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Brief Published: 2 Sep 2014

Sir John Hegarty Interview

BBH headquarters in London

Ahead of his talk at the Stylus Fashion launch on Wednesday September 3, Media & Marketing spoke to BBH co-founder Sir John Hegarty about Cannes Lions, the future of advertising, and how to engage consumers in a fragmented media environment.

Ad man John Hegarty, British co-founder of global agency Bartle Bogle Hegarty, is still a great believer in the power of the 60-second TV spot – the clarity of which he feels is getting lost at the Cannes Lions advertising festival, with its ever-increasing number of award categories. “The genius of advertising was to take a very complicated message and reduce it down to 60 seconds of powerful, dramatic, memorable film,” he said. “Excuse me, doesn’t that have a fabulous future?”

Hegarty favours TV because he’s always aiming to “reach the millions rather than the few”. For him, advertising is about “trying to create work that is part of the cultural fabric of the country. [British food spread] Marmite has done that by being very daring and saying some people love it, some people hate it”.

Nonetheless, he acknowledges that making that sort of impact in this hyper-connected era is difficult. “[Advertising agencies] are victims of our own success, because the industry has become a global industry. I’m selling work to a committee of people now, and I get: ‘Well, that’s a nice idea, but that won’t work in Brazil’.”

As such, Hegarty believes a local approach is much more useful for brands that want to be part of the cultural conversation. “There used to be a time when beer advertising in the UK was really good – people related to it, and it was a part of the cultural fabric of the country, and beer sales went up. Beer sales today are going down, and you look at the beer advertising, and you’re not surprised. It’s this global stuff that means nothing to me. You’re not developing a dialogue. Part of advertising’s task is to develop a dialogue. [That’s why] craft breweries are going through the roof. I’m beginning to go: ‘I'm not sure I believe global advertising is working’.”

For more on Cannes Lions, see our series of Cannes Lions reports. For more on local advertising, see Making Global Brands LocalClick here for more on Stylus Fashion.