By Philly Baines
My first introduction to Sir John Hegarty was my Dad showing me a young man in New York stripping to Marvin Gaye’s Grapevine.
Dad gets nostalgic over the great things made in the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s before I was born. Throughout my childhood, he took it upon himself to share great things made in this period. He showed me Monty Python, Tamala Mowtown and one day when the subject got onto adverts, I saw Levi’s Laundrette.
I remember watching the film thinking it was like the beginning of a feature-length movie; a teaser about a cool guy in downtown New York trying to get his jeans to look like he wanted them to. It was a sketch of a character in all his glory – as every day as it was. Sure the film was an advert but it had a much bigger quality – something that my Dad and a lot of his generation appreciated. With school exams looming, this memory was boxed up in my brain until February 2017.
On receiving my acceptance letter to the School of Communication Arts, my Mum sent me an episode of desert island discs featuring Sir John Hegarty – the creator of this advert. I knew his work but little about the person behind it. Through all the tracks he chose, I started to build a portrait of John in my mind. Chuck Berry – Sweet Little Sixteen, Bob Dylan – Subterranean Homesick Blues, Miles Davis – Sketches of Spain and John Lenon –Stand by me. He seemed like a man full of excitement, intrigue, open-mindedness with a progressive attitude.
Near the beginning of the term, our year group was assigned a project to make short documentaries about UK advertising legends. I found out my group would be making a film about John Hegarty. I was naturally incredibly excited.
Over the past few weeks, I’ve had the opportunity to get to know John through his colleagues. So far, my team and I have filmed Nick Kendle a colleague from BBH now working with Hegarty at The Garage and Jeremy Sinclair, a founding Director of M&C Saatchi. It’s been incredibly inspiring meeting these admen, formidable minds in and of their own right – but their insight into Hegarty has been so interesting.
My take home was how much they felt Hegarty’s positive outlook led to a brilliant environment for ideas generation. Where some could succumb to a crippling amount of cynicism with ageing in any industry, he remains upbeat and forward thinking to the present. No doubt this characteristic has empowered him and his team to keep on producing brilliant idea after brilliant idea. And of course, more and more clients are drawn to him because of it.
This week, I finally got to meet the man himself.
Funny, sharp and encouraging, Hegarty gave a masterclass on creativity. He told story after story about the lessons he had learnt throughout his professional career. My biggest lesson learnt was concerning the definition of creativity as an expression of self. I certainly hope to be making things for the rest of my life and John reaffirmed my opinion that to have a lasting career you need to communicate your own truth and feed yourself through this process as much as the audience you hope to connect with.
My group filmed an interviewed John after this masterclass and no question was too big or small. I remember Steve our interviewer asking Hegarty on fonts; he had a fascinating reference to the work of Herb Lubalin and how he’d judge a typeface through the letter ‘o’. John was a fountain of stories and knowledge.
All in all, I found Hegarty to be full of integrity, drive and encouragement. He’s the kind of person who seems to feed themselves off ideas and expressing their interpretation of the world. No doubt his newest venture at The Garage will keep him busy doing what he loves for many years to come.
I told my Dad I had met the man behind the Laundrette,
‘What was he like?’ He asked.
I replied, ‘Like those first five bars of The Grapevine used in the Levis Laundrette ad.’