Hegarty, Droga Pile On Native, Call Big Data 'Bullshit'


CANNES, FRANCE -- The backlash against native advertising formats continued Friday during the Lions Festival as one of the ad industry’s luminaries -- BBH Founder Sir John Hegarty -- railed against the dishonesty and lack of transparency associated with it. He was the second British knight of the day to do so, following WPP chief Sir Martin Sorrell's admonishment of the more deceptive forms of native advertising.

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.”

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5 comments about "Hegarty, Droga Pile On Native, Call Big Data 'Bullshit'".
  1. Stuart Meyler from Beeby Clark + Meyler , June 20, 2014 at 2:21 p.m.
    Part of the issue is how "native" has been described. To me, native simply means the advertising fits the context in which it is being consumed and provides value. Google AdWords is native advertising in its purest form. It is complementary to what the person is doing at the time and is win-win.-win. Google wins (revenue), advertiser wins (attention), and the consumer wins (getting what they want. if you are trying to trick people or pass of advertising as editorial, you are doing it wrong.
  2. Douglas Ferguson from College of Charleston , June 23, 2014 at 9:19 a.m.
    If only we could eliminate native advertising with this one weird trick.
  3. Mike Einstein from the Brothers Einstein , June 23, 2014 at 9:43 a.m.
    Native advertising and Big Data, otherwise known as crap and more crap. I predict a rash of former CMOs in the coming months.
  4. Christopher Hamer from CrowdFlik , June 23, 2014 at 2:51 p.m.
    Great article. I began reading it as a believer in native advertising and in spite of the headline - I read on wanting to understand another opinion. When I got to the end I realized that I had just been drawn in to one of the most clever forms of native advertising about two of the greatest crafters of messaging ever. I say that Mr. Droga and Mr Hegarty have proven their thesis - just not the one they stated. Well done!!
  5. Tom Goodwin from Tomorrow , June 24, 2014 at 8:14 a.m.
    I'm honored that John and David have been reading my posts for Media Post and my blogs. I'm just surprised it's taken this long to call bullshit. Native advertising isn't the savior of media owners, it's what is going to kill their brands. Content marketing isn't going to either, unless you can make better stuff than everything else. Big data has been around for years, but we called it data. So now we need to make engaging ads that people like and make brands people enjoy. Welcome back to 2001