You live and you learn: Sir John Hegarty

The co-founder of advertising agency BBH on being dismayed by the quality of advertising now and why Mad Men doesn't reflect the industry.

by Hannah Prevett
Last Updated: 09 Oct 2013

I hated school until I was 14. Then I had this great history teacher. He made me feel that learning was fun, it was an adventure.

I am often dismayed by the quality of advertising now. It always demanded to be taken more seriously, and now it is. But I'm not sure that's to its benefit. The jury's out.

It's very difficult training somebody to be creative. We're all creative, it's just some of us make a living out of it.

I don't envy others. I always say to people, never be in awe of others - respect them, but never be in awe. It's dangerous.

Becoming a father was frightening. I was 27 and suddenly responsible for this human being. You read about people who work too hard and never see their children, but I made sure that didn't happen.

People thought I was mad when I came up with Flat Eric. We were looking for a new Levi's hero and I came back and said I want this fluffy yellow puppet. It took me three goes to sell it to the client.

Mad Men isn't really about advertising. It's a TV show about when the US was at its zenith, yet everyone was unhappy. The advertising setting allows it to be stylish and helps capture the social attitudes of the time.

I'm a victim of the 'McCartney syndrome'. I'll have an idea and ask for feedback but everyone will tell me it's great. It's like when McCartney and Lennon were no longer together - I miss someone who can say: 'John, that's a crock of shit.'

I admired my brother. He answered to absolutely no one. After studying sculpture under Anthony Caro at St Martins, he went travelling and ended up in Japan where he opened a pub. He died eight years ago, sadly.

I bought a French vineyard in 2002. Rather than the immediacy of 'I need something tomorrow', you're working to the rhythms of nature.

- Hegarty on Advertising: turning intelligence into magic by John Hegarty is published by Thames & Hudson and is out now.

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