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3 great ads at 50: Sir John Hegarty

Sir John Hegarty, founder and creative at BBH, tells us why ads should be memorable, motivating and truthful in a special 50th anniversary edition of "3 great ads I had nothing to do with".

Hegarty’s creative career started in 1965 where he worked as a junior art director at ad agency Benton and Bowles. He quickly moved  to Cramer Saatchi in 1967 (later to become Saatchi & Saatchi) before co-founding TBWA London, the first Campaign Agency of the Year in 1980.

In 1982, Hegarty set up Bartle Bogle Hegarty which soon became one of the most talked about agencies in the world, winning every Agency of the Year accolade and creative award possible, cementing its place at the forefront of the industry.

Hegarty created groundbreaking campaigns for major brands including Levi’s and Audi, bringing music to the centre of advertising with soundtracks from seven Levi’s ads making it to UK number one and  coining the long-running slogan "Vorsprung Durch Technik" for Audi.

Hegarty has won gold awards at Cannes and British Television Advertising Awards, and the D&AD President's Award for outstanding achievement. BBH is now a global company, owned by Publicis. Hegarty was knighted for his services to the advertising and creative industries in 2007 and  invited to be an Honorary Fellow of The Marketing Society for his contribution to outstanding communication campaigns. He was the first recipient of the inaugural Lion of St Mark’s Award at the Cannes International Advertising Festival.

In 2014, Hegarty helped set up the Garage Soho, an incubator for disruptive business ideas.

 Want to watch more great work? Head to the 3 great ads hub 

Hegarty's choices 

Volkswagen "Funeral"

This 1969 ad was part of DDB’s ‘Think small’ campaign for Volkswagen, portraying the VW Beetle as a frugal, sensible car. In the ad, a dead billionaire - remarkably - narrates his own funeral procession in which he bequeaths his fortune.

Though the image is grainy, the emotional connection between car and consumer is clear. This style, and the audacity of the creative idea, marked a turning point for DDB and kicked off an advertising revolution.

Art director Roy Grace, said he drew inspiration from seeing a lineup of cars. It was DDB that pioneered the concept of art directors and copywriters working together, which has been standard practice ever since.

Heineken "Water in Majorca"

Lowe Howard-Spink’s 1985 Heineken spot is a twist on the famous My Fair Lady scene in which Eliza Doolittle tries to enunciate "The rain in Spain stays mainly on the plain". But it’s only after cracking open a Heineken that Sylvestra Le Touzel (as Eliza) is able to say it in a Cockney accent to complete her riches-to-rags transformation: "Heineken refreshes the parts wot other beers cannot reach."

The ad originally intended to use the classic line from My Fair Lady but copyright vetoed this. LH-S co-founder Alfredo Marcantonio, known for changing the words and meaning in famous poems, came up with the similar alternative: "The water in Majorca don’t taste like what it oughta."

The ad was directed by Paul Weiland.It was ranked at number 9 in Campaign’s 2008 ‘Top 10 Funniest TV Ads of All Time’ and number 29 in Channel 4's ‘100 Greatest TV Ads’ in 2000.

Marmite "Results"

This 2017 ad created by Adam & Eve/DDB, is part of Unilever’s biggest Marmite campaign to date, ‘The Marmite Gene Project’ which aims to ‘prove’ that people's love or hate for the product is genetic.

Marmite commissioned a scientific study to test whether people are born with a predisposition to Marmite, to support the brand’s long-time "Love it or hate it" marketing slogan.

In fact, Marmite fans can eve order a personal DNA testing kit to their homes to find out whether they were born a lover or hater.

The ad, directed by James Rouse, with distinctive comedic touch, debuted during The  X Factor and shows various people discovering their test results.

About this series

In this series of short films, leading Thinkbox Academy members have the tricky task of selecting just three TV ads that have inspired them: brilliant commercials, old and new, that they admire but had nothing to do with.

The idea is not only to explore some of our greatest ads in the company of people who know a thing or two about making them, but also because of the proven link between creativity and effectiveness encourage the advertising industry to even greater heights.

About The Thinkboxes 

The Thinkboxes are the first awards to celebrate the UK's world-beating TV ad creativity, in all its forms, at regular way-points throughout the year.

Created in association with Campaign, these bi-monthly awards are judged by the Thinkbox Academy; made up of over 200 advertising luminaries.

We hope you enjoy the films.

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