Sir John Hegarty is a very, very talented art director. He also knows a thing or two about business, having founded Bartle Bogle Hegarty (BBH).
His CV speaks for itself. His client list reads like a who’s who of the world’s most successful companies. He’s been creative director at BBH for the past 30 years and is responsible for the Levi’s ‘Launderette’ ad. For introducing ‘Vorsprung Durch Technik’ to the UK. For the ‘Flat Eric’ Levi’s ad. For seven tracks from Levi’s commercials becoming number ones in the UK charts. And so it continues.

His agency is still producing great ads, year after year. Here are some really simple ads for Google. They’re promoting the voice function for phones. And they’re lovely. They’re so good because they allow the reader to ‘get’ them. There’s a little moment where you feel good once you realise what they’re talking about.

Google Vlice Search Piccadilly Circus

Google Voice Search FTSE 100

Google Voice Search Latest scores

Google Voice Search Covent Garden

Google voice Search Taxi numbers

Google Voice Search Leicester Square

He’s quite disappointed with the level of creativity in advertising nowadays.
Here’s his list of ten things you should strive for to try and be more creative:

1 Be fearless: Be single minded in the face of opposition
2 Keep it simple: Don’t try to say or do too many things at once
3 Stop thinking, start feeling: Creativity is driven by the heart, we respond more to emotions than logic
4 Get angry: Channel the things that annoy/upset you into more creative tasks than getting stressed
5 Juxtaposition: Don’t be afraid to place two things next to one another that wouldn’t normally sit together – even in your head
6 When the world zigs, zag: Look in the opposite direction to everyone else
7 Avoid cynics: They drain your confidence – see number one
8 Ask why? a lot: Question everything like a child
9 Philosophy: Always be looking, thinking, watching. Absorb everything
10 Remove your headphones! Don’t cut yourself off from your environment

Here are some of the other things he managed to deliver by focussing on his creativity:

BBH Levis Zig Zag


Flat Eric

A painting by John Hegarty to raise money for NABS

A painting by John Hegarty to raise money for NABS

Here’s a little piece of what he wrote for a book called ‘The Art Direction Book’:

Herb Lubalin, probably one of the most influential American designers and typographers, once ran an ad. It said in big bold type “Nobody ever noticed good typography.” Underneath in very small print it read “They’re too busy reading the ad.” The art of art direction is to do more than get noticed. It is to get consumed.
Although we have quite rightly shrugged off the constraints of the Helmut Krone VW layout that dominated advertising since 1960, in its place we have adopted an attitude that says anything goes. We have drifted into startling our readers with a look – rather than an idea.
I’m sure the recurring theme from many people in this book will be about the primacy of the idea. Sadly, that is being forgotten by many art directors and award shows that increasingly give out gongs for craft. Without an idea, art direction is nothing but candy floss. It melts to nothing under the heat of scrutiny.
It’s ideas that change the world – not the letter spacing in your headline.

I love his work and his approach to creating. And the fact that he believes so strongly that ideas change the world.

Next time you’re trying to create anything, try and remember John’s list. And, if you can’t remember the other nine, make sure you remember the most important one – keep it simple.

And reading old awards annuals (D&AD annual are the best) is a great way to see how other people’s creativity works. Don’t steal, just use the annuals for inspiration. They can help your mind approach a problem from an unusual angle. And that’s normally where the great ideas are waiting to be discovered.

This is a lovely idea.
It’s a poster where you can swipe your credit (or debit) card down the middle of the poster.
When you do this the image on the poster changes and you donate €2.
But the changes in the poster are lovely.
It shows you slicing off a piece of bread for a hungry child. Or slicing through the ropes binding an imprisoned man’s hands.

Invite people to interact with your message. It makes them feel part of it, and therefore is more likely to get a response.
It’s the same when you’re presenting creative work (or copy, or art direction, or a media schedule) to your client.
Always, always make them feel part of the process. They’ll be far more likely to buy into the idea if it’s partly theirs (or even if they feel that it’s partly their idea).
Plus, it’s far less likely they’ll kill the idea stone dead if they’re responsible for its inception.

Reminds me of the Skoda brand manager who was almost fired for approving the ‘new’ Skoda ads about 10 years ago.
It’s a long story, but it’s a rewarding story for those of us who try hard to get ideas into our communications.
Basically Chris Hawken was given the task by VAG group to head up the Skoda brand in the UK.
He sold the board on repositioning the brand as a quality marque, rather than the slightly-less-than-quality reputation it held.
He (very bravely) decided to not use the internationally-renowned agency that the company normally used.
He chose to go with Fallon instead.
He bought ads from Fallon that were superb.
Many of the ads were written by Andy MacLeod and art directed by Richard Flintham (who were also executive creative directors and founding partners at Fallon).
They acknowledged that the marque had issues in the past. And they highlighted this by having people unable to accept that the lovely car they were looking at was a Skoda.
Here are some of the TV ads that they used to change people’s perceptions.

But when he presented the campaign idea to his line manger, the line manager refused to approve it.
So Chris Hawken resigned.
Once the board level management heard about his resignation, they asked why.
They then saw the ads he was proposing, and they invited Chris to return to the company and sacked his boss instead.
Last I heard he was heading up the whole of the VW/Audi Group in Australasia.
This is a lovely tale of the right idea winning out. Sadly it doesn’t happen all that often.
So grab every opportunity you see. Make the best of any job you ever work on. Because you never know when everything will click and you’ll get some dream work out there.
Ideas make a big difference. Honest.

Goodbye to Bobby Womack.
An amazing singer, writer and performer.
His voice could make the hairs on the back of your arms stand up.
Pain, beauty, hopes and dreams were easily communicated by his rich, soulful voice.

Communication - a beautiful album cover from 1971

Communication – a beautiful album cover from 1971

Look at the people he wrote songs for:
Wilson Pickett, the Rolling Stones, Sly and the Family Stone, Janis Joplin.
He also worked with some amazing people in the later part of his life, too – The Roots, Mos Def, Gorillas, Damon Albarn.
His music has influenced so many people it’s almost unbelievable.
And look at the number of hits he had. And decades he performed across.
He saw a lot of tragedy in his life. Two of his sons died. Which, in part, led to him becoming addicted to cocaine.
But he channelled his emotion into his music. And changed a huge number of lives.
He made a strong comeback in 2012 with The Bravest Man in the Universe. Damon Albarn helped produce the album.
And it’s not some old guy just making a final record. It’s a journey with him. And it’s got some beautiful music on it.

The Bravest Man in the Universe

The Bravest Man in the Universe

Spend some time listening to a few of his amazing records below.

And, when you’ve got time, listen to all of them. He truly was a landmark presence in soul music.
Farewell to the voice that always makes me smile.