The People Behind The Product: Group Creative Director John-Paul Hughes

The People Behind The Product: Group Creative Director John-Paul Hughes 4


If there was one thing the 60’s had plenty of, it was originality. The Velvet Underground have influenced the likes of U2, Joy Division, The Talking Heads and cult, Scottish, ‘Neo-psychedelic rock band’… Helicon?   

You may not have heard of Helicon, ‘Neo-psychedelic rock’ or John-Paul Hughes, Helicon guitarist and Group Creative Director at CommunicorpUK, but they’re proving that connecting with your audience and enhancing ROI starts with embracing creativity, originality and ultimately, being yourself.

The first thing I notice about John-Paul is the tattoo on his hand.

‘It’s a piece taken from an album cover of a band called Spacemen 3.’ He says. I’ll have to take your word for it, I reply. A few hours later I’d find myself several hours deep in a YouTube playlist. No shame.  

I’ve interviewed a lot of so-called creatives in similar positions to John-Paul, a lot of them wore similar skinny jeans, flirted with double denim and flaunted tattoos proudly, but not many of them had stories to back up the bluster.

I found it quite refreshing, and John-Paul must have expected that since his first action is to plant himself firmly in the ground:


”A lot of people think creatives are touched in the head by a wizard at birth. But it’s more about a behaviour than an ability. Some people will be better at it than others, you just have to be prepared to open your mind and heart to self-expression”


Of course, John-Paul refers to something most of us take for granted – soft skills, emotional dexterity.


“Whatever creative pursuit you have, it still has the same fundamental element. It must connect with someone.”


It’s what advertising is all about, connections. Sounds simple, but it’s not. Building a connection with someone is an intricate dance of give and take, empathy and understanding that can take years and years. Unfortunately, that’s a time frame we can’t work with. That’s where John-Paul and his team of Creatives comes in.


“Ultimately, in a commercial context, we help advertisers and brands emotionally connect with their customers. We identify a problem they need to solve, find the solution and present that to the public in a way they don’t expect”


Gradually, brands are built out of hard-work, passion and love. Everyone has something worth shouting about, but most struggle to translate it into an emotionally powerful statement that sells.


”Just telling someone something exists isn’t enough. Good creative gives it a point of view, an angle that’ll get it noticed and remembered. If we can do that with wit, intelligence, irreverence and craft then the creative emotionally connects and starts to reflect people’s beliefs.’


Then the results follow. John-Paul is quick to remind me:

"No one will remember what you said or what you did, but everyone will remember how you made them feel."


John-Paul has spent his entire career in radio and he believes it’s the only way to truly build an emotional connection with your customers.

John-Paul is quick to reference a recent Ebiquity study. The study explored advertiser’s perceptions on the effectiveness of advertising mediums and revealed a massive divide between perceptions and reality.

One of the areas the study highlighted was a mediums ability to elicit an emotional response. Here, radio advertising came out top. John-Paul mirrors those sentiments.

‘Radio, a much-derided medium for advertising, represents one of the biggest opportunities for advertisers.’

‘People choose to allow Radio into their personal lives for an extended period, it’s been with us in difficult times and proud ones alike. It’s like a conversation with a friend, so be interesting and treat them with respect.


At this point, I’m itching to ask a question but dare not interrupt the flow. Stopping John-Paul now would be like grabbing a watchmaker by the shoulder to tell them their shoelace is undone.  

When a break presents itself, I add my question. Radio may well provide great emotional resonance, but it’s also fast and efficient. How exactly can you sell a brand or product in 30 seconds?


‘Say one thing really well.’ ‘Distil your message into something that will live long in people’s hearts and minds’


At the time of the interview, digital marketing is reeling from the Analytica scandal. Under Armour have just removed their popular Anthony Joshua YouTube ad after it appeared before extremist content.


‘Advertising probably isn’t at its most trusted.’


But, as a different kind of creative once said; ‘In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity.’

‘If we’re frank about it, people’s rubbish sensors are now so finely tuned that they can smell it a mile off.’

‘One of the biggest opportunities in advertising is authenticity. And true Creativity is always authentic.’

At this point, John-Paul is quickly out of his seat and the room. He comes back with a hefty notepad, the kind that’s seen years of creative abuse. Flicking through the pages, he lands on the word: ‘Show-Real’.

John-Paul explains this is a collection of honest, authentic mistakes a company has made. A ‘Portfolio of mess ups that connect with people through honesty.’ as he, in his thick Glaswegian accent, not so delicately puts.

While everyone else is putting up PR-heavy smoke screens, opportunity lies in transparency. In bringing the customer closer to your brand.


‘It’s these kinds of honest interpretations that we’re helping people develop at Beyond The Bleedin' Obvious, our event in Manchester.’

‘If you want to murder mundane marketing, cut the throats of the clichés and generate a better ROI with truth and authenticity, come and see us.’


John-Paul will be joined by creative think-tanks and industry leaders at ‘Beyond The Bleedin’ Obvious’, a trade marketing event coming soon to Manchester. They will be discussing recent advertising scandals, lazy marketing and how you can buck the trend.

The event will be a once in lifetime opportunity. A marketing event delivered by people who aren’t afraid to bare their hearts, souls and minds. This is advertising without the gimmicks.

Your brand will take centre stage with a consultancy from one of our best consultants, Ian Waddelow.

A serious helping of bravery is needed. It can be uncomfortable stripping yourself and your brand back, but that’s what Beyond The Bleedin’ Obvious is all about.


Click the button below if you'd like to attend or find out more about the Beyond The Bleedin' Obvious Marketing Event in Manchester.

Contact the team

Back to news