Julián Hernández, Executive Creative Director, Geometry Global Hong Kong


Julián Hernández got his start in the industry as a copywriter for McCann Colombia back in 1993. He eventually ascended to Creative Director for McCann Chile where his work with Coca-Cola garnered wide recognition and awards for his efforts.

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In 2007 Hernández made the move to Asia, landing first in China as Creative Director on the Coca-Cola campaign for the Beijing 2008 Olympics with Red Lounge, the agency set up by Leo Burnett and Coca-Cola for the games.


 

He eventually took the reins as Regional Creative Director at Leo Burnett Greater China, a position he held until joining Geometry Global Hong Kong as Executive Creative Director in 2015. A position he still holds today on the tail end of what he describes as “the best two years of my career.”

Branding in Asia recently caught up with Julián Hernández for a chat about his time in Asia, the need to take risks, the rise of local creative agencies, and more.


What have you been up to lately?

I’m a big daydreamer, and I spend a lot of time fantasizing about the future. May it be mine, our agency’s, or the industry’s. Everything moves so fast, and yet we in the advertising industry are still so slow in terms of adapting to these changes. So I’ve been busy doing that. Evolving. We should be as creative as we think we’re smart when we do business. 

Next month marks two years since you joined Geometry Global in Hong Kong. How’s it going?

It’s been fantastic. This is the age of Uberisation. These are the times when Netflix and Amazon compete with HBO for an Emmy. Our industry has to think faster than ever before. We should move away from best practices executed by mediocre practitioners, and become more innovative and risk-taking.


 

I’m still as fascinated with Asia as I was the first time. It’s the most exuberant, vibrant and dynamic place on Earth.

In that sense, Geometry has provided me with the opportunity to be innovative in different aspects and a playground to try out new approaches: digital, experiential, activation. Can’t complain. In a lot of aspects, these have been the best two years of my career.

You’ve been in Asia for more than a decade. How did you end up here? And what made you stay?

I moved to Shanghai as a Creative Director for Red Lounge, the agency set up by Coca-Cola and Leo Burnett for the Beijing Olympics. It was an amazing model in which several agencies collaborated to get the most out of the opportunity the Games represented for the brand. I had the chance to work with very culturally diverse teams from every possible discipline, leading and curating the work.

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Originally I thought, “yeah- it’ll just be a couple years”. Cut to today: it’s been almost 12 years and I’m still as fascinated with Asia as I was the first time. It’s the most exuberant, vibrant and dynamic place on Earth. You’ll never feel more alive than when you live in Asia. And once you get to know the region, life in other parts of the world is simply unthinkable.

In terms of the creative scene, what are some of the biggest changes you’ve seen in your time working in the region?

Especially in Asia, I think advertising has become about how brands behave in the real world, and the experience consumers have every time they interact with them. Now we’re talking about product design, technology applied to solve quotidian problems, experiences that change and shape behavior, data that writes stories, there are more and more ways to be creative nowadays.

Everything moves so fast, and yet we in the advertising industry are still so slow in terms of adapting to these changes. So I’ve been busy doing that. Evolving. We should be as creative as we think we’re smart when we do business.

Younger generations are realizing this, and they’re concluding that they don’t need to work in advertising to do that kind of creative work. That’s perhaps the biggest change I’ve seen: creative minds going independent.

The global creative agencies have well established themselves here. How about the homegrown local shops? How are they faring creatively and competitively?

Independent talent is doing a great job. They’re opening new shops with small, agile and very flexible settings. A good number of creatives that once worked with me are now heading their own agencies and I could not be more proud of them. They combine that beautiful insolence of youth with talent and ingenuity to make things happen for their clients. It’s no surprise that they’re doing well locally.

They’re formidable competitors and it won’t be long before they get regional reach: they’re a force to be reckoned with.

Can you talk about your creative process? Have things changed for you after all these years in the industry?

I’m a very impatient person. I simply can’t stay still. I need to imagine worlds, make stuff, contribute to things around me. Not a single day goes by without a “What if?”. So I’m always excited about new challenges and opportunities, and I’m always on the lookout for ways to inspire and improve the work of my team, whom I really enjoy mentoring and growing. I’m always exploring something new.

Our industry has to think faster than ever before. We should move away from best practices executed by mediocre practitioners, and become more innovative and risk-taking.

Another key thing I’ve learned after all these years in the industry is to work hard and be nice to people. I really try to make a positive difference with everyone around me and to leave a person better off than how I found him/her. People are the alpha and omega of any creative process, and the more enjoyable it is to you hang out with them, the better the work will be.

What is some of the work you’ve done that you are most proud of?

If we’re talking about evolution, there’s a recent piece by Geometry that makes me very proud: Flora For Fauna, for the Colombian Ministry of Environment and Sustainable Development

Flora For Fauna is far from your traditional advertising campaign. It is about creating a new product, using design and very specific channels to change people’s behavior. It’s a project we’ve been working on for the last 2 years with our colleagues of Geometry Hong Kong and  Colombia. 

The number of disciplines involved in this project is extraordinary. One minute someone is sitting with the Minister of Environment of Colombia, and the next I’m talking to local NGOs to learn more about the problems that connect them.

Someone at our antipole is talking to farmers, chemists, food engineers and lawyers while part of the team in China is conducting interviews and playing mystery shopper while learning about the nightlife in Guangdong province. There’s a lot of richness in the ambition of this project, and that is very inspiring.

What’s in your future? Is it Asia? Where do you see yourself and what do you want to be doing in the next few years?

The future. That’s scary. And stimulating. Asia has given me so much, I may stay longer. But in the larger scheme of things, evolution means going anywhere I have the opportunity to as a creative person, doing better, meaningful, and influential work.

I like to try new things. New approaches. To experiment and learn from the results. I’m a firm believer in diversity, collaboration, and teamwork. Right now I have that in Geometry. Time will tell where else that takes me… 

 

 

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