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


mad8The wordsmith

Rachel Carey

“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.”

mad7The performer

Anna Ryan

“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.”

mad9The analyst

Sandra Alvarez

“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.”


mad6The networker

Tania Banotti

“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.”



Olivia Murphy

“Advertising is still a glamorous career”
For Olivia Murphy, a 20-something client manager with Starcom, being entertained is large part of her job. This makes it “a glamorous way of life, where you take advantage of being invited out to dinner and to events to build relationships”.

She’s been taken to see Beyonce perform at the O2, has dined out in top restaurants and weekended at Electric Picnic, perks that she says are worth anything up to €10,000 to her salary. It is still work, she insists. “You have to keep your game face on. Real facetime with clients is invaluable at opening lines of communication, which in turn help us build strong relationships with them and makes it easier for us to suggest new and potentially bold ideas. It’s all part of what is known as client services. The better we know our clients, the better we can manage their expectations.”

While long liquid lunches are still very much part of the business, she says, it’s up to you to manage your workload. “What is new is the late lunch, a Thursday or Friday phenomenon where you leave work at about four and stay out all evening.”

Murphy is ambitious. The 26-year old is working towards becoming an account director in the next 24 months. In five years she sees herself being a director of a company. It does have a downside. Since she joined the agency Murphy has put on a stone in weight.

new1The smart thinker . . .on a budget

Kyla O’Kelly

“You have to be more creative, and spend less”
Traditionally, the industry was split between creative agencies who made ads and so-called media agencies whose job it was to place them on radio, TV and in print, says Kyla O’Kelly, director of the Javelin Group, a full-service agency, whose clients include Toyota Ireland, Irish Ferries and British Telecom Ireland.

“The lines between these two styles of agency have blurred as the job is more complex now.”

She says the business is now “a blend of creativity and science”. “We have to be more creative with smaller budgets. Last November, for example, we adapted a Toyota Hilux ad for TV, the one that features the vehicle diving off a cliff, to reflect the despair felt at Ireland losing the rugby to the All Blacks in those tragic final minutes. We edited the film in-house and changed the tag line to read: ‘The Mood of the Nation – Toyota Hilux no longer available in All-Black.’

“This was then fed out to rugby bloggers where it’s had almost 50,000 hits. That type of smart thinking cost a fraction of what the budget would have been to shoot a new ad from scratch.

“We use science to mine data from an ever-expanding range of sources. Everything from the census to LinkedIn can help us target potential customers”.

mad4The tactical player

Jill Downey

“In advertising we now have to be nimble in our thinking”
“To woo consumers, advertising campaigns now have to create a bigger experience,” says Jill Downey, deputy managing director of Starcom, a media buying agency that decides how household brands such as Irish Pride, Jacobs and Bachelors spend their money, on print, radio, TV, digital and outdoor.

“It is no longer enough to just create a TV ad. We have to have a digital strategy that chimes with that TV campaign, because once viewers see the ad, if we’ve done our job properly, they will react straight away by searching for the product online and will get involved with the brand on Facebook or Twitter.”

To do this well, you have to be clever and take advantage of tactical opportunities, Downey says. She cites an American example, Esurance, an auto insurance provider that bought cheaper ad time at the end of the Super Bowl game rather than during it. They used that media time to tell viewers that they had decided to give away the money they saved to one lucky tweeter.

The giveaway was a whopping $1.5 million. People went nuts, took to Twitter in their thousands and the campaign went viral. “It’s about being nimble and taking advantage,” says Downey.


mad5The chief executive

Orlaith Blaney

“Advertising needs more women on top”
Ten years ago it was unusual for a woman to be an MD, says Orlaith Blaney, chief executive of McCann Blue, a creative advertising agency whose clients include Aer Lingus, Jameson and Mastercard.

When she was appointed chief executive of McCann Ericson in 2003 Blaney was the youngest – and only – female chief executive of an international agency network in Ireland. “I remember the reaction,” she recalls. “I was told I was ‘a great girl’ and was patted on the head. While it’s not so unusual now, women hold 13 per cent of the top jobs in advertising [in Ireland], the target figure for women at the top in the UK is far higher. It’s 30 per cent.”

This figure is out of kilter with an industry that is made up of 49 per cent men to 51 per cent women according to a census conducted by the IAPI last year.

Blaney says any “tax and childcare innovation that can free women to work if they want to, would be helpful to retaining talent”. A better gender balance would also be a positive thing for the economy, she says, but until that happens we need to continue to champion women. “Some feel this is tiresome and overkill. I don’t agree – at least not until we have the same number of female-to-male senior directors.”


new2The talent spotter

Estelle Gorby

“Advertising needs to champion its female talent”
Estelle Gorby was voted the inaugural winner of IAPI’s Doyenne Award, launched to encourage female talent and leadership in the industry. One of the first employees of the Dublin branch of Acorn Advertising, she has helped it grow from just three people in 2006 to “close to 100” in 2014.

Now Acorn Dublin’s international strategic director, her job is to demystify the consumer for her clients, which include Molson Coors and Google. The agency manages the tech company’s worldwide campaign for customers on Google ad words.

How does advertising hang on to its talented women? Gorby, who has an 18-month-old daughter, says that the business “needs to foster a culture of flexibility that will let you leave to pick up the kids from school, to trust that you will get the job done, that it doesn’t have to be done within conventional times”.

A talent champion, she believes in finding the right person for the job and really developing them. “In larger corporate environments women quotas have become a numbers game. Change has to come from the bottom up. Companies are as good as the people in them. If you find really good people, they will grow the company.”

mad3The cloud worker

Antonia McTaggart

“How to get ahead in advertising”

“Advertising is a women heavy industry but not at the top, where the rate of attrition is high,” says Antonia McTaggart, a senior client manager at Starcom. “When it comes to childcare, the long hours make it unsustainable. It is a hard-working business with 50- and 60-hour weeks considered the norm. The average age is 35. While salaries are good, time in lieu and overtime are concepts that don’t exist.”

You get ahead by getting the work-life balance right, McTaggart says. She’s not a mother but is loathe to lose talented women to the long-hours culture.

“Starcom operates a flexible working day policy. Technology allows us to work remotely. Everyone at the agency can connect to the cloud to access their desk. My work is client-focused so my physical location is less important than my ability to be always on. This means that I can talk to clients even when I’m having my roots done in the hairdresser.”


new3The sisters

Anna and Sylvia Cawley

“Advertising isn’t all about talking shop”
Outside of working hours Anna Cawley (left), a business director at Mediacom and Sylvia Cawley (below), her younger sister, a media planner at Initiative Media, have a policy of never talking shop.

“For women who want to get ahead in advertising and who want to make it happen, it will happen,” Anna says. When Sylvia, the younger of the two by seven years, joined the industry, big sister Anna gave her this advice: “Be confident, be ambitious and let your boss know what you want and where you want to go.” This you do by “showing you want to be involved, by being eager and interested”.

The advice worked. Sylvia is already being mentored by her company to move into the role of account director, a promotion she hopes will happen in the next six months.

“The stepping stones have been put in place,” she says, “I’m fronting pitches and doing stand-out campaigns like the one for Nature Valley granola bars where a derelict site on the corner of Dublin’s Kevin Street (where Maser’s Live and Love piece is) has been ‘naturified’ using reverse graffiti – cleaning areas to create a motif of a tree to echo the natural elements in the bars.”

The Cawleys are not related to the Cawley in the advertising agency Cawley Nea\TBWA Group - a question they both get asked regularly.

mad10Anna is now mother to three-year-old Christian. Becoming a mother has given her insight into that demographic as well as “empathy for others in the office”. She also works smarter. “When you have to be gone at 5.30 to pick up your child from crèche, you learn to prioritise and to do things quickly.”

By babysitting Christian, auntie Sylvia has experienced firsthand how pester power can persuade. “You always give in to a cute face,” she says.
The girls’ parents “still have no idea what they actually do”.

It is not a subject they discuss around the Sunday dinner table, but when friends of their parents ask what the girls do, they reference Mad Men.

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