Wednesday, May 25

John Hegarty on Truth and Risk

Just got back from hearing the legendary John Hegarty speak at the ad agency BBH (went with that other legend Steve Collins). Thanks to Graham Fink and The Arts School

John Hegarty, we were assured, was slightly delayed because he had just flown in from Miami - which of course is reason for admiration rather than disapointment. Hegarty in partnership with (Nigel Bogle & John Bartle) set up BBH in 1982. The agency has been responsible for some of the best known campaigns including famous Levi ads.

I think some of the points he makes are relevant in all sorts of fields where communication is important, not just advertising. Here are my notes from John Hegarty's talk given to a group of (mainly) students.


The power of the truth
The greatest thing you can do in advertising is tell the truth, how you tell the truth, how you make it interesting, is the key. The truth lies in the product and what you have to do is dig it out.

The power of strategy
It would have been no good coming up with wonderful ideas if they were on a strategy that people didn't relate to. Linking those two things together has always been behind the success of BBH. You can't put up a wonderful new building without a great foundation.

The power of fame
We don't mean celebrity. The dictionary defines it as something of public renown or great esteem. We are living in a cluttered media driven world. Analysing who you should take notice of is just quicker if you are dealing with famous people of things.

The power of irreverence
Art went on the be something which debunked established order and forced people to ask questions. It was this irreverence which created tremendous power. Art made people think and we in advertising are constantly trying to make people think.

The power of humour
Humour binds people together. It can make difficult message acceptable to a broad range of people. Humour makes you listen. The trick is to make that humour relevent to the brand and that's where people often go wrong.

The last thing you want to be in advertising is in advertising.
People in advertising spend their lives looking at other bits of advertising. In a way I try my best not to look at other bits of advertising, I try to go out and look at life - try to stay connected in some shape or form. The thing you've got to do more than anything is keep an open mind. When you stop being excited by new things you become tired and stop being creative. You may work in advertising but don't live in advertising.


Two themes pushed forward for me, truth and risk-taking. Here's a poem that was read out on the theme of risk.

To laugh is to risk appearing the fool.

To weep is to risk appearing sentimental.

To reach out for another is to risk involvement.

To expose feeling is to risk exposing your true self.

To place your ideas, your dreams before the crowd, is to risk their loss.

To love is to risk not being loved in return.

To live is to risk dying.

To hope is to risk despair.

To try is to risk failure.

But the risk must be taken, because the greatest hazard in life is to risk nothing.

The person who risks nothing, does nothing, has nothing and is nothing.

He may avoid suffering and sorrow, but he simply cannot learn, feel, change, grow, love, live.

Chained by his certitudes, he is a slave, he has forfeited freedom.



PS Source of poem not clear, but please find this reference: A handwritten copy was found in the car of Bagdhad CNN employee and blogger Duraid Isa Mohammed after the car came under attack and he and fellow CNN employee Yasser Khatab were killed.

Sunday, May 22

Grace Weekend

Grace team spent the weekend reflecting on the future - how we would like to see the community develop. Thought about how we structure the organisation of Grace, our values and the programme for the next 12 months. The venue was Copsem Manor at Esher.

See also:

Jonny Baker's blog entry

Small Ritual with incriminating photos

Saturday, May 14

Great Storytelling

The Lion King. On Friday the stage show was a birthday treat for Joshua (12 on Thursday) and what a fantastic production. I'd heard that the costumes where wonderful and indeed they were - the whole set was magnificently designed. Julie Taymor explains in the programme that she didn't want to hide the mechanics of the puppetry or the humanity as portrayed by the actors - so both were visible. It was stunningly beautiful.

Godly Play on Saturday was the subject of Grace in which we were taken though an inspirational form of story telling. Using props pulled out of a golden box two parables were explored in an intriguing presentation. After introducing the story the teller invited us to enter into a time of wonder. The aim was to encounter the story without being told what the story was really about but to simply open up creative possibilities for personal reflection.

Friday, May 13

BBC Strikes

In a bar in America I remember one of those notices of wisdom hung for all to see. "Have it done well, have it done quickly or have it done cheap - choose any two of the above" .

The BBC's brand stands for high quality public service and creativity so it is not surprising that so many people want to work for this cherished organisation. But the BBC is facing uncertain times with serious threats to conventional forms of media. The license fee system is looking ever more antiquated, the commercial world is closing in on the BBC like a media Tsunami. What's a mother to do?

I am of the opinion that the decision to make these radical changes is the only one reasonably open at the present time. If the BBC isn't given a kick now, it sure will be in the not too distant future.

One on the biggest changes, it seems to me, is in the area of journalism. I'm not a journalist, but I can see that the BBC's reporting will be questioned more and more - not just by official bodies but by the whole world. Blog sites and the pages of hideous organisations like Fox News are very quick to throw mud. Everyone can be a journalist pumping their views onto the web. What the BBC's role is as a public service broadcaster urgently needs re-inventing.

This week BBC staff have voted to strike but I am yet to be convinced that this is the right thing to do. Who will suffer? What can change?

We need to do it well, we need to do it quickly, it is not going to be cheap.

Producer's Note 2: Shoot and Share

A little camera worthy of mention. The very small JVC Everio GZ-MC200 video camera.

The tapeless camera is designed for people who want to shoot and share images in much the same way as digital stills. The most obvious selling point is the size - makes shooting unobtrusive.

The controls take some getting used to but there's a broad range of options including manual operation. The camera functions very much like a stills camera and produces a series of numbered files which can be pre-viewed and organised/deleted in the viewfinder.

The files are designed to be transfered to a PC and used in conjunction with the supplied windows-only editing software. The camera produces MPEG2 files but with the extension .MOD. These can be changed to extension .mpg but the resulting files play without audio. There is a solution in the form of a programme called MPEG Streamclip which converts Mpeg files to a range of formats and sizes. However, to get the programme to work you will need to upgrade to Quicktime Pro , and then download an Mpeg-2 Playback Component plugin to go with it! Having done all this the routine is quite straight forward - clean the clip and edit.

The audio quality is very good - the unit is so silent that you don't get the usual rattling hum associated with DV Tape units. The quality of the images is good for domestic use but I wouldn't recommend them for professional media presentations. For web use and for educational presentations I think it will be an excellent tool. I'm thinking of using the camera to record some short talks to play in meetings and put on the our intranet site.

Tuesday, May 10

Producer's Note 1: Your Call

One of the most challenging part of a producer's role is signing off work. A creative bod comes to you and says, "I finished the piece and you're going to like it. It's fantastic". You look at what he or she has done and it is completely wrong. Of course you're honest and say, "it's rubbish, start again". But then you get the 'why?' question. In the TV world there is never just one person asking why? There's usually a dozen people at least- all wanting a stake in the decision making.

In an attempt to be objective (and persuasive) here are 10 questions to ask before, during and after production. I'd be interested to know what you would put on the list.

1. One single minded idea?
There is a difference between an idea and a treatment. Each piece should have one driving idea which should shine through? Remember the Guinness ads.

2. Does it capture a truth?
We like to see something and say, "ah yes, so true".

3. Is it as simple as it can be?
What could you cut out of it without noticing?

4. Does it provoke the emotions?
Makes you happy, sad, threatened...

5. Does is tell a story?
A good narrative structure always goes down well

6. Is it inventive?
Done something new fresh, unique, surprising

7. Is it fit for purpose?
There is usually reason for the work - so does it do the job? Does it answer the brief?

8. Is it well crafted?
High production values - technically very good with a quality finish.

9. Does it take a risk?
If everyone is scared to go ahead with it - good.

10. Do I like it?
Perhaps this is all that matters in the end - provided the intended audience agrees.

Producer's Notes

I've set myself a goal of writing some regular producer's notes for the blog. I've been inspired by Jonny Baker's worship tricks which seem to be a good way of capturing ideas in a very practical form. Let's see if I can keep it up.

The opinions expressed on this site are those of Mark Waddington and not his employer. If I have made any errors or published anything unfairly please bring it to my attention and I will make corrections if appropriate.