Hegarty: Cannes is losing focus on advertising that builds brands

John HegartyLegendary ad man John Hegarty has said that the Cannes Lions is “losing focus”, because in his view the world’s top ad show is not a true reflection of advertising that builds brands and businesses.

In an interview with Mumbrella today, the BBH founder said: “One of the major problems we have at Cannes is that it’s hard to get a grasp on what’s actually happening in the real world of advertising. The festival is losing a bit of focus.”

“What Cannes should be all about is how creativity aids branding and builds business. But are we really seeing the ideas that are creating effective work? I’m not sure that we are,” he said.

The man behind classic ads such as Levi’s ‘Laundrette’, who is increasingly critical of the industry he has served for so many years, took issue with technology, data, work designed purely to win awards and Asia’s approach to brand building.

He said that the ad industry has become “obsessed” with technology, which was distracting advertising practitioners from the true role of advertising.

“As an industry have become so obsessed with technology that we’re forgetting what it is suppose to deliver. People are not interested in technology, they’re in interested in what it can do for them.”

“Is technology delivering messages that move people?” is the question the industry should be asking itself, he said.

Hegarty suggested that the ad industry will not survive is it depends on data, because other industries are better at using it.

“The danger of a reliance clients have on data is that they think it will give them an answer for tomorrow. They want it to be their oracle,” said Hegarty, who pointed out that brand builders such as Nike and Apple do not use it.

“But they are seeking a nonsense really. You can have all the data in the world, but you can’t predict the future.”

Data would never replace intuition in creating effective advertising, he said.

“Since everyone will have the same data, there’s a danger that everyone will end up with the same ideas and the same products.”

Work created to win awards he called an “abberation”.

“It is like drugs in sport. It is a delusional practice, and the problem is we’ve created a beast called awards and it’s taken over,” he said.

In answer to a question about the tendency for Asian brands to follow market leaders rather than try to stand out, Hegarty said Asia should look at how Europe builds brands otherwise risk not living up to its promise.

“Unless Asia learns [to build brands that are unique], and accepts that it has got to do things differently and build brands that are different, it won’t be the powerhouse that everyone claims it will be,” he said.


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