Advertising Exec Herbert Hernandez Moonlights as a Rock Star, Proving He Can Do It All

Photo Credit: Herbert Hernandez
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Photo Credit: Herbert Hernandez
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Photo Credit: Herbert Hernandez

Well before Herbert Hernandez became a respected and celebrated advertising executive, he was a rock star. And thanks to a supportive boss at one of his early ad jobs, he never gave up on his music career as a creative outlet.

Ascend Agency is working with Digital Music News to create opportunities for artists to be visible to the music industry.

Instead, he does both, all while balancing a family. For most people, juggling two careers sounds like a nightmare; but for Herbert Hernandez, he is truly living out his every dream.

Having many talents has given Herbert Hernandez more opportunities than the average person, and he embraces them all. “I don’t think I can live without one or the other. I feel that I owe it to God to continue these things given all the gifts He has given me. I just want to show that while there are people who are specialized in their fields, there are also people like me who can do many things too,” he said.

Hernandez has built a name for himself in the advertising world, co-founding the ideas agency GIGIL with Badong Abesamis in 2017, where the two found almost immediate success. Together they have more than four decades of advertising experience, along with dozens of national and international awards. Now, they can add “entrepreneurs” to their resumes, next to their numerous viral and disruptive campaigns.

GIGIL may be Herbert Hernandez’s 9-6 gig, but at night he’s the guitarist and songwriter for Moonstar88 and 6cyclemind. Both bands are described as fusing pop music with alternative rock, and are immensely popular throughout the Philippines. Hernandez founded Moonstar88 in 1999, while he was still in college, and joined 6cyclemind in 2010; he tours with both.

Musical Pursuits

As a child with many interests, at first, Hernandez didn’t know what to pursue as a career. His older brother Darwin taught him how to play guitar in high school, and became his manager, making music an obvious first choice. Somehow, the support of his family and his early success with Moonstar88 didn’t deter him from earning a fine arts degree with a major in advertising, but music never moved to the back burner.

Darwin’s involvement in Herbert’s musical pursuits continues to this day; Darwin founded Soupstar Entertainment, a music and events management and production group that manages the OPM bands Imago, Sandwich, Hilera, Pedicab, Moonstar88, and 6cyclemind. He has also written songs for Moonstar88, like their hit “Torete.”

As for Herbert’s songwriting career, it didn’t begin with the birth of Moonstar88. Comfortable with playing guitar, he didn’t write songs for their first few years. It wasn’t until he pitched an idea for a song that their lead singer suggested he was the best person to write and compose it. That first song he wrote ended up being “Sulat” (2002), which became one of the most played OPM songs on radio, YouTube, Spotify, open mics, and at karaoke. Now, he has written some of the band’s biggest hits, including “Migraine,” which was on the band’s third album, and has been streamed more than 94 million times.

Already a talented guitarist, Herbert has found that his songwriting is in high demand as well. In 2019, he was tapped as one of the first-ever Filipino Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (FILSCAP) Master Campers. The honor meant that he joined other top composers for four days of musical collaboration. At the inaugural camp, composers from different genres and varying styles of songwriting worked together to produce demos with the help of established arrangers and song interpreters.

But for Herbert, music is so much more than a stress release or a hobby. He is frequently reminded of how his songs have impacted fans. “It’s really a blessing to be able to do this. Aside from the opportunities to go around the country and see everyone’s priceless smiles, it’s also heartwarming to know that we’re able to touch lives and even save some of them. We constantly get messages saying our songs consoled them during their times of depression. I’m always grateful to be God’s instrument in touching other people’s lives through my talent.”

Leaning on Music

When Herbert Hernandez left his position as Executive Creative Director at Young & Rubicam in order to start GIGIL with Abesamis, both took a pay cut and faced the financial uncertainties that come along with running your own business. But luckily for Hernandez, he had his second career to lean on at that time: “During the early days of GIGIL, earnings from our band’s performances augmented the financial gap which allowed me to continue supporting my family. God’s really great. He made sure my family wouldn’t struggle during those times.”

Now, one of his pet projects includes bringing the healing power of music to the advertising industry. In 2010, Hernandez started Lakihan mo Logo (“Make the Logo Bigger”), which he affectionately refers to as “a commercial break for people making commercials.” Lakihan mo Logo is a concert series featuring bands made up of Manila-based ad agency talent, with the simple goal of giving ad people an outlet for their stress. They have performed 58 concerts over the years, and some of the participants have been signed as actual recording artists. Hernandez also put together 12 “Rockovery” concerts to raise money to cover the medical bills for seriously ill members of the advertising industry.

Herbert Hernandez is unique in his ability to juggle two careers, a slew of pet projects, and a family, all while maintaining his upbeat personality and professionalism. It may help that both of his full-time jobs are so fulfilling and that he can bring his family to work at times. He admits that it might not all get done without coffee, to which we say, keep the joe flowing!