advertising is that we inflict our 10 per cent on people. If a book or a movie is not up to the mark, we don’t read it or go and watch it. On the other hand, the industry inflicts its ads on people for which they get paid,” he said. 

Hegarty’s observations come from the over six decades that he has spent in the creative advertising industry – from the early days of Saatchi and Saatchi to Bartle Bogle Hegarty (BBH), the global company that he co-founded in 1982 with John Bartle and Nigel Bogle. 

The leading ad veteran asserted, “Advertising, in a way, has a huge responsibility to create better work. Not that it does not, but a lot can be done as people are exposed to it. It’s always difficult in life to get the best or be a part of the best. A lot of hard work goes into the process.” 

He observed that creativity was on the decline in the European and American markets. Citing a research by TGI, which tracks people’s appreciation, Hegarty noted that ad appreciation had gone down in the past 20 years. He attributed a number of reasons for this. 

Hegarty was speaking a round table conference at BBH’s Mumbai office recently. He is also part of the jury for the inaugural edition of the Star Re.imagine Awards 2018. 

Speaking further, Hegarty stressed on the importance of holding on to the authenticity of the place where the brand is developed. He felt that the danger of globalisation is that the creativity ends up being bland, where everything is the same. Yet brands pursue it as it is cost-effective. Hegarty was optimistic that the scenario would change in the future, even as he noted that Indian ads had been able to bring in the local flavours and ideas. 

He expected the Indian market to pick up well. According to him, whatever one did in India, must hold on to an Indian tone of voice. He would like it to be an Indian creative and not a global creative. 

Persuasion and Promotion 

Hegarty mentioned here how brands wanted advertising to be science, whereas it was not. But the advent of digital technology had the brands excited about the idea of zero-wastage and targeting. Here, Hegarty remarked that when it came to targeting, a brand is made not only by the people who buy it, but also by the people who know about it. 

A brand’s primary aim is to persuade and promote, “but we have entered into a land where we only believe in promotion”, Hegarty said, adding that while persuasion is long term, promotion is not. While digital is allowing brands to directly speak to the people, one needs to remember that brands need to both persuade and promote.

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