Hegarty: brands to blame for lack of Web innovation

John Hegarty, chairman and worldwide creative director of advertising agency Bartle Bogle Hegarty, has slammed brand owners for failing to grasp the opportunity presented by the internet.

In an interview with Marketing Week, he accuses clients of not understanding the medium and “not wanting to let go” of control over their brands.

He says: “Agencies get kicked a lot; we’re behind the curve according to clients. We’re not. It’s the clients who are behind the curve. They’ve got to understand this is a medium where you’ve got to let go and they don’t want to.”

He adds that clients are used to doing huge amounts of research for one piece of creative work and that they have to change if they want to use online effectively. He says: “When you’re online it’s an interactive process and you’ve got to change. It’s only certain brands that will let go and enjoy having a conversation with the public instead of it being in command. Brands are going to find that very difficult. It’s more their issue than ours. We’re full of ideas.” Hegarty is giving a keynote speech at the Internet Advertising Bureau’s Engage conference on November 14.

He explains: “Brands have played around with it. They think that it’s all about doing something completely wacky like chopping cats’ heads off. Then when there’s a furore about it, they withdraw and say, ‘It’s nothing to do with us.’ It completely undermines the value of what it is they’re saying.”

BBH was behind Levi’s Flat Eric campaign in 1999, in which the internet played a key role. However, seven years later Hegarty says that the internet has yet to prove itself as a brand-building medium.

He says: “If you were to read the headlines you’d think television is over, it’s all going online. We have to calm down a bit. It is an incredibly exciting medium but we’re still waiting to know how you build brands here.”

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