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A new generation of creatives are putting Ireland on the map for global brands

Ireland’s advertising sector is in rude health thanks to young, innovative creatives who are producing world-class campaigns

From copywriters to art directors and more, Ireland’s advertising sector is booming. This is thanks to a stellar combination of newfound confidence on the world stage, our innate storytelling ability and Irish agencies producing fresh, innovative and award-winning work.

The industry is now filled with talented young graduates as well as international talent, who have moved here to be a part of this burgeoning scene. Here, we meet five of the new generation of young creatives who are propelling Ireland’s advertising industry to ever greater creative heights.

Ivona Poljak, BBDO Dublin

Ivona Poljak, 27, came to Ireland from Croatia on a week’s holiday when she was 16, and knew straightaway she wanted to come back.

She returned to study journalism and visual media at Griffith College Dublin before enrolling on the Master’s degree in Advertising programme at TU Dublin, where she met her creative partner, copywriter Isabel Harvey. “We connected immediately. She had a tattoo of one of my favourite pieces of art, Dali’s lover with their head full of clouds.”


After college the pair joined BBDO Dublin as a creative team.

Art is a recurring theme in some of their most successful work, such as the ‘Choose Pleasure’ campaign for Galaxy Chocolate which was inspired by Caravaggio.

Humour is another of the pair’s calling cards. Poljak, who won the ICAD Greenhorn award for young creatives 2020, also worked with Harvey on the EBS Start Here mortgage campaign, which featured an uncomfortable young man sandwiched between his parents on the sofa at home when a sex scene comes on the telly.

Being part of an international group gives the pair opportunities to work with creative teams in other countries, most recently with BBDO San Francisco. It’s part of the reason she won’t have to leave Ireland to progress her career. “There is such creativity in Ireland and we are so lucky because clients really value creative work,” she says.

Isabel Harvey, BBDO Dublin

Laois native Harvey studied art history before doing an MA in advertising. Now 25, she and her creative partner Ivona Poljak joined BBDO Dublin as interns.

“Ivona and I meshed personally and creatively as well, which was great. The industry today is not so much the traditional copywriter and art director roles, you have an understanding of both so we work on things collaboratively,” she says.

Among the work she is most proud of is with BeLonG To, an LGBTI+ charity which encourages school children to stand up to homophobic bullying.

The EBS Start Here campaign was her first TV ad. “We’re always looking for fun ways to make things a bit different, which can be a bit tricky with a financial institution, but we wanted it to be something emotional, that brings the brand to life in a fun way and that shows EBS as human and empathetic, in a hyper-realistic way,” she says.

Ireland is a good place to develop her career, she feels. “There is so much room here for a hungry creative to advance and learn, and so many wonderful mentors. Ivona and I are in a group here called ‘Creative Calínís’, a network of women in what was traditionally a male dominated industry.”

Right now there is a huge optimism in the industry. “I’m fascinated by Gen Z in particular, they have such a different view of the world and I think they are going to change it up,” she says.

Advertising is evolving to meet them. “We are speaking in a much more honest and open way. People want to see themselves represented. It’s not about the perfect shot, it’s about realness and rawness.”

Conor Cunniffe, Rothco

27-year-old Carrick-on-Shannon man Conor Cunniffe has won a slew of awards for his work, including the industry’s Oscar – the prestigious Cannes Lion Grand Prix.

He studied for a BA in Advertising in Southampton Solent University and started his career with a two-week placement at Chemistry, the leading Irish advertising agency that shut up shop in 2020.

The campaign which won the Grand Prix, was Saylists, for Warner Music, a project designed to help younger children overcome speech impediments using pop songs.

“Everything I do has to be commercial but over the last 10 or 15 years customers are demanding that brands have a stance that reflect their own, and that gives me a chance to do good too,” he explains.

One of the campaigns he is most proud of was for Tesco Ireland, which took a museum that has no home, the Women’s Museum of Ireland – “it’s a website” – and put its exhibits on display in Tesco stores to mark International Women’s Day.

The right creative campaign helps a brand resonate with its audience authentically. “We are moving away from what brands say, to what brands can do,” he says.

“From a creative point of view, Ireland is stepping out on to the world stage like never before. We have agencies like Boys + Girls and Folk Wunderman Thompson doing brilliant work and the world is taking notice. Just look at the international talent that is coming here. The industry is full of talented creatives who came from places like Brazil, South Africa and Australia to be part of it. From an industry perspective, that’s terrific because you need new ways of thinking to avoid group think.”

Cillian Kenny, In the Company of Huskies

Cillian Kenny, 38, studied music at college and has played music professionally and for fun since he was a teenager. When he wasn’t performing, he was funding his love of performing by working as a barista.

In 2015, he went back to college to study for a degree in advertising at ITT, in Tallaght. He also participated in ICAD’s Upstarts programme for newbie creatives. For the past three years he has worked with In the Company of Huskies.

The campaign he is most proud of is a Christmas radio ad for St Vincent De Paul, SVP Jingle Bells, which helped generate millions of euros in donations.

Part of what appeals to him about the sector here is that it is so collegiate. “I have found throughout my career that creatives in the industry are always willing to help, whether it was for a meeting for coffee to look through my college portfolio, a text or a call for a catchup, or the mentorship and guidance I’ve received in the creative department at Huskies.

Right now, TikTok is having a huge impact on creativity, he reckons. “Maybe in the future up and coming creatives will show creative directors their TikTok accounts instead of an online portfolio,” he says.

He is happy with how his career is progressing. “Looking back at my career trajectory - all that music, all that promoting gigs, all those coffee shop sales - all accumulated to where I am now. I wouldn’t change a thing.”

Claire Healy, Publicis Dublin

Tralee native Healy, 27, studied graphic design and advertising at the Limerick School of Art and Design. After graduation she joined DDFH&B before leaving for New York in 2016.

There she joined J. Walter Thompson Worldwide, working on global brands such as Listerine, on which she was global creative lead, as well as Danone, Nestle and Starbucks.

She worked on the Listerine Ready Tabs global product launch, which aired in 86 countries worldwide.  “It was Listerine’s most successful US product launch and creatively we got to make a lot of strange and wonderful things for it. The client was very happy and so were we.”

She recently returned to Ireland and now works at Publicis Dublin as a senior art director.

“When I moved abroad my aim was always to go, gain experience with global brands in bigger markets but ultimately bring my learnings and experience back to Ireland to try and strengthen the Irish industry any little way I could,” she explains.

Ireland is just the place to build a career in advertising. “Our art colleges are up there with the best in the world and creatives outside of Ireland know and recognise that. We are some of the best storytellers, which is what advertising is all about. I also think we are a bit more daring in what we say in our ads here which isn’t always the case in some of the bigger markets. There is more room for really expressive, creative work, which is brilliant,” she adds.

IAPI's inaugural Ireland's Creative Influence survey is now open until September 8th with the aim of gaining an understanding of how creative professionals in the commercial creative and communications industry in Ireland, and Irish creatives working abroad, are feeling about several issues. The results are aimed at international brand owners, CMOs, business leaders, CFOs, creative peers, and agency leaders, with the goal of promoting Irish commercial creativity both domestically and internationally.

Complete the survey now - www.surveymonkey.com/r/Irish-Creativity

Alternatively, you can scan the QR code below to complete the survey. 

Ireland: where Creative is Native is an IAPI initiative to promote Ireland as a Centre of Excellence for the commercial creativity industry.

Ireland is a country where being creative is second nature; world-renowned for its writers, artists, poets, musicians and all-round change-makers. These talents spill into the commercial creative world of advertising, design and communications.

IAPI believe that the time has never been more opportune for the sector to grow their international reach.  For brand owners looking to launch into the European market, Ireland is now a viable and agile alternative, aside from being the only English-speaking country left in the EU.

No longer do brand marketers seek creative expertise abroad as they know they can work with the global best, right here in Ireland.  Domestic and International brands such as An Post, AIB, Vodafone, SuperValu, Allianz, Nissan, Lidl, Jameson, Diageo and Toyota and many others are creating world beating communications using Irish creative and media agencies.

Discover IAPI’s Creative is Native initiative - www.creativeisnative.com