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Sir John Hegarty: Wearing headphones is creativity by blocking out real life

Founder of advertising agency hits out at those who lock themselves away

They may be a modern day emblem of the ideas-generating classes but the wearing of headphones is stifling original thinking by blocking out real life, one of British advertising’s most revered figures has claimed.

Sir John Hegarty, whose campaigns include the iconic Launderette for Levis featuring Nick Kamen stripping down to his boxers and who devised the slogan Vorsprung durch Tecnik for Audi, hit out at creative types who lock themselves away.

He told Campaign: “I get really, really pissed off when I see my creative people coming in with headphones in… and they put a little wall round themselves. They listen to their music – and yes music is wonderful I made a career out of using great music.

“But if you walk around cutting yourself off you are eliminating influence, you are eliminating the possibility that you are going to pick up stories, ideas, thoughts that are happening all around you and as a creative person that is completely wrong.”

Sir John founded Bartle Bogle and Hegarty (BBH) in London’s Soho in 1982 along with Nigel Bogle and John Bartle after working at Saatchi & Saatchi.

The now global agency went on to help define the decade’s style aesthetic appealing to the aspirations of the emerging yuppie demographic. BBH’s motto is “when the world zigs, zag”

More recent work has seen the company produce award winning campaigns for Google. Last year French advertising group Publicis bought the remaining shares in BBH in a deal that was reported to have earned the founders £40m.

In the interview Sir John told an anecdote about fashion designer Paul Smith who rather than listen to music took a walk at Milan airport whilst waiting for a delayed plane. He discovered a lucky charm on the floor which he decided to use as a button on one of his best-selling shirts. “Ideas are everywhere you just have to see them,” Sir John added.