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#sowhoknew: **** off big data, you don’t understand me

Big dataJohn Hegarty knows a bit about advertising. He is one of the original ‘Madmen’. But it seems he doesn’t have a lot of time for the new breed of ‘Mathmen’ in our industry…

The co-founder of Bartle Bogle Hegarty was asked to be part of a panel on big data at the Advertising Week conference a few months ago. His views on big data, I think it’s fair to say, were in fairly stark contrast to some of the other speakers.

AdAge reported the exchange with typical solemnity but even they couldn’t mask the wry humour behind Mr Hegarty’s well chosen words. When the conversation turned towards the hot topic of big data he launched into his tirade… “I’ve spent my life dealing with people who’ve got all the data in the world and yet they can’t invent anything”.

Bob Greenberg, Chairman of R/GA, leapt to the defence of big data by citing a Nike example “I think creative use of data is also a possibility. Data visualisation has created ways in which you can take the data that’s available and tie it into a live event – like when I walk into Nike Town [wearing a Nike + band] and they’ll know who I am and they’ll be able to serve up really relevant content.”

Mr Hegarty’s response was pretty robust “I’m not sure I want people to know who I am. I find that slightly Orwellian and I object to it. I don’t want people to know what I drink in the morning and what I drink at night. I think there’s a great problem here – throughout history we have fought for our freedom to be an individual, and you’re taking it away from us. I think there’ll be a huge backlash to that and Nike will have to be very careful.”

And the coup de grace? “To those brands that say ‘I understand you’ I say fuck off, you don’t understand me. Mind your own business, I don’t want to be understood by you. I don’t understand myself sometimes… and it can be fun.”

John Hegarty, keeping it real. Amen to that.

The author, Steve Blakeman, is the CEO of OMD Asia Pacific
Mr Blakeman is a Contributor to Digital Market Asia’s editorial commentary; more of his views can be found under his column #sowhoknew…

Steve Blakeman

Steve Blakeman is the Global Media Lead - Nestlé at Mindshare. Previously, he was the Managing Director - Global Accounts, OMD Europe. Previously, he was the CEO, Asia Pacific – OMD. Prior to that, he was Global Chief Integration Strategy Officer (Asia Pacific) for IPG Mediabrands (Initiative & Universal McCann). He has also had stints as worked as Managing Partner at Omnicom Media Group owned media agency, PHD where he successfully launched their second office in the UK. He began his career at JWT and has over two decades of experience in advertising, media and marketing communications.