Meet the next generation: Digitas' Simon Shea

Shea participated as a juror for the Campaign US BIG awards this year.

What is your favorite app and why?

Notes! I pretty much have one for everything — gift ideas, groceries, confirmation numbers, restaurants recs, even drafts of responses for award show questionnaires, believe it or not.

What is your favorite social media trend right now?

All the guilty pleasure TikToks of guys jamming to songs like “Unwritten.” I love it. I have a playlist called “mp3 player 2008.” There’s no shame. Let’s just admit that Colbie Caillat makes us all feel “Bubbly.”

What is the coolest way you’ve seen a brand reach Gen Z?

I got a Kraft Mac & Cheese ad on TikTok with a relatable headline and an animated visual of a running skeleton. Random and almost nothing to do with mac and cheese. People were praising the video in the comments. If you went to the comments of any other brand’s paid TikTok ads, you’d see them getting roasted. So sometimes … just be dumb. We like dumb because we are dumb. But we’re too smart for smart. So maybe don’t be smart.

What’s a trend you wish would stop?

Quick-transition cooking videos. They last a whole minute, and there are like 120 steps broken up into half-second clips. Like, why are you whisking the eggs so aggressively? What happened at the grocery store?

What do you do for fun?

Brew beer, bike, hike, bake, shop for antiques, try new restaurants! And more recently, forage for mushrooms. The documentary about them on Netflix is crazy. But Brie Larson could’ve talked to me about PVC piping and I would’ve been equally as interested.

What are you working on right now that you’re excited about?

Myself, even though that’s about as corny as an answer to this question could get. I just stepped away from my full-time role to start a cheesemaking apprenticeship. Less words, more curds. It’s a ridiculous, bizarre, exciting lifestyle change. I’m just following an internal sense of what I need to do to live my best life. I’ll still be writing, though, and I’m sure I’ll have some freelance work. But I’ll be a full-time cheesemaker. And when I decide once again to be a full-time creative, I’m sure the cows will have taught me something. Even if that “something” is how to make a mean charcuterie board.

What are some changes you want to make to the ad industry as your career develops?

Making things more human. To me, I feel like that could mean using less data and more human intelligence — and elevating voices that need (and deserve) to be heard.

What are your top five tips to marketers hoping to connect to Gen Z?

1. Make a brand TikTok, give control to a team of young creatives and let go.

2. If it takes until the next day to make an on-trend post, it’s no longer on-trend.

3. We can tell when brands are trying to follow Brand Guidelines™.

4. Pay Black creators instead of hijacking Black culture.

5. Don’t try to create trends.

Drop a meme that describes your creative style.


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