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Big network agencies are now under threat: John Hegarty, Founder-Creative, BBH

According to Hegarty, with Martin Sorrell’s departure, the talk in the industry is that WPP will be broken up and with that all big network agencies will have to re-evaluate what value they are providing to clients

John Hegarty

The advertising industry is still reeling from Martin Sorrell’s exit from WPP. The entire fraternity has been abuzz, since then, on what the future of WPP would be and what impact would Sorrell’s exit have on the industry as a whole.

According to advertising legend and Co-Founder of BBH, John Hegarty, all big network agencies will have to re-evaluate what value they are providing to clients.

“With the departure of Martin Sorrell from WPP, the talk now is that the company will be broken up. One could now argue that the big groups are slightly under threat because what value are they giving to clients? This could be a problem for them unless they are focusing absolutely on creativity and that is why creativity is the future.”

And while creativity is the bedrock of any good advertising, Hegarty believes that most creativity is crap and only 10% of it is good.

“If a film is rubbish, people will not go and watch it and if a book is rubbish, people are not going to read it. Our industry inflicts its rubbish on people and that is why advertising, in a way, has greater responsibility to create better work. Not that is does but it should.”

As far as Indian creativity goes, Hegarty believes that, over the years, India has been able to incorporate Indian-ness into its ideas and that is making those ideas not only relevant but also good.

“The danger of globalisation is that we all end up in a bland world. Brands have pursued that because it is cost-effective but I am hoping that we can come out of that.”

Hegarty also touched upon the decline in creativity in advertising in Europe and America and the role that digital is playing in it.

“Whatever client you speak to, they would like advertising to be a science, which it is not. But along comes digital technology and it goes ‘Hey, we can make it a science’. Now everybody is excited by the idea of no-wastage and the idea of targeting. But targeting is a problem because a brand is not made by the people who buy but also by the people who know about it. That means you should broadcast. What a brand really needs to do is persuade and promote and we have entered into a land where we just promote. Persuasion is long term and promotion is not. People have to know about a brand irrespective of whether they will buy it or not. Through digital there is this wonderful opportunity to speak directly to people but one can’t forget that brands need to persuade in addition to promotion.”

A staunch believer that strategy and creative should always go hand in hand, Hegarty is of the opinion that while the current trend of bringing in strategists from outside is welcome, it is more important for strategists to be steeped in the agency culture.

“You can get people from outside but ultimately you should have the culture within the agency. When the Rolling Stones go on a tour they don’t get a guitarist on the go. They might get someone from outside once in a while, but a band is a band. The respect that people develop for each other when working together is fundamentally important.”

On BBH’s India plans, Hegarty only had two words to say, “Total domination!”

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