Meet the Mad Women
‘It’s a man’s world’ could be one of the best slogans in history, but slowly things are changing in the the advertising world, with more women than men being recruited. We meet some of Ireland’s ad women
“In advertising you need swagger and confidence”
Rachel Carey is a copywriter at Publicis Dublin, the agency responsible for the No Nonsense car insurance ads and the Renault "Afford to Live Again" campaign, delivering what should be normal experiences, such as hiring a babysitter or going out to dinner as "incredible news".
"Adland Girl", a campaign she wrote while working for another agency, Chemistry, was an online video for cheese and dairy spreads company Kerry LowLow. It made fun of the traditional way “diet brands talked to women in their advertising”, something she “as a feminist was sick of”. Women loved it and sales soared.
Advertising, Carey says, is not a career for the introverted. “As women, we undersell ourselves. I don’t do that. You do have to have a certain amount of swagger and confidence, but you have to deliver as well. I wouldn’t go into a presentation with an idea that isn’t really good.
“To date in Ireland there are very few female creatives but the industry model is changing to become more family friendly.
“If I do have children, I don’t plan to check out of my career. Agencies have to become adaptable to women as they get older. If you are good enough, the agency should adapt to you.”
“Advertising is all about understanding modern networks”
Anna Ryan is a strategic planner at Huskies Dublin, a creative agency whose clients include Diageo, Coca-Cola and Mars. Her job it is to paint a portrait of the target consumer so the creative team can design better campaigns that consumers will respond to.
“To do this, I need to understand people,” she says.
“You don’t need a background in psychology to do this job but you do need an appreciation of psychology and an understanding of the unspoken. It is no longer just about a TV ad, rather the conversations and research consumers do online and about understanding these new behaviours in a connected world.”
A stand-up comedian in her spare time, Ryan’s stage experience has given her the confidence to pitch for new business and deliver speeches.
She sees an overlap between strategic planning and comedy.
“Both are about random human behaviour, general commentary on life, questioning the most obvious things and turning those things on their head.”
“Advertising is not a science”
Sandra Alvarez is deputy managing director of PHD Media, an advertising agency that shows brands how to best use and buy media space. Its clients include Fáilte Ireland, Permanent TSB, Cadbury and Citroen. Mexican-born, Alvarez is married to an Irishman and was awarded “Best Newcomer” (person under 30) at the inaugural 2013 Irish Media Awards.
Advertising is an art influenced by numbers – not a science, she says.
“It depends on consumer behaviour, which is irrational despite all the analytics. We may be better able to forecast but I hope advertising never becomes a science. If it does, the art of influencing behaviour in a positive way will be lost – and advertising is an art. That ability to capture the imagination and intention of consumers, for it to register and for them to take action, is artful.”
With advertising so reliant on analytics, the business and technology are now utterly intertwined, Alvarez says. She would like to see Dublin take advantage of this by developing the industry to become more like Amsterdam, a “small multi-cultural hub with the ability to generate world-class campaigns”.
We’re not there yet, but we’re on the road, she says, thanks to Paddy Cosgrave, founder of the Dublin Web Summit, who has made Dublin the tech capital of Europe. “He has highlighted to the Irish and international communities the potential there is in this market.”
“Good advertising tells a story and creates a sense of theatre”
Tania Banotti is chief executive of the Institute of Advertising (IAPI), the body that represents the Irish advertising industry, a role she took up 18 months ago. Previously, she ran Theatre Forum and before that, Screen Producers Ireland. She wants to put “a bit of theatre and pride” back into an industry that has been decimated by the recession. IAPI estimates that from 2007 to 2013, the total advertising market fell from €1.16 billion to €677 million – a reduction of 42 per cent.
Banotti honed her ability “to really listen to people and hear what they were saying” out on the hustings with her mother, politician Mary Banotti, at the age of 15.
Advertising’s job description is more complex now, she says. “It requires everything from managing a client’s Facebook page to maths, analytical skills and tracking. Historically, on the creative side, pure English and art and design graduates were the people to hire. Now engineering, maths and computer graduates are also required.” As a nation, while we’re good at storytelling, we’re better known for our theatre than our advertising, says Banotti.
“Our big goal at IAPI is to change this by getting more big international clients using Irish agencies for their work globally.”