Photo of Sir John Hegarty

Interview with Sir John Hegarty

Sir John Hegarty is one of the world’s most awarded and respected admen. Over six decades he has been at the forefront of the creative advertising industry from the early days of Saatchi and Saatchi to Bartle Bogle Hegarty, the global company he runs today.

In 1982 he founded Bartle Bogle Hegarty with partners John Bartle and Nigel Bogle. The agency swiftly became one of the most talked about and awarded advertising agencies in the world. BBH has won every Agency of the Year accolade and every creative award possible and has been at the forefront of the industry for twenty nine years.

“remember money has a voice, but it doesn’t have a soul. And you must remember that. Never follow the money. If you follow the money you will come unstuck. I didn’t follow the money and it was absolutely the best decision.”

Can you tell me a bit about your upbringing?

I came from a working-class background. My father was a laborer and my mother was actually a secretary. She worked as well, so I came from a relatively poor background. It would be described as working class. But within the household there was a great belief, I am glad to say, in education, and a belief in the value and benefits of learning. So it was a very supportive environment to be brought up in with regards to furthering one’s career and furthering one’s education.

When did you know you wanted to get into advertising?

Well, I didn’t really, and I have to say this is one of the great conundrums. One of the great problems in life is that you have to get lucky. And as my father said – you can gather from my name that  it’s Irish – ‘There’s no point being Irish if you can’t get lucky!’ And in a sense, I was very lucky in that I had a series of teachers in the first instance, when I was about twelve or thirteen, who showed me and made me understand that learning was fun and could be exciting. I wanted to go to art school and I did. I had a wonderful teacher at art school who directed me and said I wasn’t going to be the next Picasso, and whilst that came as a huge blow to me, he said I was very good at ideas and that I should apply my creativity commercially.

He suggested that I should go to design school where I then met another wonderful teacher – I was going to be a graphic designer. Whilst I was studying at the London College of Printing, this wonderful teacher there, John Gillard, showed me the work of a wonderful advertising agency in New York who were doing fantastic ads. In a sense that was sort of an epiphany for me. I saw this work and I thought “This is absolutely fantastic; I didn’t know advertising could be like this’. It was really surprising to be surrounded by something and not notice it. That’s a terrible indictment of the advertising at the time. Or to not even think about it actually, it didn’t occur to me.

So I got very lucky in that I came across a series of teachers who showed an interest and pushed and developed my career in a number of ways. And I suppose the positive way to answer that, as opposed to just ‘get lucky’, is that I think if you show interest in whatever you’re doing, you actually spark an interest in the other person, whoever that person is, be it a teacher, a friend, or someone who’s trying to show you how to do something.

I think apathy is the greatest crime against furthering your career. I mean a general lethargy and apathy – there’s nothing worse to encounter if you’re trying to inspire people. So I think the first thing I have to say to people is ‘If you show interest, interest will be shown back in you’. It’s a two-way street, it isn’t just a one-way street. Teachers aren’t just there to teach – you’re there to learn as well. It’s the teacher’s function to show you how it can be fantastic. They have tricks in schools to do that.

Were you a hard worker at school?

No, I wasn’t. I was a very average student. But actually, I had this one teacher, a most wonderful man called Con O’Halfy who was a history teacher. He came in and he brought it alive – he made it this fantastic story. It was just exciting; you couldn’t wait for the next class. We were learning the war of the roses, and he brought the war of the roses to life, he showed us this is what was going on and it was like an adventure. You know, we couldn’t wait. He sat there and threw three or four dates in so that we could answer the questions on the exam.

So of course you suddenly thought, ‘This is learning if there’s someone teaching it’. So there you suddenly realise, ‘Ah, this is what teaching is’. And then you were able to approach other classes, even if they may not have been as good as he was, but you kind of found a way through it. But I wasn’t an A-class student at all, I wanted to hang out with the lads, smoke cigarettes behind the bike shed, do all the usual things that you do. I listened to more music than I should have done.

In this legendary Levi Strauss 1985 television advert broadcast in the UK, model Nick Kamen stripped down to his white boxer shorts in a launderette so that he could wash his 501s. He did so to the sounds of Marvin Gaye’s ‘I Heard it Through the Grapevine’. The ad reached number six in a UK poll of ‘The 100 Greatest TV Ads’ in 2000 (Robinson 2000). It kicked off a series of classic retro 50s-style ads which increased sales of Levi jeans by 800% by 1986. It reputedly did almost as much for promoting boxer shorts. John Hegarty, a founding partner of BBH, was the creative mind behind this ad. The ad led to Nick Kamen becoming a one-hit wonder with ‘Each Time You Break My Heart’.

Did you have a hero or an inspirational figure when you were young?

No I didn’t. I never actually really had someone that I thought  – ‘I wish to be like that’. I sort of joked about being mortified that I wasn’t going to be the next Picasso. I think that was more because I knew that Picasso was hugely successful with women. I thought ‘Wow I’m going to be a painter and get all those girls’, whereas today you want to be a pop star don’t you? So I decided I wanted to go to art school, he (Picasso) was a sexy artist so it was driven by those usual juices that go through young boys. But I didn’t really have a hero as such; I’ve never really indulged in that. I’ve never been a hero worshipper – I’ve been an admirer.

How did you get your first job in advertising?

When I was exposed to all this wonderful advertising coming out of New York I decided that’s what I wanted to do. At that time, being at design school and actually then saying that you wanted to go into advertising was a bit like the Pope deciding he wanted to be a Muslim. It was the worst choice you could ever wish to make. Despite the fact that designers were all designing packaging and stuff like that, it was somehow considered a more worthy craft than advertising. I decided that I wanted to do that. It was also influenced slightly by all the pop art that was going on at the time.

I felt that there was something happening here which was very powerful; there was a change going on and it was great to be a part of that. So I got my first job – and this is quite an important point really – I was very lucky. I got two job offers and I spoke to a friend of mine who was also in advertising and who was ahead of me. I told him, ‘I’ve got these two job offers, one is a very good agency and they want to pay me £1000 per year (it’s laughable when you think of it now!) and then there’s this very good creative director at this agency that wants to pay me £800 per year, what do you think I should do?’ And this friend of mine said to me ‘You know John, follow the opportunity, don’t follow the money.

I think that with the job that’s less well paid, you’re going to meet better people, which will be better for your career’.. And he was absolutely right, so that was the first commercial advice that I have always believed in, and a little thing I have which is to remember money has a voice, but it doesn’t have a soul. And you must remember that. Never follow the money.

If you follow the money you will come unstuck. I didn’t follow the money and it was absolutely the best decision, despite the fact that I was fired about a year and a half later. In fact, I met people there who influenced my career and who I influenced as well, and it forged very powerful allegiances.

Do you mind me asking why you were fired?

I was a pain in the ass. At that time when we came into advertising we really did understand that the industry was on the cusp of change. It was the mid-sixties, there was a huge revolution going on in youth culture and an old world was being swept away.  A new one was coming in and in the advertising industry there were very much entrenched points of view. People like us were coming along saying advertising could be interesting, it could be funny, it could be stylish, it could still be engaging and it still could be inclusive.

We were considered stupid people who didn’t understand. We knew we were right so consequently I was a complete pain in the ass. So they said we’d rather revel in our ignorance and we don’t want you reminding us of the fact that we’re wrong, so go. But the incredible thing is who I met. I went in as an art director – in advertising you work as art directors and writers; you work as a pair – I was an art director and the first writer I worked with was Charles Saatchi.

And so I forged a great friendship with Charles and a professional belief in what we were doing. Then later I  joined Charles when he was opening his agency Saatchi & Saatchi, as a founding partner with Charles. Had I gone to the other job I wouldn’t have met Charles; it was OK as an agency but it didn’t have the potential that this agency had, despite the fact that they were not quite seeing where it was going. They were slightly better than the other agency and consequently, I was able to forge wonderful friendships and as I said professional allegiances.

It seems you had a really fast progression with your career. What do you attribute that to?

One of things about advertising is that it’s an industry that recognises talent very very quickly, though of course the downside is that it forgets talent very quickly. It’s a bit like being in the entertainment industry – you can be a star today and a failure tomorrow. You just have to accept that really. You have to manage your career understanding that that’s going to go on. Also, as I’ve said, I came into the industry at a time of great change when a whole generation of people were coming into advertising. I actually wanted to be in advertising.

Most creative people who were in advertising at that time were either failed artists or failed writers. They were on their way to being writers. Fay Weldon, a famous novelist, was in advertising, Salmon Rushdie – another famous author – was in advertising. They really wanted to be writers and authors, not copywriters. I wanted to be an advertising art director.

I didn’t want to go on to paint a series of pictures and have an exhibition and be a famous artist. I thought it was fantastic that I was given a canvas of what we call a forty-eight-sheet poster, or a sixty-second TV commercial. To me that was the most exciting thing in the world. And I spoke to millions of people. If I was a painter I might speak to some; if I was lucky I might put on an exhibition with a thousand people there to see it. How many artists get that many people to see their exhibitions? But here I was, working in an industry where somebody said to me, ‘It’s a poster campaign, it’s gonna run nation wide and we want three posters’. You think ‘Wow. I’m going to talk to fifty million people. That’s exciting’.

I really did sense this thing about advertising. It has a tremendous power, a tremendous force – if of course done correctly – that was exciting. But at that time we were an industry riddled with creative people who really didn’t want to be in it. So of course, this new generation coming along who wanted to be in it, found it very easy if you were good to accelerate through the ranks very fast. I saw the opportunity to really move the industry forward whereas these other people couldn’t wait to get out. They weren’t thinking about the industry long term, they were thinking ‘Can I be out within the next six months? Will I have my novel written?’, whereas we were in a different place so we accelerated very fast.

Is it not like that today then?

It’s not quite like that today. It’s still an industry that absolutely recognises talent – it’s very young. We’re a twenty-two-year-old company, coming up to twenty-three, and the average age is thirty-two. I’m sixty, Nigel, my partner is fifty-seven  (the other partner John Bartle retired at the end of 1999), so imagine what we do to the age average here. Otherwise the average age would drop down to about 25. It’s still a very young industry. Now of course it’s different; nothing stays the same. But the opportunity is always there. The opportunity is slightly different but it’s still very much a young industry.

If you started again is there anything you would have done differently?

I’m not sure actually that I would. I look back on my career and I think that I was fortunate because I didn’t follow the money. I followed the opportunity and I invested in the long term in my career. One of the great dangers in our business is that you do very well, you’re recognised creatively and you then get awarded. You’ve got award schemes all over the place, they’re showering them on us like confetti and it goes to your head a bit. You’re called an award winning art director, an award-winning copywriter – you’re working probably in a good agency and you’re surrounded by lots of good people, therefore the salary levels are a bit spread out.

A less good agency phones you up and says ‘John, why don’t you come and join us? We’re going to try and change this place, we’ll double your salary’. It’s very tempting. It’s very flattering – double salary – and what happens with that conversation is that the fact that it’s not as good an agency and not as good an environment gets pushed to one side as this double salary phrase echoes around your head.

You think about all the things you could do – ‘I could go here and jet off there’. The danger is that you follow that and what happens is that you go to this less good agency and of course you are the star there because there aren’t so many good people there. Your work becomes less good because you’re surrounded by people who aren’t as good and talented as you are – good people like to congregate. You learn from each other and you bounce off each other – it’s like a competitive race.

If you’re in a race where people run really fast you run faster. If you’re in a race where people aren’t very good, you don’t run as fast. Consequently your career then goes into decline and all of a sudden you’re not seen as very good anymore, and you’ve ruined your chances to have a long career as opposed to short-term gain. You should always go for long-term benefit. I’m not saying I’m brilliant or anything – I suppose I was lucky. The right people said the right things to me at the right time, and I spotted it.

I spotted that’s what you need to do. You need to think about the long term – don’t think about the short term. When I say the long term, I don’t mean making a plan. But always invest in your career, in being in the right place, and that’s the investment. Where your career will go, you don’t know. My other little saying is ‘Do interesting things, and interesting things will happen to you’. People often say to me, ‘What’s your five-year plan John?’ And I say, ‘I don’t have a five year plan’. I have a two-week plan. I’m going to make that better, I’m going to do this better and I’m going to make sure that happens. I can’t affect more than that.

It’s ridiculous when people say, ‘I sat down and said by the time I’m forty I’m going to be…’ That’s just rubbish – don’t do that. Don’t plan your life like that. Plan today and make today fantastic and there’s a chance tomorrow will be as well. But this idea that you’re going to sit down and write a game plan…I often read those things and I think ‘I’m not depressed but I could walk out of here and get run over by a bus’.

When we expanded we went to New York to open an office, and we decided that actually one of us, one of the partners should go there. At the end of 1998 I went to New York for two and a half years. Now, if you’d said to me three years earlier, ‘John, you’re going to live in New York’ I would have said ‘No I won’t, why would I go to live in New York?’ So don’t make these plans that might upset you because you’re not meeting them. Make sure each day is fantastic. Affect today, change the next ten minutes, and then the next ten minutes will change the next ten minutes and so it goes on.

Is there anything you would say is the biggest mistake of your career?

Mistakes are important. I’d only look at bits and pieces of work I’d done as being a mistake. I don’t think my career moves were a mistake. I fortunately made the right moves at the right time. I think there have been individual pieces of work I have done which I look back on and I say ‘I shouldn’t have done that – that was not right’, but those are kind of the usual things. I don’t have a big mistake as such.

What kinds of people are suited to advertising?

I think advertising is a wonderful industry because it encompasses so many skills. So, at one point you’ve got the creative department where you’ve got highly creative people who live by having ideas. You then have what we call account people who are also very creative in their own way. They manage the relationship between the client and the agency, so they are business managers. They have a tremendous sense of creativity just as a good business person needs to have. Then you have what we call planners. These people are like researchers – they think about what’s happening out there. ‘What is the market doing? What are people doing? What are these trends?’ They pick up on trends and fashions and styles.

Then you have the media people who really understand the media industry and where the media opportunities lie. ‘Should we use posters? Should we use newspapers? We could use the net and we could do a deal with them…’ and so on. And then of course, you get people who help run the actual agency. We call them traffic people. They manage the work through the agency and they are tremendously organisational. They can get things done – they are project managers. You also have the TV production who help us make the TV commercials. They’re in charge of making the commercials and the TV producers are fantastic at film, understanding film, understanding all the directors – who’s out there, what they are doing etc – and they have a combination of creativity and organisation. They have to manage the process of making a TV commercial and also manage the creative process within that – getting the right director, getting the right editor and putting it all together.

So you’ve got this tremendous industry which has got all these skills in it which all work together. You could literally have almost anybody and you could say ‘there would be a job for you in advertising’.

How important is education to get into advertising?

I think education is fundamentally important. Advertising is the most egalitarian industry you can ever go into. Certainly on the creative side – if you can have great ideas you will get a job in advertising. I have to say this: there’s no race bar; there’s no social bar. I would employ a three-legged pink dog with blue spots if it could come up with great ideas. It would be of no interest to me whatsoever what colour it was or what religion it was. If that dog could create great ideas I would employ it. This is such a competitive industry that for me to have an advantage over my competitors is fundamentally important.

So if they are a school leaver, fresh out of school, not great grades but great ideas?

They could have great ideas and you can create your own portfolio. There are a lot of opportunities to get into our industry where you can go to classes in the evening, so you can do a job during the day. You can do classes in the evening with D & AD, you can go to college, and there are a lot of opportunities to get in. What matters in our business is your portfolio. When you walk in that door and you show your portfolio, that’s what matters. Obviously if you come and you’re belligerent and horrible, then I’m going to say ‘I don’t think I want this person around me’. But if you’re brilliant then I might say ‘alright’, and then teach you some manners.

Is there anything specific someone should study if they want to get into advertising?

No. I think you can study anything you like. I think the people who succeed in advertising – apart from the fact that they’re very talented – is that they’re engaged with the world. They are interested in lots of things. They’re not narrow. Advertising is an industry that isn’t very good for narrow people. Some industries are perfect for that.

If you’re a research scientist, your brain is only researching biological change of the sub-structure of whatever it might be and that’s it, you don’t give a damn about anything else. That’s your task and that’s fantastic, absolutely brilliant. Our industry is one that engages – it’s broad and it needs to connect with people on a broad broad level. So therefore, being very much a part of the world – you read lots of things, you see lots of things, you’re interested in things – those are the kinds of people that succeed in advertising.

So if someone has chosen the wrong career, they are five or ten years down the line and they decide to take evenings classes and produce a portfolio – would they be more than welcome to apply?

Absolutely. There are lots of examples of people who were accountants, or research scientists or whatever, engineers, who said ‘No, I really want to be in advertising’ and they changed. In fact actually they’re very interesting people.

So it’s never too late to get into the industry?

No, it’s never too late. Although I say that with caution, because as I said, this is a very young industry. And it’s a young industry because you’re expected to work so long. You put a lot of hours in. They’re fun hours but if you have a nine-to-five mentality do not come into advertising. If you want a more structured world then advertising is not the industry for you to be in.

What is the most original and successful attempt to get hired you have seen?

People have tried various things but I think you have to be slightly careful because it can backfire horribly. The best way to get hired is to show me your work.

Is it hard to get to do that?

No! Any good creative director is going to say if there’s talent out there then I need to get it. It’s a very competitive industry and if I can get more talented people then that’s my raw material. Good creative directors are always open to people sending their work in. The great thing is not to over burden but to make it very simple.

When people write to me and say ‘I’d like to come and work for you at BBH, I’ve admired your work bla bla bla’, I always write back and say ‘Send me five things that you think are great and if I like them we’ll meet up’. Eight times out of ten the work isn’t very good and I say ‘Thank you very much, you’re not for us’ and that’s fine. Be wary of stunts but if you’ve got some original stunt then do it.

What impresses you?

Honesty impresses me. Surprisingly. People always think advertising is about hiding the truth. It isn’t actually. It’s about finding the truth in a brand and speaking with integrity. We always say the best strategy for any product is to tell the truth. The skill is to make the truth interesting. Like that wonderful teacher who came in and told us about history. He made the story interesting. That’s a great skill. That’s the skill in advertising but you start with the truth.

Have you ever had any low points in your career?

Oh yes, a low point was when I was fired. I thought ‘Oh my G-d, have I overdone it? Will I get another job?’ I was a year and half into my career in advertising. It was the wrong time to be fired in a way, I should have had more experience and then I’d have been alright. But I didn’t and I got fired. That was a low point but it was actually a very good low point in the sense that I look back on it now and can say that it was a very educational experience. I learnt a lot from it; I learnt you’ve got to stick by what you believe in. If it results in you getting fired then fine. I got fired – it wasn’t great, and it was very hard. I was out of work for about five or six weeks. I really wondered whether I would get another job. But I stuck to it and it all came good.

Did you ever consider giving up?

No, I didn’t consider giving up. I kept considering how I should approach this. I looked at my portfolio, I changed things within it, I worked on it, I’d come back with more ideas so that when I went to see somebody I had more work in my portfolio. I didn’t give up. You mustn’t give up; you must believe in yourself.

So being fired from your first job – did that affect being hired? Did it affect your credibility or were you judged purely on your work?

No, it didn’t really matter that much. I suppose there would be an element of ‘is he a…?’ but even then you were still judged on your portfolio. The problem was as I said, that at that time there was a huge change going on in the industry, but it wasn’t universal by any means, so the places I could and wanted to go were few and far between. I wasn’t interested in going to a less good agency; I wanted to go to a good agency because I wanted to invest in my career. I wanted to be surrounded by good people, and that’s what I was able to do.

What motivates or drives you?

Beauty drives me. I like beautiful things. I have always felt that. I read something about Phillip Stark and he was talking about himself and he said something rather wonderful actually. He said, ‘I’m not a very pretty man, but I can have beautiful thoughts’. I always thought that was rather wonderful. You know I think we live in an age when looks, outward appearance, style and all those things are very prominent with the media world we live in.

We’re dominated by the media these days and you often think if somebody isn’t very good looking or a bit ugly it’s very depressing for them, but actually you can still have beautiful thoughts, you can still make beautiful things, you can still engage with people in a way which is beautiful and make somebody else feel beautiful, and that’s a real skill – and that’s open to anybody. Anybody can do that.

Some successful people that I’ve spoken to say that failure is their biggest fear. Is that one of yours?

No. I never doubted that I would succeed. I always thought I would, and I had great faith in myself and I knew that what I was doing was good so I didn’t doubt it. I’ve never really worried about failure – failure is just one of those words.

Very interestingly, when we were starting BBH I said to a friend ‘Should I be doing this? I’m creative director of a very successful agency, I’m in a good position, should I be going on…?’ He said ‘Well what’s your problem?” and I said ‘Well, what happens if I fail?’ He said to me ‘So, you fail. It doesn’t stop you being a good art director, it doesn’t stop you being what you are’. He said, ‘The worst thing that can happen to you is that you fail, so what’s the problem?’ Which is a lovely way of putting it, and I kind of feel when people say that failure is their biggest fear, I think it’s a negative fear. I’m an intensely competitive person – though I hope not horribly competitive – and I think in a way to succeed you have to be.

You’ve got to make sure you’re competitive. Competitiveness isn’t destructive, it’s constructive, and like everything in life if it goes too far it becomes destructive. It’s that which keeps me going. I get furious with myself when I see another agency has done a fabulous idea…we should have done that, why didn’t we do that? It’s not failure that drives me or the fear of failure, it’s the fear of not doing as well as we should do.

What kind of attitude have you maintained throughout your career to reach where you are now?

I think honesty and openness. I always thought that you should always treat people the way you’d like to be treated. I’ve never liked hierarchy, and I don’t like cultures that are very hierarchical. I’m a working class boy who came from a very poor background. I witnessed privilege, and I saw it abused and being used against me and I didn’t like it. I thought ‘Why, because you are more privileged than I am?’  I never liked that. I think in life you either experience those things and you say ‘They won’t happen to me’ or people themselves become very hierarchical. It’s very strange. It’s a bit like when battered children become batterers. For me, coming from a working class background and experiencing prejudice made me think I will never operate on that basis.

So when I was ascending and doing well I always tried to treat people as equals. It was a responsibility – am I going to make people responsible? I always say one of the hardest things I ever have to do is to fire people because they’re not good, they’re not doing it. But you’re as fair as you can be, give them warnings and talk about it, but in the end if they aren’t as good as they should be then you’ve got to protect everybody else’s mortgage. I’ve got other people’s jobs here I’m protecting, so I’ve got to fire them. Sometimes it happens to people who just lose interest in the business, who’ve been very very good, who’ve done wonderful things for us, who’ve been with us a long time and that’s tough. You’ve got to do those things sometimes.

What do you think of rules?

I think they’re there to be broken. Well, obviously I would say wouldn’t I – that’s what creative people say don’t they? The most important word a creative person can ever use is ‘why’. Why? Why should that be like that? Why are we doing it like this? And we talk in our industry about this thing called creative ignorance. The great leaps are made by people who are ignorant, who just say – ‘Well, I’m going to do it like that because I think that’s how it should be done’, as opposed to ‘That’s how it should be done’. It’s those people that break the rules who are the ones who make the great leaps. Rules are the antithesis of the creative mind. That doesn’t mean to say that I don’t like manners, or I don’t like experiences which I think are important. I would rather use experience as something you should look to rather than rules. There aren’t any rules as such.

What is the biggest lesson you have learned in your career?

The biggest lesson is to always tell the truth. Because it’s the first thing you come up against and it’s the easiest thing to remember. You never forget what you said.

Did other people’s negative opinions ever make you doubt yourself or your ideas?

There have been people who’ve tried, but no. I had this certainty – it’s appalling to say it and it sounds terrible but this sort of arrogance. It may have been arrogant; I think you have got to be a bit arrogant. I think you should approach things with humour. Humour is the most fantastic force in the world and people underestimate its power. It’s the one thing that can undermine authority. Humour is the enemy of dictatorship. To be laughed at is terrible for an authority. And humour is a powerful force; it draws people to you and it makes the unacceptable acceptable. You can do things.

So I think an element of arrogance probably is important but I think you can do that with humour and humanity. You’ve got to have a belief in yourself. What are you going to do, you can’t just listen to everybody that disagreed with you. The trouble in life is that too many cooks spoil the broth yet many hands make light work. Life’s got these conflicting views all the time. Which one do I choose? Well, life is an art of following a path in between those two things.

Is there anything someone should ask themselves before they get into advertising?

Ask yourself – do I like it? It is the most important thing you can ask.

You have obviously met with the top people in the industry, is there anything you think that they have in common?

I think they have. I think they’ve got a passion for what they do. They fundamentally believe in it. I think all the top people have a single focus on what they do. As I said, in advertising it’s about being passionate about that.

Did you always know you wanted to be at the top or was it just a natural progression of great ideas?

No, I wasn’t at all. I never thought about opening an agency when I started. I thought I wanted to be the best art director in the world. That was my ambition. I never thought – I’m going to become a creative director and then I’m going to open my own agency. I just focused on the next thing. It’s that thing I talked about – don’t over plan your life. I’m sure John Lennon didn’t sit down and say, ‘I want to be the greatest rock and roll band in the world’. He just said ‘I want to write these great songs and I want to be in this band’ and then the band was what it was, and then it grew.

Is there anything I haven’t asked you that you think young people should know before they get into advertising?

I think the most important thing is engage with the world and keep an open mind. Remember inspiration is everywhere. It’s all around you; engage with it – it’s fantastic. We live in a fantastic time in a fantastic place and I know some people have a tough life but really the opportunities around us are amazing. Just engage with the world.

So consistently great ideas will take you up there?

Yes – certainly in our industry.


Please leave a comment :

Inspirational Interviews...

In 2005 Karina interviewed a selection of inspirational and highly successful people. You will find each interview filled with brilliant life lessons and wisdom.Read more about the interviews or view the list of interviewees

Other Interviews

Interview with Rachel Elnaugh

Former BBCTV Dragons’ Den ‘Dragon’, Rachel Elnaugh is the creator of the ‘Red Letter Days’ experience brand. She is now a business speaker, published author and award-winning business mentor. Rachel is CEO of

  • Karina, 3 years ago
  • 39 min read

Interview with Ozwald Boateng OBE

Named as one of the 100 Greatest Black Britons, Ozwald started tailoring at the age of 16 and has a large celebrity client list. Ozwald is also an avid philanthropist and founded the Made in Africa Foundation.

  • Karina, 3 years ago
  • 38 min read

Interview with Antonio Carluccio OBE OMRI and Priscilla Conran

Antonio Carluccio, OBE OMRI was an Italian chef, restaurateur, and founded Carluccio’s.

Priscilla Carluccio, owner of Few and Far, previously creative director of the Conran Shop and co founder of Carluccio’s restaurants.

  • Karina, 3 years ago
  • 26 min read

Interview with Duncan Bannatyne OBE

Duncan Bannatyne OBE is most famous for his appearance on the BBC programme Dragons’ Den. He was appointed an OBE for his contribution to charity. He has written seven books.

  • Karina, 3 years ago
  • 23 min read

Interview with Tracey Stainer

Creative Design Director at Karen Millen and previously Head of Design at FCUK. Tracey has also designed clothes for Topshop,

  • Karina, 3 years ago
  • 44 min read

Interview with Debbie MacBeattie

Debbie took ROC Recruitment to The Sunday Times/Virgin Atlantic Fast Track 100 League Table. Debbie was appointed in June 2011 as a Mentor for the Cherie Blair Foundation.

  • Karina, 3 years ago
  • 18 min read

Interview with Simon Woodroffe – Founder of YO! Sushi

Simon Woodroffe OBE is an English motivational speaker and entrepreneur. He started the sushi chain YO! Sushi in 1997,and appeared as a “Dragon” on the first UK series of Dragons’ Den.

  • Karina, 3 years ago
  • 40 min read

Interview with Rupert Howell

In 2003, Rupert joined McCann Erickson as UK Chairman President EMEA. 4 years later he became Managing Director in the Broadcast & Online division at ITV PLC. Rupert joined Trinity Mirror PLC as Group Development Director in 2013.

  • Karina, 3 years ago
  • 40 min read

Interview with Alan Yau OBE

Alan Yau  OBE is a British-Chinese restaurateur who founded the Wagamama chain in the UK. He was awarded an OBE in the 2006 New Year Honour’s List for services to the restaurant industry.

  • Karina, 3 years ago
  • 23 min read

Interview with Sir Charles Dunstone

Sir Charles William Dunstone, CVO is co-founder of Carphone Warehouse, former chairman of Dixons Carphone, and executive chairman of the TalkTalk Group. In 1989 at age 25, he set up The Carphone Warehouse with £6,000.

  • Karina, 3 years ago
  • 21 min read

Interview with Peter Souter

Former Executive Creative Director of AMV BBDO, former president of D&AD, and former screenwriter of ITV’s Married Single Other. Peter is currently embracing TBWA’s Disruption principle.

  • Karina, 3 years ago
  • 33 min read

Interview with Tim Weller

Tim Well is an entrepreneur and CEO who founded Incisive Media in 1995 with 13 people and £275k. He built a business that had revenues of over £250 million in under 13 years.

  • Karina, 3 years ago
  • 31 min read

Interview with George Bryant

George has led the modernisation of brands such as The Olympics, Orange, Guinness, Tate Modern and the country of Iceland.
He is recognised in Campaign’s A-list every year. 

  • Karina, 3 years ago
  • 24 min read