VP Creative Director | FCB CHICAGO

Dean is a proud Irish-Jewish, quarter-ginger (it's in his beard), South African who has spent the past 11 years trying to make meaningful and cool ideas that help build brands. And having come from a 3rd world country, he’s seen and experienced first-hand the power we have as advertisers to effect real change.  


Luckily, his career has enabled me to create some cool stuff on big brands, that’s also managed to do some good in the world. From filming over 150 hours of POV content, to learning how to code, using a trash bag as checked-in luggage, creating robots with the people that made Transformers, turning a test drive into to an act of kindness, making a Teddy Bear an ironic symbol, and using a book to stop a bullet. Each project has shaped him into the creative and creative director he is today. 


But his proudest achievement in life thus far is not winning over 15 Cannes Lions, or at D&AD, One Show or Clios, it’s first convincing his wife to marry him, and then making a beautiful Chicago cub named Jude.


Dean is also fond of using well known bio tropes, like talking in the 3rd person.


What was your very first job? What does it feel like to look back at it now? 

I’ve been working since I was 14, so hard work has always been part of my DNA. And it’s that motivation and penchant for hard work that greatly influenced my work ethic in the ad industry. My first job was as a restaurant runner, cleaning plates off of tables. At 19, I moved to the UK, working as a door-to-door salesman. Having ideas is one thing, but the art is also in the selling - a skill with which cold-calling helped me significantly. My first real ad job was working at Ogilvy & Mather Cape Town in South Africa, starting as an intern and climbing the ladder to a Creative Group Head role.


Looking back at my first advertising job, I’m super thankful I got to work with so many talented, knowledgeable and kind people. I had many mentors and peers who have gone on to do enviable things, which taught me the value of being proud for the people you work with. Our coworkers are somewhat like family and, at times, we spend more time at work with them than we do at home with our real families. This mindset has helped shape me as a mentor for my creative teams.



Please describe, in your own words, what your current job is and what work it entails.

I work as a V.P. Creative Director. I run the day to day business on a few brands including Glad. Any day could include reviewing ideas with teams, presenting to clients, planning briefs and responding to far too many emails. My partner and I still love to create ourselves, so if there’s a project we’re passionate about, and we have time, we’ll get our hands dirty.


How did you discover that the creative world is right for you? Was there a time in your life that you credit to this discovery? Which train of events did bring you to where you are today?


My mother worked in advertising in the 70’s as a graphic designer, so I’ve always been aware of the industry. I initially baulked at the idea but after a two-year stint in the UK to try and “find” myself, I returned and just fell into studying advertising as a last resort. But it was the best last resort choice I ever made. I now like to see myself as an ad nerd. I love what I do. I get to be creative for a living. I get to write for films. I get to work with amazing musicians, creative minds, creators and makers, photographers, and filmmakers. Yes, it’s probably not as glamourous as I’m making it out to be, but there’s genuinely nothing else I could see myself doing. 



In your constantly growing and expanding industry, how and where do you usually find inspiration to keep your work fresh, innovative and relevant?

If you don’t put inspiration in, how can you get inspiration out? I’m always looking to surround myself with a variety of stimuli- whether that be my subscriptions to Wired or National Geographic, the many websites (ad and non-ad) I frequent, the music concerts I attend, or the books/graphic novels I’m reading. I also believe that as a creative working in advertising it’s important to not just be creative in advertising, so I love writing, whether it be a song on my guitar, short stories, children’s stories, or the screen play which I’ve been trying to finish for 15 years. 



If you had to pick one piece of work or project that you are most proud of, more for the creative work and innovation it required, rather than its recognition or industry “success,” what would it be?

The Volkswagen Amarok Social Test Drive was a real love project for the team and client included. We launched an initiative to transform Volkswagen test-drives into acts of kindness, and what started as a local project grew into a global Volkswagen initiative. We harnessed the off-road ability and carrying capacity of the Amarok to turn ordinary, everyday test drives into test drives that matter, by distributing essential supplies such as drinking water to drought-stricken areas, resources to struggling entrepreneurs, and textbooks to rural schools. Traveling to all these places and meeting all these amazing people, who literally have nothing, but are so appreciative for everything they have, was an experience I’ll never forget. And to top it off, it was one of those perfect storms where you get to do good for the world and create tangible business results.


Which creative disciplines do you commission most, and are most interested in     seeing more of and why? (ie photo, film, social, experiential, vr, etc

I believe that ideas in advertising are moving away from the compartmentalized production model and moving towards production companies that can collaborate and do more than one thing. That’s the type of people and companies we’re working with more and more. Production companies that don’t just make films, but also help up us to create events, activations or stunts that can then be turned into films, VR experiences, print and social content.



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