The only brand I want to work on, is the one that wants to redefine the market they’re in. And if it was someone making nuts and bolts that would excite me.

question Please give us a brief (if that’s possible) background on yourself.

John started in advertising as a junior Art Director at Benton and Bowles, London in 1965.  He almost finished in advertising 18 months later, when they fired him.  He joined a small Soho agency, John Collings & Partners, going places.  They did -  out of town.

In 1967 he joined the Cramer Saatchi consultancy which became Saatchi & Saatchi in 1970, where he was a founding shareholder.  John left in 1973 to co-found TBWA, London as Creative Director.  The agency was the first to be voted Campaign’s (the UKs leading advertising magazine), Agency of the Year in 1980.

In 1982 he left to start Bartle Bogle Hegarty which was soon to become one of the most talked about and awarded advertising agencies in the world.  The Agency has won every Agency of the Year accolade and every creative award possible and has been at the forefront of the industry for 27 years.  

In the first two decades of BBH’s history, John was responsible for campaigns for Levi’s such as the ground breaking commercial starring an unknown model called Nick Kamen who stripped off down to his boxer shorts in a launderette and introduced the British to the phrase 'Vorsprung Durch Technik' for Audi.  He was the first to pick a young model/actor called Brad Pitt to star in a commercial and he also pioneered the importance of music in Levi’s commercials.

The result being the soundtracks from seven Levi’s commercials getting to the UK number one spot. John also oversaw the  phenomenon Flat Eric, who kicked Eminem off the number 1 singles slot in 1999. BBH now has offices in London, New York, Singapore, Sao Paulo, Shanghai and Mumbai and John oversees the creative output of all these offices.

This unique global structure also contributed to the company winning the Queen’s Award for Export Achievement twice, in 1996 and 1997. John has won Golds at every industry awards including D&AD, Cannes and British Television. He has been given the D&AD President's Award for outstanding achievement and was admitted to the US One Show Advertising Hall of Fame.

He has also been voted as one of the most influential people in fashion thanks to his work with Levi’s.  In 1998 he was given an Honorary Fellowship from the University of the Arts, London. In 2006, he was awarded honorary doctorates from Buckinghamshire Chilterns University College and Middlesex University and sits on the Board of Trustees of the Design Museum.

John was awarded a Knighthood by the Queen in 2007 in recognition of his services to the advertising and creative industries. He was also  invited to be an Honorary Fellow of The Marketing Society for his contribution to outstanding communication campaigns.  In June 2011,  John successfully launched his book ‘Hegarty on Advertising – Turning Intelligence into Magic’.

In the same month, John was honoured for his creativity at the Cannes International Advertising Festival,  being the first recipient of the inaugural Lion of St Mark’s Award.

question What have been the most memorable moments in your career?

Working with John Bartle and Nigel Bogle. And getting a man to undress in a Launderette.

question What have been the moments you’d rather forget?

Far too many,  so I forgot them. Never dwell on failure. It harpers success.

question Do you ever consider retirement?

Never retire.

question Do you feel it’s the younger generation who have all the great ideas or does experience and your natural instinct still give you an edge?

Great ideas aren’t dependent on age, they're dependent on enthusiasm. To succeed you must remain young and engaged. Experience gives you can edge but only if its looking forward.

question Project wise, what’s the one campaign that stands out in your mind as being the best one your team launched?

That’s too focussed on looking backwards. In this industry you’re only as good as your next idea. That can be hard but that’s what makes this industry so exciting.

question How many hours sleep do you get each night?

As many as possible.

question What are the biggest challenges your company faces?

Finding truly talented people.

question What mobile phone do you carry?

One that keeps me connected.

question Do you have Instagram installed on your phone?


question Please take a photo with your phone right now and post it to Instagram and share the link with us.

Not interested!

question Who have been your favourite clients over the years?

The ones that were excited about making a change.

question Is there a brand you still would love to work with?

The only brand I want to work on, is the one that wants to redefine the market they’re in. And if it was someone making nuts and bolts that would excite me.

question If someone reading this is thinking of starting an agency, what would be the most important tips you could give them?

Believe in something and be prepared to turn away prospective clients who don’t buy your beliefs.

question Is there a project you have seen lately that you wish you’d created?

Far too many.

question If the fire alarm goes off right now, what would you grab, if anything?

The handle to the exit door.

question Do you personally get involved in the hiring and firing process?

Thankfully yes and sadly no.

question Do you have much spare time to pursue a hobby?

You can always make time.

question Most people want to leave their mark on the world by writing a book or maybe having a plant named after their partner… you have been incredibly successful but is there anything you still strive to achieve outside of your work, something to be remembered by?

Not really. I think its vanity that drives people to want to be remembered. The secret I believe is to enjoy what you’re doing and do it to the best of your ability. Leave posterity to the poets.

question Is there anything special you do when your team launches a new project, i.e. something you do at every launch?

Not really. Just make sure what you’re launching is worth talking about.

question Have you ever had an idea which you didn’t pursue and later saw someone make a huge success out of a similar idea?

Not that I can think of.

question Technology continues to rapidly change and grow. Does this scare you or excite you?

Technology has always been important to creativity. Without it we’d find it hard to express ourselves. Embrace it, revel in what in what it can help you do. But always remember without an idea, technology is useless.

question Has anyone ever asked you for an autograph?


question Do you personally respond to all email that is sent for your attention (excluding spam of course), or do you delegate to your team?

I try and answer every email I get.

question We’d love a recommendation from you as to who we should interview next in this series.

Paul Smith – Fashion Designer.

question Thanks for taking time out for this interview and please leave us with one interesting or even intriguing fact about yourself.

I failed art o level.

I failed to get into the LCP the first time I applied.

And I got fired from my first job. Failure is no obstacle to success.


Sir John Hegarty
Sir John Hegarty

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