Hegarty, speaking during a panel discussion with Droga5 Founder David Droga, said the concept of “doing ideas that tricked people up, that kind of faked people that this wasn’t advertising, or this was a piece of editorial,” has been around for years, and had essentially been rejected as a best industry practice.
“Personally -- this is my view and I don’t give a shit if you agree or disagree -- I don’t like that,” Hegarty said to the ad industry delegates, adding: “I think there is an honesty -- and an honesty in our creative -- that turns people on. And that’s why I got into this business.”
Later, during a press briefing that follows the seminar, Hegarty and Droga both celebrated the emergence of a new generation of technological ad blockers, because it will enable consumers to filter bogus and irrelevant advertising, enabling ads that genuinely connect with them to stand out even more.
“I would like more people to have ad blockers, because they’re cutting out the crap,” Hegarty explained, adding that people have been blocking ads as long as there have been ads, even without technology. “We blocked with our brain, we didn’t need a technology to block it,” he said. “No, our brain blocked it.”
He recalled a time in the late 1990s, when he was residing in New York City, and The New York Times Magazine published its “Boom Box” cover story about how a new generation of ad blockers -- digital video recorders like TiVo and Replay TV -- were going to destroy advertising and conventional media by enabling consumers to skip ads.
His solution then, as now, is simple, he said -- just give people a reason to engage with ads. “If you do something interesting, people will listen to it,” he said.
“It’s such a slap in the face of our industry that we needed to have,” Droga concurred, adding: “People block our stuff, because we’re giving them a load of crap. If our stuff isn’t good enough, and they have the technology to block us, we need to get better as an industry.”
Hegarty and Droga also took on another one of the ad industry’s obsessions du jour: data-driven marketing, or what some call "Big Data."
"It's no longer data," he groused, "now it's 'Big Data.' We've rebranded it 'Big Data,' because it's more important. Oh geez.”
He then recounted a variety of efforts to transform advertising creativity over the years, including spates of biometric testing.
"I've been around a long time, and I've heard a lot of these things over the years: ‘We’re going to test adds with sweaty palms'," he said, adding: “Data has always been important. That’s called consumer knowledge, you go out and you kind of know what people are doing. [Big Data] is bullshit, and people are buying it.”