Ever since he’s retired, John Hegarty has really been letting adland have it with both barrels and calling bullshit on an industry that is even more awash with bullshit than it ever has been. And that’s saying something.
Adland’s decade-long desire to appear like it “gets digital” has led to the most spectacular wastes of time and money. Desperate to appear cool and techy, advertising has wallowed in widgets and digital doodads for far too long now.
It’s been mostly a mirage. People care even less about advertising online. It just doesn’t belong there. Simple as that.
When will advertising people wake up and realize that we are in the business of moving people closer to purchasing the brands we advertise? It can’t come too soon. They should listen to Sir Hegarty. Got this from a Canadian marketing mag btw. They promise more Hegaliciousness soon.
What’s wrong with advertising today?
My theory about it is—and this is not just my opinion—there is empirical evidence from the audience we talked to that they feel the quality of what we are producing has declined. You can look back in history and you can see the same thing, when you have a significant piece of technology, a particular development like digital, what happens is there’s a sort of creative deficit as we deal with it. We’ve certainly had that for the last 10 or 12 years. I think we’re sort of getting out of that now.
Because nobody knows quite what to do with it, we become obsessed with the technology, so technologists rule the airwaves. And it isn’t until creative people begin to work it out and say ‘What you actually can do with it is this.’
Look at the Lumière brothers who invented cinema but didn’t know they had invented cinema; they invented a moving camera. It took another 15 or 20 years before somebody worked out you could write stories and film them. They, in fact, gave up on it. And Les Paul, the creator of the electric guitar, he didn’t make rock and roll. He was a technologist.
So the deficit in quality isn’t about a lack of talent?
Nobody is to blame; it’s just a reality, it’s what happens. I think we lose confidence in things, we lose confidence in other media because all of a sudden people go, ‘Well, television is dead and it’s all over’ and ‘Print is dead and posters don’t matter anymore’ and all that sort of rubbish. And the focus, the concentration goes into this new medium until we work out what it’s delivering.
Has the industry started to eliminate this deficit?
I do think there’s the beginning of the reality [where we are recognizing] what digital technology can and can’t deliver. But people rush into these technologies without really understanding what they’re delivering, how they’re delivering, because they think it’s the new cool thing to do and if you’re not doing it, you’re kind of dead and old fashioned. Rather than saying, ‘What is it delivering? Can we measure what it delivers? Do we have any understanding of what it delivers? Do we understand how it’s going to work for us?’ none of that comes into force. So you have this focus away from things that we know have value, to things that we don’t know how to value.
And one of the other problems I have today is people have retreated to the edges of advertising. You know, they’re happy to do some small little campaign somewhere or they’re doing something on the net that hardly anybody sees and they’re getting awards for it and everybody’s cheering. But they’re not changing the way people feel or think.