A knight to remember…
By Sam Beaumont
We get a lot of amazing speakers at SCA. It’s one of the best things about being here. They’ve always got something new to share, and they’re always great.
But once in a while we get the opportunity to meet, not just someone who IS great, but someone who’s A great; a giant of the industry, who, while they must have much better things to do than come down to our horrid old church in Brixton, think it’s worth doing anyway. Yesterday’s speaker, as the founder of one of the most prestigious agencies in world, the brains behind some of history’s most iconic ads, and one of the very few people to have gained a knighthood for their involvement in this dark and shady advertising biz, definitely qualifies as one of these greats. Here are the things I learnt from listening to Sir John Hegarty…
1. SCA is an amazing place.
Whether you’re here and needed a reminder, or you’re considering coming here in the future, yesterday was proof that you just can’t beat the opportunities that you get at this school.
2. Don’t eat peanut butter near John Hegarty.
John Hegarty is the guy who headed up the agency that made me want to get into advertising, so as he came towards the kitchen where I stood preparing some breakfast, I’ll admit I was a little bit star struck. Unfortunately the conversation didn’t go exactly as I’d expected…
Sir John: Hello.
Sir John: *Looking at my toast* Urrgghh! Peanut butter is the worst food on this earth!
If it wasn’t for his talk later on, they would have been the only words he said to me so if you ever meet John Hegarty, do yourself a favour and steer clear of the PB.
3. Creativity is an expression of self.
Despite brand guidelines, tone of voice, or changes by the client, the end product will always be a product of your experiences and opinions.
4. Being great at one thing is better than being good at many.
As he most eloquently put it, “Would you rather listen to a talk on film by Quentin Tarantino or someone who dabbles with directing on Thursdaynights?”. You can’t really argue with that.
5. Be irreverent.
When Volkswagen’s ‘think small’ ad went against the zeitgeist of big cars are best, it was exactly that challenge – that irreverence that got them noticed.
6. Stories will never go out of fashion.
The way the industry is embracing new technology is one of the most exciting things about it, but only if it isn’t as a substitute for story. (Sir John recommended reading ‘Sapiens’ for an interesting take on the role of story in the development of our species.)
7. The power of juxtaposition.
We all want to make ideas that stick, and juxtaposition is The Heg’s favourite shortcut to doing that. By messing with expectation, your audience’s brains are immediately engaged, and your ad has gained that all-important real estate in a corner of their minds.
8. Take out your headphones.
If your experiences shape your work, you better make sure you get a good collection. Music can be great for inspiration, but life, as it happens around you, can be just as good.
9. Ego, not hubris.
Basically, don’t be a d**k. Ego is necessary to help you fight for your ideas, but when that ego crosses over into self importance you’re in trouble. Believing in your own ideas while staying open to those of others is part of what it takes to turn a 10 year career into a lifelong one.