Creative Insights: HERO's Shane Geffen on running towards advertising

By Ruby Derrick | 16 April 2024

Creative Insights is an AdNews series investigating and uncovering the secrets of the creative side of advertising.

HERO executive creative director: Shane Geffen

How did you fall into the industry? Was it deliberate or a misstep?

The TV was always on growing up. Whoever got up first would switch it on and whoever was last to bed would switch it off. My screen time was off the charts. Rudolph Steiner would not have approved. I consumed and idolised a lot of TV shows, movies and of course commercials, some of which were created by a relative who owned their own advertising agency. That’s how I first discovered that you could make commercials and get paid for it. So I didn’t fall into, I ran towards it, and after a three-year degree at an ad college in South Africa I applied at that very agency assuming I’d get a job because of the family connection. I was rejected based on my student book. It was a crucial part of my journey as it taught me that in this industry the work matters most.

What’s your secret sauce for commercial creativity?

Trust and shared ambition. I honestly think it’s about having enough people in the agency with shared ambition across all departments. Having that shared ambition coupled with a client who wholeheartedly believes in the agency, that’s when the stars align. When everyone is fired up about the work it becomes easier. I mean, it’s never easy, but there’s a momentum and energy that drive great work when you have trust and shared ambition.

What’s the biggest hurdle now for creatives?

Timesheets. I hope our CFO Zain doesn’t read this. Seriously though, the biggest challenge all creatives have and always will face is not getting ideas up for whatever reason. How we respond to those situations define us. The only way to overcome this is to develop resilience and optimism or as, the agency Crispin Porter + Bogusky coined it, psychotic optimism. It may sound a little cheesy but envisioning a piece of work completed before you even sell it in can help keep you on track. Manifestation can be an incredible motivator.

Do you wear the black t-shirt uniform or are you a nonconformist?

I do love a black T-Shirt (shout out to AS Colour and Mr. Simple). It could be a Melbourne thing or maybe it’s because it’s got magical dad bod hiding properties.

Can commercial creativity only take place in a room full of people in black T-shirts?

I learnt early on that creativity doesn’t have a hairstyle, a uniform or a look. In my experience the more diverse the group of people who work on a project, the more interesting the creative. Different backgrounds and experiences lead to different creative solutions.

What was the latest campaign that you worked on that you really enjoyed?

Find Your Drive was a project that we launched with Toyota recently that represented a different approach to automotive marketing. We discovered that there are over 1.5 million Australian adults don’t have their driver’s licence due to the fear of driving (Amaxaphobia) caused by trauma, anxiety or life circumstance. Toyota’s brand purpose is about delivering ‘Mobility for All’ so we developed a new model over traditional driving schools, developed by experts and now tested on four adults, filmed over a three-month period. The approach consisted of three parts: initial counselling sessions helped overcome mental barriers, VR road driving simulations built up the confidence to get behind the wheel and specialised driving instructors who provided extra support while on the road.

We then selected four candidates each with their own unique challenge that was holding them back over three months they went through each stage, told through a three-part film series culminating in their driving tests, which they all passed. It all drives the public to an online hub with in-depth resources and contacts for professionals so anyone who suffers from driving anxiety can Find Their Drive.

We’re also working on another project for Toyota right now, where we are doing something with a car that’s never been done before. It’s keeping Roz, our head of production, up at night but these are the projects we love making the most. We can’t wait to release it later this year.

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