Sir John Hegarty on the impact of Music in Marketing communication

Sir John Hegarty, is known as one of the ‘greatest admen in the 21st century’. As one of the founders of BBH agency (Bartle Bogle Hegarty), he’s created some of the world’s most inspiring and powerful ads. He’s had a career that spans over six decades and work includes, but isn’t just restricted to, iconic campaigns for Levi’s, Audi and Heineken. CEO of Publicis India, Subash Kamath sits down for an exclusive interview with Sir John Hegarty, where he talks about the importance of using the right music for your brand message. Some excerpts below

On why music is an important factor in enhancing brand experience…

For me, music is a great way of elevating the message away from advertising jingles. And I wanted to use real music and not imitate it or change the words in it. It’s a powerful force that speaks to people in a cultural way. It connects them to the MESSAGE in a way which was not only powerful, but was also culturally relevant. It had a cultural meaning to it.

On what the process was like to create powerful music for ads…

So, when I tell people how old I actually am, I get reactions like, “Oh God this man’s ancient”! (laughs). But yes, I did grow up watching the rise and fall and rise again of rock and roll. So, when we got to do these ads in the mid 80s, rock and roll and modern music didn’t have a history. People didn’t go back and learn from what had gone before, and how it could inform tomorrow. So what we were doing with that music was we were rediscovering it for a young audience. This, (I Heard It Through The Grapevine) was such a powerful track. So, when I wrote the script, the director didn’t think it was going to work. But when you’re making an (ad) film and you’re looking for music for that film, this is a VERY important lesson. Film has rhythm. And you’ve got to find the music that fits the rhythm of the film.

On creating a good ad with music today…

Here’s the thing. I don’t like advertising. I’ve always tried to not create advertising. Because I think 95% of it is boring, cliched, dull and an insult to people’s intelligence.

The reason I love film, is you never know. You know you write a script thinking, this is gonna to be great. And then you make it and go, Oh?! I don’t know what happened. So, what I wanted to do was create advertising that’s more like film. So, I didn’t look at other ads as competitors. I looked to movies as my competitor. I looked to great television programmes as my competitor. So I always approach it like that.


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