Sir John Hegarty: 'Martin Sorrell leaves no legacy'

Lindsay Bennett
By Lindsay Bennett | 21 June 2018
The FT and Sir John Hegarty in Cannes Lions

Advertising legend Sir John Hegarty doesn’t believe people will remember Martin Sorrell for his 30-year contribution to the industry.

“I don’t think Sorrell will have a legacy,” he said, speaking at the FT lunch at Cannes Lions.

“The people who have a legacy in this industry are the creative people, like Bill Bernbach and David Ogilvy. These are the names we remember. We remember Mary Wells and Dan Wieden."

“We remember ideas and we remember things that move us, not financial structures.”

To prove his point, he questioned if the audience knew Marion Harper, the founder of IPG. 

Sorrell left WPP, the company he founded more than 30 years ago, in April this year following allegations of personal misconduct.

WPP carried out an inquiry into allegations that he misused company funds, but the details of the investigation were never disclosed. Fresh allegations have accused him of using company money to pay for sex workers.

Under his reign, WPP moved towards a model of "horizontality" - a buzzword the company has now axed.

When asked if he thought holding groups had lost their focus on creativity in favour of data and technology, Hegarty said it's what frustrates him most in the industry.

"[WPP] have lost sight of what the industry is about, which is creativity," he said.

Hegarty called for more creative leaders to take the helm of agencies, rather than suits, to spur the changes needed in the industry.

"We've got to be the only supposedly creative industry in the world where creative people aren’t on the top," he said.

"Take the music industry. Mick Jagger is probably one of the most wealthy people. If you take architecture, architects are at the forefront of it. We as an industry, supposedly, are creative but creative people aren’t on the top of it.

"You aren't going to change advertising unless you get more creative people at the helm. As I said earlier on, who are the people we remember? Nobody remembered Marion Harper."

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