Ad legend John Hegarty reveals the first lesson he learned in the working world: ‘Don’t chase the money’

Advertising legend John Hegarty has had more than six decades worth of experience working with major brands, however, his career may have looked a lot different if he hadn’t taken on some valuable advice early on in life.

During his time at design school in the 1960s, Hegarty became enthralled by advertising and the creativity that was spawned out of it. Having decided to create an advertising portfolio in order to secure a job — luckily he received two offers, but had to decide which one was the better option.

“I was offered two jobs and one of them was at Y&R, and the other was at Benton & Bowles, and I said to a friend of mine: ‘Which one should I take?’ And I said: ‘You know, the Benton & Bowles one is paying half of what the Y&R job is’,” Hegarty, creative founder of Bartle Bogle Hegarty (BBH), told CNBC’s Karen Tso on an episode of “What Drives You.”

“So the friend of mine said: ‘John, the thing is that Benton & Bowles has got this new brilliant New York art director coming over, that’s going to be an opportunity, I’d go there.’ So I went to Benton & Bowles.”

“So the first lesson I learned was: Don’t chase the money, chase the opportunity.”

Speaking during this year’s Cannes Lions advertising and communications festival, Hegarty recalled how within two weeks into his time at Benton & Bowles, the creative director approached him and told him about a new writer to collaborate with: Charles Saatchi.

Charles Saatchi and his brother Maurice are the co-founders of Saatchi & Saatchi, a global creative communications firm that has more than 110 offices in 67 countries. Saatchi & Saatchi is now part of the Publicis Groupe, one of the world’s largest communications group.

“So Charlie and I started working together. But that’s the point: my first big — in a way — break was working with Charlie. We had a fantastic team together and we did some great stuff,” Hegarty recalled, explaining how it was a name that “everybody knows.”

Reminiscing about his business partnership with Saatchi, Hegarty said that they made a great team, and learned a lot from one another. In fact, in 1970 Saatchi went onto create the start-up advertising agency with his brother Maurice in London, and Hegarty was invited to join them in the venture — so Hegarty became a founding partner of the now global company.

However, as history shows, Hegarty didn’t spend the rest of his career at Saatchi & Saatchi. In 1973, the advertising executive went onto help set up another advertising group, TBWA, in London — taking on the role of creative director.

“I loved working with Charlie, I thought he was fantastic, but in the end it was always going to be his gig and quite rightly, he founded it, why shouldn’t it be? And so I thought I want to make my own mark, I want to do things my way because I have a slightly different point of view,” said Hegarty.

Eventually, Hegarty would go on to launch his own advertising group, with the help of fellow founders John Bartle and Nigel Bogle, establishing BBH in the 1980s. An advertising company that has offices around the world, and has collaborated with a number of brands including Samsung, Levi’s, Nike, Google and Absolut.

“In 1982, we set up BBH — again because we kind of felt we could do it differently. We could do it better. There was an opportunity we thought to create a really wonderful agency that was based on not just creativity — but brilliant strategy, leading to great creativity.”

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