The business of creativity

Sir John Hegarty, Co-founder and Creative Director at The Garage Soho & The Business of Creativity
Transcript (Automatically generated, may contain some errors): Sir John, it’s a real pleasure. Thank you for taking the time today. Can we do the… Speaker 4: It’s John, by the way. We’ve done the Sir bit. Speaker 2: Thank you. I appreciate that. I almost texted people to ask, so thank you. Can we do […]

Transcript (Automatically generated, may contain some errors):

Sir John, it’s a real pleasure. Thank you for taking the time today. Can we do the…

Speaker 4: It’s John, by the way. We’ve done the Sir bit.

Speaker 2: Thank you. I appreciate that. I almost texted people to ask, so thank you. Can we do the table stakes question? How do you think about creativity as a concept and why is it important for marketers to embrace it? The first thing about creativity is

Speaker 4: that we’re all creative. When we talk about this, the trouble that we have is people think it’s something else. They think it’s something you occasionally do. You aren’t creative or you are. We’re all creative and it’s how we express ourselves, how we take in information, how we inform the world about ourselves. It’s fundamental to who we are. That’s the first thing. Therefore, and that’s why I describe creativity as an expression of self. that’s what you’re doing. The way you talk, the way you dress, the way you eat, the way you cook, where you live, where you go on holiday, these are all partly creative decisions. Yes, they’re monetary decisions, they’re convenient, but they are influenced by creativity. It is fundamental to who we are and it’s therefore fundamental to business. If you think about it again, I spent my career talking to companies and some of them wouldn’t understand it and others would go, well, occasionally we engage with creativity. Of course you say to them, well, no, it’s creativity should be center of everything you do. It’s how you define yourself. Actually starting a business is a creative act. You have to have an idea. What are you going to make? What are you going to do? What are you going to call it? How are you going to present it? How are you going to talk to people? All these things are driven by creativity. It’s much more, I liken it to breathing. it’s how we exist, except it’s about our own philosophy and our personality and our character. Creativity

Speaker 2: is crucial and fundamental to who we are. I love that. it’s such a beautiful way of phrasing things. with that thought in mind, though, that’s still, to me, it feels like, I understand the words you say, but then I go, okay, how do I do it? because an expression of self is quite tricky. Can creativity, I don’t know, be taught? can folks sort of learn to be creative or is it, does one have to go on a journey of self-exploration to be able to find one’s creative self

Speaker 4: based on what you’ve just said? The first thing, like anything, is understanding it. First of all, understanding that we are creative, that we’re all creative. Defining it, because actually when you ask people to define what they resort to is the process of creativity. They talk about putting things together that you’ve not seen before and making something else and, challenging you in some way. Those are the, that’s the process of creativity. The fundamental principle of creativity is, as I said, is this expression of self. If I, how many times have you heard an author, a filmmaker, a painter, whatever, talking about their new work, and they would so often say, what I wanted to say was this, and that’s the expression of self. How you become at ease with that is understanding, , I see. That’s the definition of creativity. Two types of creativity, which I could talk about. Understand that. What is it the foundation of creativity? Understand that. If you understand all these, and they’re not difficult, I’m not talking about, you have to have a PhD. It’s not like quantum physics. Fuck what that is. I have no idea. that explained to me 15 times. It’s so core to who you are. Once you understand all these things, it’s easy. Then you just enjoy it. I think the wonderful thing, I’m very lucky. I went to art school, art school to design school, and then into advertising. In a way, I’ve lived my life in this or my adult life in this work. I sort of understand why people can feel hesitant about it, because you’re made, in some ways, to feel hesitant about it. something to keep you out, as opposed to embrace you. Creativity is about embracing. It’s about bringing you in. It’s about getting you to understand more about yourself. Not only, if you, sorry, this is a great plug for the business of creativity, by the way. Advertising. I should be a lad for it, shouldn’t I? One of the things I really loved about doing this course, writing it, is that it’s fantastic for business, fantastic for people in the business. Also, I think people come away from it going, , I really feel much better about myself, because we talk about how you lead a creative life. I’m not saying, about going to a gallery, or going to an opening of a show, or going to the theatre, or just every day. It’s a bit like, again, somebody who practices yoga, they do it because it’s not just they do it an hour a week, or two hours, whatever it might be, they do it to feel better. I think once you understand creativity, once you understand how it impacts on your life, or

Speaker 2: you’ll feel much better about life. I love that. I think we have these moments with our sessions so regularly, where we come in, and we take a lot of the fear out of things. Everything you’ve spoken about already sort of speaks to inclusivity. It also just speaks to relaxing just a little bit, which is a lovely way to end the session, which is just really, really quite lovely. It’s a therapy. It’s a therapy. Yes. I love that. In your book, I wanted to pick up on this, because this idea of an expression of self, then, in your book, which I just had lying about, you spoke about fearlessness as something that feels important to you as part of creativity. I wanted to, when I read that, I was interested whether that’s an expression of your own self, whether you are a fearless person, or whether you feel like it’s a necessary ingredient to creativity. Indeed, if it is a necessary ingredient to creativity, whether one can cultivate that as an attitude.

Speaker 4: I think when I talk about fearlessness, I, there are lots of different types of creativity, there’s applied and there’s pure. We don’t need to go into that now that the course goes into that. When you’re working in the communications industry, what you’re in an incredibly competitive environment, you’re trying to get your message to stand out against somebody else’s message, you’ve got to create something that is going to be noticed, you’ve got to create something that people are going to resonate with. You can’t afford to be just nice. You can’t afford to be Yes, that’s good. I quite like that. That’s okay. Because, I don’t know who counts these things, but apparently, we’re exposed to something 8000 marketing messages a day, God knows how just got up. I don’t know how I should be up to about 1000 already. Whatever, how you measure those things, but whatever we know, we’re exposed to a huge amount of messaging in whatever in whatever forms of the world we live. Therefore, you’ve got to create work that is going to stand out, because if it isn’t standing out, go home now, pack up, pack your bags, go home, make yourself a nice cup of coffee and put your legs up, but you’re not going to go. Then to do that, you really have to challenge yourself and you have to create something new every day. if you’re and I talk about this a bit, but if you’re in certain creative industries, you can go on repeating yourself. Mick Jagger goes around the world singing Jumping Jack Flash. They wrote it in 1966. He can still go on stage today. 30,000 people will turn up and applaud him for it. I couldn’t pull out some old ad I had done in 1966. This is the answer. You you’re in a business where you’ve got to come in every day and have a new idea. That idea really can’t be like yesterday’s idea. there’s there isn’t a formula to it. There are principles behind it. There isn’t a formula. Fearlessness becomes crucial to the maintenance of your career, that you’ve got to keep challenging yourself, you’ve got to keep going. I’ve got, I did that fine. That was it. I can’t do that again. Tomorrow, I can’t walk into somebody else and say, I did Volkswagen Go technique. Now I know you’re Italian. I’m going to give you an Italian headline. Now, hold on, John, Audi, you can’t go on doing that. You’ve got to have this sense of you’re creating something different every day. That’s very challenging. I talk a lot about how you can make that exciting as opposed to just challenging, but fearlessness is a part of that. I think if you look at, if you look at great art, look at someone like Picasso, let’s not compare ourselves to Picasso, but he was a genius. he just said, Right, I’ve done cubism. he could have gone on doing cubism for his life really, and he done very well with it. He just said, No, I’ve got to move on. I’ve got to move on. I’ve got to keep moving on. If you read his biography, you’ll see that’s what he had to do. He had to challenge himself and you had to go, I’m just going to paint a picture and it’s called Dora Maar and the eye is up here, the nose is down here, the head’s like that. People, maybe they’re just going to laugh at me. He didn’t know he said, I want to change the way you look at a picture. His fearlessness was there. It in lots of other things. it in film directors, they make a movie and, they’ve got to move on from that movie to the next one. They’ve got to keep going forward. That sense of fearlessness is fundamentally important.

Speaker 2: I love that. We’ve already got Carly in the chat saying, I was once described by my boss as not creative at all, which has haunted me ever since. I think today I might finally help me let that go,

Speaker 4: which is. Carly, whoever said that to you, I think that’s truly appalling. Absolutely appalling. just to say that and go back to that. Look, it’s like we can all sing. Okay, everybody can sing. Now, I can promise you do not want to hear me sing. I could if I went to singing classes, sing better. To somebody say to you, you’re not creative is the most stupid. It’s their stupidity. You’re right, they’re wrong. I love that. Thank

Speaker 2: you very much. I think that’s set the world to right and hopefully Carly’s world to right as well. With that thought in mind, when you were sort of speaking about pushing yourself forward every day, I’m interested because I heard a story about you speaking about pitching the idea of Flat Eric three times and sort of going back with the same idea. I think in the story you said that eventually they just got wound down and sort of said, yes, all right, let’s do it type of thing. I’m interested in that thing about like when you keep on moving forward versus when you decide to sort of stick on an idea and sort of, sort of say this is the one, and how, basically a creative idea is the one that is worth keep on pushing and keep on going and, keep on going because like you couldn’t have known, presumably, but you must have had something within you that

Speaker 4: must have, yes, you keep on pushing that forward. It’s a very, it’s a really interesting question that because I think it’s again, if you’re leading, and I don’t, I’m not talking like a monk, you’re leading a creative life. If you’re aware, sensitive to things, see things, watch things, look at things, you develop a sense, a sense of what will and what won’t work. It’s not 100% because this is the wonderful thing about it that nobody knows that great line from William Goldman’s book, one of the great screenwriters, in Hollywood, nobody really knows, they will guess, but you develop a sort of sixth sense for things. It’s about excitement. Again, I have my little formula, I do a triangle for how I think about an idea. My triangle, which I will give to you is at the very top. Is it memorable? Because if it’s not memorable, as I’ve said before, go home. Now, just go home, you’ve forgotten, you’ve failed. Then at the other tier, is it motivating? You’ve stopped me. , that’s interesting. Then at the other end, and this is absolutely crucial, is it truthful? Because great creativity is built on truth. All right. It isn’t a fabrication. yes, you can fabricate, of course you can. It’s built on truth. If you’ve got this triangle of assessment, you can navigate things and you can go, , I see that works on that level. It challenges you. With that, I just felt, people did say to me in the agency, John, have you gone mad? Because, we were used to creating these heroes for Levi’s that were chiseled and handsome. Brad Pitt, for heaven’s sake, we had one of them. I just felt that a character that challenged the way you felt about heroes and partnership and things like that could be really interesting. It could it could capture people’s imagination. I just saw one of your questions there. Is it truthful? Yes, it was truthful. We were we were talking about within that the brief was a new relationship instead of it being a single hero. What we should do is have a relationship because everybody felt that would be quite good. We talk about Jack Kerouac on the road and stuff like that. I thought that was great. That’s how I presented the idea. I said, to Levi’s, it’s Jack Kerouac on the road about the relationship between these two people. They were getting excited. , great. Kerouac on the road. We really love it. I just said, there’s just one thing I haven’t told you. They said, what’s that? One of them is a fluffy yellow puppet. They did think I’d gone mad as well. I explained it. I said, what I’m trying to do is get you to think about relationships and about how they work. That was its truth. It was a truth to find a way of exposing a different relationship and that they’re unique, like this is a unique relationship. That was at the foundation of it. Eventually they were lovely. They were a great client and they turned it down the first time. I went back the second time and said, look, I really think you’ve got to think about this. I did some extra work on it. They went, no, John, we just, no, we can’t. Then I went back the third time. I think they just went, , God, he’s coming back with that bloody idea. I got them to buy and they were brilliant. It was a phenomenal success. My great regret with it. I was like, we always have a great regrets with money. I wanted them to also buy like the back cover of Vogue and the back cover of GQ and just have Flat Eric on the back cover instead of it being Amani. I just thought that would have been hilarious posing like some sort of male model. It didn’t happen. That’s again about how you use the media. It would have been brilliant, wouldn’t it? it’s again how media infects an idea. It’s one of the things that we’ve forgotten in the digital age. We’ve sort of forgotten how, the medium is the message and media is fundamentally important, which is why I think Banksy is such an amazing artist. He’s used, the outside, he’s used walls as his media. If he’d just done everything on a canvas in a gallery, he wouldn’t be the same artist, would he? Just a demonstration of how media is fundamentally important.

Speaker 2: I love that. There’s so much that comes to mind. the one that does sort of strike me is combining your thoughts about the media. The TikTok generation and stuff like that, with your idea of truthfulness and the idea that TikTok is creating thousands of cultures in any one sort of day, any week period and any month, I would assume in a slightly different way to what happened sort of 20, 30 years ago, where you would have a cultural moment which could live for two or three months, et cetera. Is it harder to be truthfully creative these days? Do you need to go back to that sort of human sort of truth every time to be able to still sort of be

Speaker 4: relevant? Yes. I always say principles remain, but practices change. I think you have to work out how you’re going to use media, what you’re going to do with it, the part it plays, what it’s good at, what it’s not good at. I don’t think we have those conversations enough about, yes, TikTok is great. What it’s really good at is this, understanding that and understanding then how I should use it and what part it should play in my marketing program. I think actually TikTok is, all these new media that we’ve got are fantastic. I think what’s failing to happen is people understanding how best to use them and how they play a part in a broader, wider spectrum of their campaign. As I say, you’re somewhere in the, somewhere you’ve got to say, how am I going to, how am I going to create a dialogue with a mass audience in some shape or form? Where do I start the debate? Where do I start a point of view about my company, my product, my service, whatever it might be? How do I do it? Then what other elements of that do I use to keep that conversation going? I think if you, there isn’t enough conversation around that of people, this is how I did it. This is how you did it. This is how we, because we always use example. Example is fundamentally important to how we learn. There aren’t enough examples out there of people saying, actually, this is how we did it. It worked because of that product. We were talking to that audience. Then we went into a broadcast scenario and how you define broadcast is entirely up to you. This is how we built the campaign. I don’t see enough of that. As I say, that’s how you learn. we learn actually by copying. when you go to art school, you copy, you go in and you look at artists and you copy what they do. You go, well, that’s how they did that. Then you go on. Then you do your own thing, you develop your style. it’s like if you watched, documentary about the Beatles, how they, how they just played other people’s songs. You talk about the Rolling Stones. They learned how, Muddy Waters played his guitar. They learned it and learned it. Then they went, , wow, now I’ve got that. Now I develop my stuff. What they were doing was they were learning from what had gone before or what was happening around them, whatever, and then taking it into their own world. I think today we don’t have enough of that sort of learning going on and experience. I think it’s crucial. If you don’t do that, you’re not going to grow. You don’t get to say, well, that was very good. They did. That’s how they’ve done it. I think it’s by example that we grow and that we learn. Crucial. It isn’t copying. It’s fundamental. it’s how we, how we learn, as I say.

Speaker 2: A hundred percent. Who are you, who are you learning from at the moment?

Speaker 4: I, yes, it’s a good question. I spend most of my time thinking, I try and behave. it sounds stupid. Of course. I think of myself as the audience. I don’t think of myself as within an industry. I think of myself as the, what do I like? What do I like watching? What do I like seeing? What do I like reading? Where do I go? Where am I getting my influences? I don’t look at advertising. I don’t, I used to say I work in advertising. I don’t live in advertising. I think what you’re fundamentally doing is you’re bringing the outside world into your world. Then you’re reflecting that back out again. I always said when I was, writing and working with, I was an art director, but I became more of a writer, I suppose. I was reflecting the broader culture. I was trying to see and read as much as I could possibly read and bring that into my work. I didn’t want to create work that looked like advertising. I just didn’t, I didn’t, I didn’t like most advertising. I think most advertising is crap and 90% of it is shit. you’d want to copy that. for God’s sake, I’d much rather go and see a great movie or go and see a great bit of television or go and see great play and see how they wrote or read poetry or listen to Leonard Cohen, how he writes, what an inspiring way to write. If you’re thinking about writing copy, listen to Leonard Cohen, listen to Nick Cave. You’ll learn more from that. One of the best books I mentioned in, if you’re in the advertising industry to read, of course, my two are just absolutely brilliant. It’s William Goldman, who is one of the great screenwriters. You will learn more from William Goldman about how to write for video film or whatever it is you’re doing than you will from a book on advertising. He writes about film, he doesn’t mention advertising once. He talks about how you write for a visual medium. I think it’s things like that you have to do. as I said, I worked in advertising, I didn’t live in advertising. People who just get wound into an industry, and they can’t see beyond it and outside it. Of course, the people they’re talking to, they don’t think like that. They just look at good stuff. They’re fascinated by what’s interesting, what’s distinctive, what’s daring, what’s different. You can be part of that, or you can live in a silly world called advertising. Why do that?

Speaker 2: It’s so true. I was listening this morning to The Rest is Entertainment, which is a fabulous podcast. They were speaking about Channel 5. They were speaking about the documentaries which Channel 5 make. It’s not like, high art sort of stuff. The thing that they sort of say is, they’ve made four documentaries about air fryers, because that’s the stuff that people are actually speaking about, and actually care about.

Speaker 4: Make it funny, make it funny, that’s the other thing too.

Speaker 2: I love that. I know that we’ve got Dave Harlan watching in today, who’s a very funny man, who I definitely recommend people take in his work for inspiration. There’s a quote that I remember hearing you speak about, which was, if they’re not smiling, then they’re not buying. I wanted to loop this into the idea of pitching in. There’s folks who will be watching in today who have to pitch in the idea of a creative idea to their relative stakeholders. We were having this chat last week with Tom Roach and Grace Kite about, there probably is enough evidence in marketing now to convince or at least show what to do to almost anyone about anything. The thing that is missing quite often is this sense of emotion in the pitch, a fear, a laugh or whatever it may be. I was interested in your gauge on how one approaches pitches and infusing emotion into these pitches and knowing which emotion is the right one to pick. Because I think this is something that we can show stats and we can show graphs all day long. I love this idea that you sort of speak to emotion. I wondered if you have any pitching stories where you could sort of speak to

Speaker 4: this emotion? I always, when we were pitching, when we started BBH, we refused to do speculative creative pitches. We pitched. We wouldn’t do speculative creative pitches because we felt we were giving away the thing that was most valuable, the thing that we valued beyond anything else. In that period of time, and it sort of was sort of, first 20 years of the agency, and I’ll say why we’ve changed it. When we pitch, what you’re trying to do in a pitch is you’re trying to capture your client’s imagination. You’re trying to get them to understand what the future could be like. We talked a lot about strategically getting things right. That was the brilliance of someone like, say, John Bach, who’s a brilliant planner. We said, first thing, you’ve got to get your strategy right, because that’s the foundation upon which everything is built. Once you’ve got that right, then you can start doing great creative work. That’s when I would come in and I would have to talk about a vision for the future. This is how I see where you could go. These are the things that I want to do. The idea of pitch isn’t to show somebody a piece of work. The idea of pitch is to get that client walking out feeling great. That’s the answer. Now, everyone thinks you do it with a piece of work. The trouble with a piece of work is they look at it and they go, I don’t know, I don’t like green. You didn’t know that, did you? I don’t like green. Who told me? Why didn’t you find out? When you reduce everything down to the practicalities, you miss the bigger picture. The idea of a pitch is to make a client feel, wow, these are truly talented people. I really like talking to them. I could have a fabulous conversation with them. God, do they make me feel excited about tomorrow? If you can do that, then that’s how you win the pitch. I think if you can’t do that, then, you’re reduced to doing what everybody else does. Now, we did change. We started doing creative work, because as the business became global, we couldn’t have everybody in the same room. We had to then start showing a piece of work. I tried to keep it, instead of showing the actual work, what I tried to do is create a video of this is what you will feel like, this is what we’re saying, this is the point of view we have, and give them something to walk away with that they could put into a, in those days, a cassette recorder, and play and go, wow, I like that makes me feel great. It didn’t change, you’re still trying to sell the future, you’re trying to sell a future that’s exciting, that’s full of opportunity. If you can convince a client that that’s what you fundamentally believe in, and that you have the answer to that, you’ll win the business. If you just reduce it down to here’s a piece of work, I’m sure that they don’t know how to judge it. How often do they judge a script? How often do they, look at a piece of advertising and go, , I would have bought that, or wouldn’t you do that? They don’t know. You’ve got to remember that.

Speaker 2: I love that. Thank you. we’ve got Dan saying just got goosebumps in the chat here. Folks, we’ve got 14 open questions in the Q&A right now. The thing that I’d encourage you to do is give a thumbs up to any questions that you’d love us to prioritize, just so we can make sure that we get to those as well. We’ve got Sophie in the chat as well, saying absolute gold. Thank you, Sophie. I wanted to follow up very quickly on that. It only needs to be a short answer if possible. One thing that I’ve struggled with as a marketer is I’ve sold very well to the initial stakeholder who I happen to be in the room with, but then I haven’t necessarily been able to pass things up the line. I guess in the situation for marketers watching in today, as you’ve said, folks are distributed around the world. They don’t have to take that sense of excitement and pass it up the line. Have you ever, well, presumably you’ve experienced that, but have you ever found a neat solution for that at all? This is a very personal problem. I’m getting free consultancy. It’s a very good question that actually, because

Speaker 4: I do remember quite early on in my career, I realized that, I thought when I sold the client, yes, that was it, that was it. I hadn’t quite realized that they had to take the idea themselves and sell it within the company. That, it was an awakening I had an epiphany of saying, Oh my God, I’ve got it. The way you do that is I think, again, it goes back to my thing about, you’ve got to think about that person now selling the idea within the company. What are they going to say? What tools are you giving them to say, this is why we should do that. This is what the competition are doing. This is the opportunity. You’ve got to give them the tools, the phrases, the neat arguments, because they have got to take it and go, right, I’m going to take, show it to my, financial director, or who’s going to release the funds, or I’ve got to show it to the chairman. You’ve got to think about how they sell that idea within the company. There are a million ways of doing that. Within your argument to them has got to be the argument that they are going to take to everybody else. It’s got to have some foundation to it, that actually is replicable, they’ve got to be able to take it and do it again. Sometimes that is very difficult. Sometimes, people are having to sell something that can be hard, but you give you give them all the tools, competitive marketplace, we’re losing market share, we’re losing it to these people, give them the simple narrative that they take, and say, and here’s the solution to it. Then I think, one, you’ll get a fan from that particular client, but actually will help them sell within the company, which is crucially important. It really is.

Speaker 2: Love that. Thank you very much. We’re going to go and do that now. Thank you. Let’s make sure we take some questions from the community, because I’m interested in a bunch of things. The most important thing is the folks watching in today. When I encourage a thumbs up, then there’s an explosion of thumbs up to this question from Rob, who says, what was your, what was your least effective, but most creative ad ever? What was wrong with it?

Speaker 4: why didn’t it work? Now, I think I don’t dwell on failure. I did. look, I just said, when you’re doing what you’re doing, working in the world you’re in, you’ve got to come in every day and have a new idea. That idea can’t be like yesterday. If you dwell on failure, you’ll suddenly go, , that didn’t work. , why didn’t that work? , gosh. It’ll begin to inhibit you. I better not do that. , that last thing I did was very different than it didn’t work. Yes. Yes, it’s going to happen. Karen, every film Tarantino’s made hasn’t been a huge success. it isn’t. You just have to accept that it’s going to be like that. If you start going back and looking at failure, what was it was created, but it didn’t work. It you’ll get yourself into a complete mire. Do not do it. Fine. If you’re if you’re researching a new drug, you need to work out what failed, what didn’t fail. You are doing something quite different. You are creating something new every day. Yes, some things are going to go wrong. Sometimes I’m going to work, put it behind you, move on. Remember, be daring, be fearless, because if you don’t, it’s all over. you’ll start repeating yourself, your career will go into decline. Then, people will say, John, he’s lost it, really. You’ve got to keep challenging. That’s the way I answer

Speaker 2: that question. Perfect. I love it. It speaks to the themes of what you’ve spoken about today, already with your first answer about keeping on moving forward, fearlessness that we’ve spoken about. It’s almost like you’re a consistent human being, John, who shows up as yourself, almost like it. That’s a fabulous answer. What happens in the Q&A now is that we’ll end up ping-ponging between a lot of different topics. I hope you don’t mind that. Yes, sure. Anything. The next question comes from Anonymous, who asks, which brands or companies do you think are excelling at their creative campaigns right now?

Speaker 4: That actually is a very pertinent and a very good question. I think they’re very few. I was a great fan of, and it’s now about five, six years old now, Oakley, the oat milk. I think they had done a brilliant job at building a brand in a very ordinary market, oatmeal coming. They turned it into something exciting. It went back to my thing of, don’t just build a brand, build a movement. What they had done is built a movement around oat milk, which is, the first milk for humans. Milk is fine for cows, but not you. It was just brilliant. It was funny. They used broadcast media, of course, because they were talking to the world, but that was obvious. They did it with humour, it was brilliant through the line thinking, I thought it was great. I still love it when Marmite do what they do. I see, I see very little today, I see very little advertising that stands up for something, and has a point of view and is trying to change the way you feed or think. Because that’s what great advertising does, it changes the way you feel or think, and it thinks of itself as a movement. If you go right back into the history of advertising, and look at the Volkswagen advertising of the 60s, it was changing your point of view about cars, they didn’t have to be big, they didn’t have to change every year. you could think small, not think big, or, whatever. This look at Nike, just do it was a it wasn’t just selling you a running shoe, it was selling you a way of living a way of being. I think advertising, as its best does that. I think little of that, at the moment, of people really wanting to go out and become a part of culture. Because if you’re a part of culture, you become more valuable. You become more famous and more famous means you can charge more and all the things that a brand wants to do. I see very few brands doing that today, apart from the odd ones I’ve mentioned.

Speaker 2: I appreciate that. I think it’s an interesting thing.

Speaker 4: Somebody said, so you buy Marmite regularly? No, I hate it. I’m the hater of Marmite. I love, I adore their campaign. The fact that they’re talking to people who actually don’t buy it. Isn’t that brilliant? It’s genius.

Speaker 2: Yes, John, in capital letters here from Sphere. Which is, which is fabulous. Once again, it sort of speaks to the fearlessness point. I think, again, I’m placing myself in the shoes of, well, I’m projecting myself here rather than speaking for marketing in general. I think one operates in a field of sometimes fearful of negative outcomes, rather than imagining the positive outcome. You’ve sort of spoken about that with your, sort of selling the future as well with the pitch and stuff like that.

Speaker 4: Creativity is about positivity. It really is. I say, all great creative people are optimists. they might look miserable, because it’s the 448th idea that hasn’t worked. Deep down, they’re optimists, because you genuinely believe that you’re going to change the world with this idea. You have that, even though it’s probably not going to get bought, one in 20 ideas get made or I don’t know what, but you have to remain an optimist. pessimism, kills creativity. Optimism expands it drives it,

Speaker 2: Love that. I want to just ask you, as someone who isn’t always naturally optimistic, is that something that’s just part of you? What keeps you optimistic when you’re in the ad space? Because it’s easy to let cynicism creep in. How do you do that?

Speaker 4: I don’t know, maybe it’s, I don’t know, maybe it’s genetic. Maybe I don’t, I’m just, I was, I was born with that look on, look on the positive rather than the negative, you can look at anything and see the negative and don’t surround yourself with negative people, get rid of them, get rid of them, that they are they will drag you down, they’ll drag your thinking down, they’ll drag your optimism down, get rid of them. Because nobody solved anything by being negative. You solve things by being positive. That’s what you’re trying to do all the time, positivity. I think you’ve just got to, read great stuff, be inspired by great things. I say, if you read shit, you’ll think shit and you’ll create shit. Read great stuff, be inspired. It begins to like everything in life, it rubs off, it just rubs off. If you, if you surround yourself with people who are interesting and distinctive and funny, and it’ll affect you. If you surround yourself with

Speaker 2: the opposite, that’ll happen. I love that. We’ve got Mel in the chat here saying, this is so cute, topping up my positivity tank. Mel as an example of a human being, who exudes humor and just loveliness. I saw her last week and I left with a twinkle in my eye and a smile on my face. This is exactly what it’s all about. Thank you. That’s a real burst of positivity. Thank you. Let’s take the next one from Catherine. Catherine says, does John, not Sir John, so she’s acknowledged the, the appropriate level of formality. Have any preferred techniques or processes to invoke creative thoughts when

Speaker 4: he’s feeling creatively stuck? Obviously going out for a walk is fantastic. The thing that I used to do is I used to just go, let’s just have a completely stupid idea. Let’s just have a completely barking mad idea, make it funny, and then start talking about it. It will relieve the trauma around trying to come up with an idea. If you do that, you’ll relax and you’ll have some fun. All of a sudden, other things will come to mind, but just have it so completely stupid, just, and write it down, put it up on the board. Somebody will come in, look at it and go, is that, wait a minute, that reminds me, or whatever, but and you’ll be surprised how it helps. We used to do that all the time. In a funny way, going back to flattery, everybody thought actually what I had done, what I was doing with that was coming up with a company to get people thinking about something else. Of course, with that, I was absolutely serious. If you do that, you it relaxes everybody else, because that’s a really fucking stupid idea. If you have a really stupid idea, I can also have a completely stupid idea. Out of those stupid ideas can come absolute genius. You think, why not? Why don’t we do that? Why don’t we challenge that? I think the other thing too, is being constantly connected to the world, reading stuff, looking at things, reading things that other people don’t read. just feed you, feed you stuff. That feeding, that’s why I say don’t walk around with these things on. Don’t walk around, because when you’re going out for a walk, take your headphones off and look around you, inspiration’s everywhere. Just you just need to notice it, just need to absorb it. I do start with let’s do something completely bloody stupid. The other thing too, is of course juxtaposition. you juxtapose one thing with something else that shouldn’t be together. I always tell this story, and it was when I was at art school, and we’re very early on, and we’re in painting, we’re doing painting, and you knew somebody was going to ask this. You didn’t want to be the one to ask it. Somebody always says to the lecturer said, , tell me that, when you paint black, how do you make it really black thinking they were going to say, , well, you put blue into it, or you add green. I always remember this wonderful teacher just looked at this fellow student rather witheringly and just said, put it next to white. That was a complete lesson in creativity, is juxtapose opposites. Then suddenly you go, yes, most of Monty Python is juxtaposition. they, they, the, if you ever watch the poets and philosophers football match, it’s on, you can watch it on YouTube, go watch it, the poet and philosophers football match. It’s basically a football match, except all the players are Aristotle and Wordsworth and that. It’s just so funny. it’s just instantly funny. It’s just a quite, but it’s just a wonderful juxtaposition. Juxtaposition is one thing that’s why, get a very tall man and a very short man or get a very large man and a very small, whatever, or Matt large woman and the small, or, have a black woman and a pale woman or whatever it might be. All of a sudden, you’ve got, , why are they so different? The brain is trying to work it out. The brain is Trump, why they, so the brain is paying attention. That’s what you’re trying to get the brain to do. There are lots of little techniques, but go for a walk. I always say to people, I did my best thinking when I wasn’t thinking. That’s the

Speaker 2: other thing. It’s a, it’s the cliche thing, isn’t it? That the, you have your best thoughts in the

Speaker 4: shower, isn’t it? Exactly. Yes. You spend a lot of time in the shower, you get shriveled up, but you have great ideas. Yes, it’s a great idea. Quick, write it down.

Speaker 2: Let’s take the next one from Martin, who is himself an FEA award winning marketer. Martin, I think might be poking the bear here somewhat by asking the question, should creative processes be intuitive or data driven?

Speaker 4: I think the whole question about data is fascinating, and it’s a big question, this data informs creativity imagines. I think, you’ve got to remember what data does, it informs it gets knowledge, this is going on, that’s going on. Creativity imagines, imagination drives creativity. You’ve got to have both, to a certain extent, both of those things, but very interesting, actually. It depends on how and where you use it. If you think about all of the great companies, none of them were built on data. None of them, James Dyson didn’t have data to say, people want a bagless vacuum cleaner, they don’t like the way the other ones suck. Steve Jobs will tell you that, the iPhone, nobody said I want something bigger, they all wanted something smaller. Elon Musk, what he’s done, he’s not built anything on data, he’s built it on intuition. You have to decide, where am I? What am I doing? Am I just sustaining a brand at the moment? Am I trying to think of something completely different? How you use the data where you use the data is fundamentally important. I think, I think we’ve become obsessed with it. I think, we’ve got to sort of tame it to a certain extent, and go, yes, it’s interesting. It’s going to inform me. there was no, in Jeff Bezos set up Amazon, there was no data to say, this is what people wanted. He said, I think I could sell books like this. Yes, later on, he’s used a huge amount of data to go, those books are selling those ones on that’s doing that. Then you use data, supermarkets use it on a day to day basis. When you’re imagining the future, when you’re a man, if that’s where you’re going, then I’m not sure what data is going to tell you, it’s just going to maybe inhibit you. That’s the problem. That’s why I think you’ve got to understand where it has value and why we should be using it. Of course, I love the fact that we now call it big data, don’t we? It’s no longer data anymore. It’s big data. Suddenly, it’s all more important. No, it’s not, and it’s been around for thousands of years. I always say, one of the greatest stories ever told, the nativity came out of data collection, didn’t it? they’d all gone to register for the census. it’s funny, I always think it’s funny about religion, isn’t it? if it was the son of God, why didn’t God tell Joseph, you better get on to, because they’re going to be a lot of people, you’ll need a hotel room. It didn’t, did it? I feel a bit lack of God to inform, Joseph that his son is going to be now born in a bloody stable, which he failed to book a hotel room. Jesus, what are you doing? It’s a good name, let’s call him Jesus. Anyway, so I think it’s understanding data, understanding how and where to use it,

Speaker 2: what value it has. Yes, bang on. No, it’s that thing. even the, some of the folks who are, major proponents of strategy, you look at Mark Ritson, for example, as asking him not too long ago, because, it’s diagnosis, strategy and tactics, you understand the market, you understand what you want to say to them, and then you go out to the market. Asked him whether there was a founder’s prerogative, on these things, there was just that little bit of magic that those little moments where you’re like, I’m going to do this, because I’m going to do this, not because the data tells me he went, yes, of course, there is, and it’s a very human thing. It’s exactly that. There’s a lovely follow on question here, actually, from Baz, who is the guy who built our branding. For those of you in the market.

Speaker 4: , lovely. I love that. Yes.

Speaker 2: Yes, you don’t know, you’ve just made his day, honestly. For those of you don’t know,

Speaker 4: it’s just great, Baz, well done. I like it. A positive smile. Yes.

Speaker 2: Baz says, focus groups hated the Cadbury’s gorilla advert, but the audience loved it. In a data driven world, so following on from the last question, what’s your advice to get stubborn clients to ignore data that could be very misleading, given the Cadbury’s example?

Speaker 4: Yes, it’s something that, we had to live with constantly. The trouble there is you’re trying to get people to imagine something and imagine how different that’s going to feel when they see it for real. Data is of absolutely no use whatsoever. It’ll just drive you to conformity. I’m sorry, I don’t have a magic solution to I suffered it throughout my career. Vorsprung der Technik, the research came back and said, don’t do it. Fortunately, I had a client who said, but we are German, so let’s submit to it. The 501 campaign, when Levi’s researched the actual product, the 501, kids hated it. Buttons, why would I want buttons? zips are much more convenient. They couldn’t envisage how it could be. You have that all the time. In fact, the Law & Direct commercial didn’t research very well. It was sort of fairly average, but the client, well, we’ve got nothing else, you’ve got to put it on air. You come across this all the time. The only, if you read Malcolm Gladwell’s book, Blink, he explains why all that research doesn’t work. I think all you can do is just say to a client, look, you’re going to put this in front of people, they aren’t going to know how to judge it. What they’re going to do is give you rational reasons, not emotional reasons, because you’re asking them to be rational when in fact they’re emotional human beings. They don’t know how to tap into that in terms of answering questionnaires. It’s a problem that we have throughout our career. I see no solution to it is just fire that client and go and work with one who wants to be a bit more daring, That wasn’t that much helpful, was it? No, well, sometimes it’s

Speaker 2: true, and we’ve had plenty of cases over the course of time where the answer has been.

Speaker 4: The other funny, I’ll tell a very funny story. We were with Cadbury’s, who were at that time, lovely people, but terrible. They were lovely people, but they just researched good morning, We were running, this is like the early 90s, and we were running a campaign for a chocolate bar called Boost. The great thing, it was on radio. I kept getting, the account man would come to me and say, John, we need some more scripts. I said, wait a minute, we’ve just written six, you need another six. He said, well, we are now the biggest advertiser on radio. The brilliant thing, we were spending something like, at that time, 3 million per annum on radio. Of course, what was brilliant about radio is nobody researches the scripts. Nobody did any research, even though they were spending 3 million. I said to them, whatever you do, don’t try and get them to move on to television. Let’s stay with radio. We were right. They got into D&AD. It was for a chocolate bar called Boost. It was slightly rippled with a flat underside. I always remember the line. It was a great line. Nobody was researching it. Because, well, you don’t research radio, do you? They just went out. The Climate Gallery, Okay. It was Vic Reeves and Bob Mortimer. It was a great campaign. I loved it. Get your client on to radio. Do something very funny. They won’t research it.

Speaker 2: That’s fabulous. that’s the takeaway from today’s session. If there are any of today, it’s been, yes, just get your client on radio. That’s the solution. Get them on radio. Love it. the hour has flown by, John. Thank you. It’s been really fabulous. Thank you to everyone in the community as well for your fabulous questions and the chat going on.

Speaker 4: Yes, great. If you can, seriously, this is where I do a bit of a sell. If you can go on and look at what we’re doing on the business of creativity, it’ll help you. Maybe you should sell it to your clients because it will help them understand how to buy great ads.

Speaker 2: 100%. We’ll make sure to link that in the follow up email.

Speaker 4: That’s great. All right. Lovely talking to you all and keep fighting the great fight. keep fighting that creative fight. We need it. We need it.

Speaker 3: All right. Thank you. Cheers, John.

Speaker 4: Lovely talking to you. I’m going to go now. Thanks, everybody. Great stuff.

Speaker 3: All right. Bye now.

Speaker 4: Talk again soon. Bye. Bye.