‘Marketing is letting us down’ - Sir John Hegarty

10:10 AM, 7 May 2014

The ad veteran expressed concern for the marketing industry by telling senior marketers that while we are living in an incredible period of time, one in which technology is coming at us in ways that are unimaginable, audiences believe that the work marketers are doing is getting worse.

Hegarty asked the question of whether or not the growth in technology in the past 15 years had revolutionised the communications industry.

He then answered, I really don't genuinely think it has, I think [it has] liberated the communications industry in the way you can do things, in the way you can talk to people.

He suggested that it has allowed even the smallest producer with a minimal budget to be able to do anything; but that marketers are doing it wrong.

I'm convinced all you marketing people want it to be a science. If you could just make it a science it would make it so much easier but its not. Selling stuff has never been a science, its about persuasion. And persuasion is an art. And it will never ever be that, despite big data, he said.

Most people don't understand creativity, he continued. We are all creative, its just we learn by living by it. If you're in marketing, you're a creative person. The essence of creativity is to take a number of known assets and reassemble them in a way that stimulates the imagination.

Hegarty then used BBHs work for Unilevers Lynx/Axe brand to demonstrate what he meant. We won this business in about 95 and it was a product that was sold based on the fact that it would make you smell better and girls would like you.

Hegarty emphasised the changes in how companies advertise, using Unilever as an example.

Unilever used to always come up with a fragrance, they'd give us the fragrance and wed create the advertising around it. We now start with the idea and they make the fragrance and take that to the market.

The message is the medium. Marketing and advertising have been liberated by technology; its fundamental to creativity, he said, before going on to explain the five things that he believes are fundamentally important in today's marketing.


1. Broadcast - A brand is made not just by the people who buy it; they are made by the people who know about it.

2. Don't focus on risk - "No one likes risk, instead focus on excitement and reward.

3. Consistency he cites the Nike Just Do It Campaign.

4. Truth -If you go back and look at the history of marketing, the work that wins is the work that tells the truth.

5. Belief - The people who succeed in business are the ones who passionately believe in their product.

Throughout his speech, Hegarty proved to please many people in the crowd with one tweeting: " Hegarty's balls to the walls honesty, or rant, is fantastic. So refreshing to hear an opinion. And see someone take a position."

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