‘Our industry has lost its courage’ – BBH co-founder Sir John Hegarty ‘deeply upset’ at state of creativity in advertising

By Angela Haggerty | Reporter

July 3, 2014 | 3 min read

BBH co-founder Sir John Hegarty has warned that the advertising industry is losing its courage amid dwindling creativity and tighter executive control.

Comments: Sir John Hegarty

Speaking at Thinkbox’s Big Think event at Bafta in London, Hegarty said that advertising agencies were now more controlled by non-creatives and had “lost faith” in TV advertising.

“Advertising seems to be pursuing a strategy of making a product worse to be more effective, which I find very confusing,” he said. “I’m not sure what business book people in advertising have read that says we should make the worst product and therefore we’ll be successful.

“I think the industry has lost faith in TV. I think it has lost faith in the big, bold idea. I think it has lost its courage and I’m deeply upset by that. Too many people leading our industry are accountants, and I think for a creative industry that’s a tragedy.

“We’ve lost the power and courage of creativity to drive our business forward.”

Hegarty told delegates that on the whole the advertising industry had a “phenomenal” future, but that businesses should be careful not to become obsessed with technological change and remember the creative product is where the focus should remain.

“In our industry we’ve become obsessed with technology,” he said. “In doing so, it has lost faith a little bit in the value of that big idea and putting it on TV, the value of broadcast.

“I’ve sat in client meetings where clients have wondered what’s wrong with their market share and why their brands are going down and they talk about distribution,” he continued.

“I sometimes have to say - 'it’s a very simple concept, but have you tried making a better product?’

“The whole debate here, everything comes back to creativity. Why is Britain not succeeding more? Because creative people are not at the top of those companies.”

Hegarty added that moving forward the industry must take a creative view not only on producing work but on approaching the market and media landscape as a whole.


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Bartle Bogle Hegarty is a Global advertising agency. Founded in 1982 by British ad men John Bartle, Nigel Bogle, and John Hegarty, BBH has offices in London, New York, Singapore, Shanghai, Mumbai, Stockholm and Los Angeles and employs more than 1000 staff worldwide.

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