John Hackney of McCann Health chats with us about his journey from musician to healthcare advertising pro
Hanson Search steps inside the healthcare advertising world to interview John Hackney, Managing Director of McCann Health London for our 'Inspiring Stories' career series. John shares his career journey, what he considers success, and advice for anyone looking to get into the healthcare advertising industry. Tune in for John's story.
How did you get into advertising?
I was a musician for a while actually – I played in a rock band and toured around. A lot of the people in the music scene were from design and art colleges and they were going into advertising. I was influenced by them saying, 'This is an interesting thing – why don’t we try that?' I was in consumer advertising for a long while. First at Young & Rubicam and then McCann on the consumer side. I did everything from Smirnoff, Air Canada, Sega and everything else. And I went up the ladder there, doing managerial roles, like client services director and then managing director then chairman for McCann World Group in Oslo. Then I switched to healthcare quite late on. It kind of crept up on me. I’d been working on different brands where there’d been a health angle, like soya ice cream or vitamin-enriched mineral waters. I could see that it was a growth area. So when I was at a loose end trying to work out what I wanted to do next I thought, 'Hey, why don’t we set up a digital health agency?' And that’s what I did.
What was one of the most significant projects you have worked on?
I worked on a big campaign for the flotation of British Gas, 'Tell Sid'. This was in the late ‘80s. It was a massive campaign and probably still the biggest single campaign that’s ever run in the UK. I’d say that was when I could see the pure power of advertising and communications and how it could galvanise an entire country.
When did you consider yourself a success?
I don’t know that I ever have actually! It’s one of those things... you never actually think you’re as good as you should be at any one time in your career. Whatever stage you’re at, you always think, ‘I could do this better.’ In that sense, I’ve never thought, 'Wow, I’m a success in advertising.' You’re always looking for the next challenge. There’s always part of me that says, 'I need to do better than this. I need to sharpen my act up. I need to learn this or do that.'
Any advice for people in the early stages of their career?
You have to love advertising. I talked about music earlier. I loved and still love music. Advertising is a similar thing: it’s part entertainment; it makes its way into the subconscious and it represents the culture of that moment.
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