An evening with Sir John Hegarty – How to be creative

On Tuesday evening myself and a number of other PHDers went down to Victoria to The Telegraph’s building to listen to probably one of the most famous names in the advertising industry, Sir John Hegarty talk about his latest book, Hegarty on Creativity, There are no Rules. 41CAROKV4UL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_-thumb-200x335-141944 First of all, the room was packed. Filled with people across the marketing mix from ad agencies, media agencies and even PR agencies. It just goes to show, that you don’t have to work in a creative agency to be creative. Sir John’s first words were the rules of the event and there were only two. 1. You don’t have to agree with everything he says and 2. He doesn’t give a shit either way. This is the confidence of a man who obviously knows his own skill and the longevity of his career probably says it all anyway. He talked a little on wanting to write a book about creativity and not creativity in advertising as all would expect but creativity in general as it can be found anywhere. FullSizeRender Sir John then went on to define exactly what creativity is. He mentioned that once he was asked “What is the greatest art form?” And after thinking about the question, he decided that life was in fact the greatest art form and therefore creativity is an expression of self. It’s in all of us. He said there are two forms of creativity, pure creativity and applied creativity. Pure creativity is painting the Mona Lisa or designing the Simpsons where as applied creativity is decided where the Mona Lisa should hang in a gallery or writing a 30min episode for the Simpsons. Both creative but very different forms of creativity. This started me thinking which one am I? As my role is to manage PHD’s marketing, I would go with applied as I tend to take the many great ideas from across the agency and figure out how best to communicate them. I contribute to these ideas and maybe even change them to work differently but I definitely can’t draw the Mona Lisa or even Lisa Simpson…that’s for sure. Eventually he got into his book. Obviously wanting the room to buy it, he didn’t give everything away but went through a number of illustrations in the book to get his point across. If you want to see these, you’ll have to buy the book too as I couldn’t capture them in the room but the gist is below: Just sitting on a bean bag doesn’t make you creative You should always be wary of people trying to make an environment for creativity. It doesn’t happen at a certain time or in a certain room. It can’t be forced. I can happen anywhere… in the shower, in the pub, in a meeting about something totally different. He went on to say ideas are the most egalitarian thing that we do. They can change the world so it’s important that we celebrate it. However, you can’t be creative for the creative sake. You have to have a philosophy. You need something to believe in. It’s better to have a point of view and push others with it. That’s what creative ideas should do. He was once asked what drives his work. He said irreverence because it challenges people to think differently and that’s the point. Storytelling is not dead Storytelling is actually fundamental – he suggested that we all read From Animals to Gods – A Brief History of Humankind. 512NJ6myiFL._SY300_ We are the only species who have one version of ourselves. Nobody knows why but maybe it’s because we’ve developed fictive language and were able to live in larger groups for longer periods of time. Apes for example have only 20-30 members before they have to split. Maybe this is because no ape can tell a good tale? Makes sense when you think about it. Must get boring… Constantly challenge what went before and become fearless Basically – break the mould. In order to be creative, you have to have taste. Unfortunately this can not be taught. Someone once said “We are all artists but not all of us should exhibit”. So taste is a given. However, it’s important to change what you create. Even if it’s a great idea, you can not live on that forever…unless you’re a musician such as Mick Jagger or David Bowie – then you can pretty much do what you want. But for the rest of us however, we need to come at every idea with fresh eyes. Reinvent ourselves. Take Alan Parker for example… he directed the film Bugsy Malone and then went on to direct Midnight Express. Both outstanding films but couldn’t be further from each other in terms of ideas. One, a classic gangster tale with a all child cast, the other a drug smuggle tail very much aimed at adults. Picture1 80% is idea 80% is execution. The idea is everything. For example, six people can tell you the same joke but only one can make you laugh – it’s all about craft. Craft is about getting an experience from something. Not all ideas create this. The creative ones do. It’s important t consider what effect you want to have on people. Every piece of great design will have a story behind it and why it was done the way it was done. Even if it’s just about the juxtaposition. For example, John stated that if you want to make black more black, put it next to white. It then becomes very black. This is a great tool for making us think differently. Consider Banksey’s art in a museum rather than graffiti…would it obtain the same reaction? I’d say no. Sir John then left us with seven useful tips on how to become the best we can be. And here they are…

  1. Remove the headphones – Creative people are transmitters – you need more to go in so you can send it back out again. Don’t cut out the world.
  2. Mix with the best. You can learn from the greats – you absorb what’s around you. Read shit, think shit create shit.
  3. You can’t leave your ego at the door – this is fundamentally important – great companies are battle grounds and you need to stand out. If your idea isn’t heard, it will be not executed.
  4. However…don’t cross the line and make it all about ME. – Humberous will destroy you
  5. Cynicism is the death of creativity – you have to be an Optimist. You can’t change the world if you don’t believe it.
  6. Every McCartney needs a Lennon. Surround yourself with people who can be honest with you.
  7. And finally, there is only one space that you need to think about – the space between people’s ears. Get your idea into someone’s mind. The key is simplicity. If your simple idea unfolds it’s genius.

Go on now people. Go get creative. David Gordon in the marketing team just did with his own sketch of Sir John… sir john Written by Emma Flaxman, Senior Marketing Manager @flaxyem

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