Growing up I always wanted to be in advertising. Become a creative in the traditional sense. Work in a creative department. Be paired up with a masterful art director who could visualise the ideas we had come up with.
It had to be this way, because for me, I could barely draw a stick man let alone make anything meaningful for people to look at. There would be no hidden political agenda. No buried meaning.
Case in point: at 16 I was actively discouraged from continuing art classes at school. Yet drawn by the allure of harnessing creativity to solve real world problems and create work that stopped people in their tracks, I did what every naïve teen without a clue does and headed to a book store.
Then and there, searching for answers, I bought every book from the world of advertising I could find.
In the coming weeks I’d muse over the stories of individuals rising from lowly creative to formidable agency owner with portfolios fledgling creatives could only salivate at the thought of.
The idea of those journeys fascinated me. The gap between greatness and average joe being influenced by so many different things: resilience, societal context, upbringing and plain old luck.
In the years that followed whilst my yearning to follow in the footsteps of these individuals dwindled, their stories didn’t.
Instead they just sat there. Suspended in time as they began collecting dust until one day I came back to them.
I sat down, flicked through, and was immediately transported back to that interplay of circumstances that made them the people they became.
In the case of Sir John Hegarty, his story started rather unremarkably.
Geographically relatable; he was brought up in the North of London as I was. Completely unrelatably, he was born during World War II.
All things considered he was pretty lucky.
Coming of age in London during the swinging sixties sounded like a blessing. His book documented how a generation of youthful souls, baby boomers, were able to make their mark on culture in a post war upswing that saw a remarkable number of products enter the ether for the first time.
New technologies meant more time. More time meant more use for products. And of course, with advertising being so closely linked to the health of the economy, when you have a surplus of goods to sell you rope in advertising agencies to shift them.
For Hegarty his opportunity arose when he left art college and entered an agency, since disbanded, called Benton & Bowles. The era was characterised by changing attitudes to just about everything. Think of it as a liberalisation of society.
Sir John wanted these ideals to be injected into the very core of the work he was producing, for it to be a true reflection of what was going on outside the four walls of that stuffy Knightsbridge office.
Though unfortunately it was not meant to be. In the words of Hegarty himself, that place “was stuck in the 50’s.”
In the words of our characterisation of Hegarty, it was “exactly where he didn’t want to be.”
What came after this realisation is the subject of the first episode of Craftsmen of Creativity, a series of short stories we’ve penned about the journeys of some of the world’s most influential creative people.
Craftsmen of Creativity: Tales of a Creative Revolution documents the stories of our creative heroes who were brave enough to speak up for what they believed in. You can watch the first episode here.