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Global advertising doesn't work. It glides past people


On Friday I moderated a road-blocked seminar with the global ad industry's two biggest rock stars, Sir John Hegarty and David Droga. Hegarty (nearly 70 now) still chairs the agency he founded, BBH and the Australian, Droga (45) runs the Droga5 network from New York.

Despite being two quite different characters - the snappily dressed English gentleman and the edgy Aussie street fighter - the world of commercial creativity hangs on their every utterance. But one thing unites these two ad creatives: their dogged pursuit of brilliant ideas and emotional connection between their campaigns and their audiences.

Hegarty is more of a purist. His campaigns - Levi's, Audi, Lynx - rely on simple insights that run for decades of advertising, accompanied by beautiful film. Droga's work - Newcastle Brown Ale in the US, Puma - tend to be social media- and PR-friendly, creating buzz and attitude around events.

Both have complete disdain for bland global advertising however. 'Global advertising doesn't work. It glides past people, isn't part of their culture, doesn't touch them,' said Hegarty to deafening applause. He is the antithesis of big business, yet ironically drives huge brands with his campaigns.

Droga too rails against blandness : 'You can have a great idea anywhere. It's not reserved for big markets with big budgets' he said.

But in reality both are grappling with how to apply their creativity to the biggest growth area in advertising over the next few years - the shift in audiences,  and therefore advertising spend, to smaller-screen mobile devices around the world. Droga admitted 'cracking mobile' was the biggest challenge facing the ad industry today.

The biggest cheer of the day however came from a typical Hegarty swipe at the corporate world in this multi-channel future: 'Sitting on a beanbag doesn't make you creative' he warned.

Danny Rogers is editor-in-chief Brand Republic Group