Advertising for Hegarty on Advertising

“You’ll find exciting, funny, knowledgeable and stimulating people. It’s an industry made of entrepreneurs. It’s also an industry that will prepare you for almost any other business: it’s fast moving, challenging, smart and inquisitive, built on the need for competitive advantage.”

Hegarty on Advertising is a book about our industry, that is englightening, insightful and fun to read. John Hegarty, one of the three founders of BBH, describes his view on the advertising industry and tells his personal story of how he arrived at where he and his agency are today. I highly recommend this book, not only to those who work in advertising, but also to anyone who wants to get an understanding of this industry and it’s challenges.

There are basically two parts in this book. Part one is about Hegarty’s believes and opinions on how advertising should work, how it changed over the last years, and how it needs to evolve as a discipline. The chapters are on general topics like ideas, brands and audiences, agencies, the creative director, clients, briefs, pitches, on storytelling and Hegarty’s view on the role of technology. For anyone working in this industry, there shouldn’t be too many surprises there, nothing unheard of. There are even some very universal phrases that might be new to someone from outside the industry but seem redundant to people working in advertising today. Still, some definitions and statements are fun to read and always have this kind of ‘Absolutely!’ (life coach) effect. Sentences like “Creativity isn’t an occupation, it’s a pre-occupation” or “Do interesting things and interesting things will happen to you” or this famous Bernbach quote: “a principle isn’t a principle until it cost you money.” He is talking about principles a lot, about BBH principles like the principle of of ‘no creative pitches’.

There are also some nice definitions to use for your next presentation. For example: “The best definition of a brand I ever heard is this. A brand is the most valuable piece of real estate in the world: a corner of someone’s mind.”

The second part is the more interesting biographical part. I am sure, this is an insightful read for everyone working in the advertising industry. In a funny and witty way, Hegarty describes how he started in the London advertising industry in the 60s, when he started at Benton & Bowles, then Cramer Saatchi (Charles Saatchis first agency or creative consultancy as this interesting business model was called), Hegarty was then part of the founding team of Saatchi & Saatchi, where he spent a couple of years and watched first hand, how a big agency brand was created. When TBWA opened it’s office in London in 1973, where Hegarty was part of the executive team. The historical perspective on the strategic decisions of the agency networks of that time are definitely worth the read. The idea behind TBWA for instance, was to build the first pan-European agency anticipating the development of the European Union as the driving economic and cultural force of the future. This was definitely new to me.

In 1981 he then founded BBH, together with long time TBWA business partners Nigel Bogle and John Bartle. The personal stories and anecdotes of how they started their own agency provide great insights and are just fun to read. He describes how the industry changed over the years, how they (also with some luck) managed to win Audi and Levi’s among their first three clients and how they were able to go global with their so called micro network.

Of course, Hegarty is also celebrating some of the work he and his colleagues produced over the last three decades. BBH definitelty left their mark on culture and created some classical pieces of advertising like Levi’s Odyssey or the TV commercial creek.





While reading the book I found myself researching on YouTube to see some of the commercials again. My favorite piece is this ad for black Levi’s which is also the story behind the black sheep in BBH’s logo.

In summary, what I liked most about Hegarty on Advertising, is the fact, that the book is celebrating our industry. Advertising is not necessarily blessed with the greatest reputation and the biggest trust. In fact, advertising professionals are always ranked among the least trusted professions (just after politicians and used car salesmen). And even the people working in this industry have enough to complain about all the time.

In this book, John Hegarty reminds us, that this is the most exciting time to be in advertising and marketing. “Advertising is far more than just a communications industry. It’s a problem-solving industry that also teaches you about life, how it encourages you to focus your thinking and produce something of genuine value. Why? Because that will make the advertising task so much easier. You’re now equipped with a unique set of insights and experiences across a broad range of markets, allowing you to bring clarity and inspiration to anything you wish to produce.” Amen.

As always some more material:


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About aschauerte

Marketing, Media, Communications and Business Strategist.

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