ICAD is delighted to partner with OFFSET2014




As part of OFFSET2014, ICAD is hosting two second room sessions:
How to get into Advertising
MAGENTA Stage, Friday, 11am

This session will offer practical advise, creative inspiration and will attempt to de-mystify the process of breaking into the advertising industry.

Eddie Gardner, Publicis D
Orlaith Blaney, McCann Blue and President of IAPI
Michael Walsh, Bloom
Bairbre McGlade, Boys and Girls
Eamonn O’Boyle, Irish International
The Value of Recognition
MAGENTA Stage, Friday, 5pm

A panel of zealots and skeptics discuss the value of recognition – through competition, peer review, publishing, etc. – in the Design and Advertising industries and beyond
Gavin O’Sullivan, DDFH&B
Adam Gallacher, We Make Design
Carol Lambert, Publicis and The Sharks
David Smith, Atelier David Smith
Ian Robertson, Professor of Psychology, Trinity College Dublin and writer of The Winning Effect
Padraig Ó’Raighne, TG4

OFFSET has put Dublin on the map of international creative conferences and OFFSET2014 is sure to be another huge success with another amazing line-up.

The Early Bird ticket rate has been extended indefinitely and day tickets have been introduced. Get yours now.

We are honoured to be part of it.


ICAD@OFFSET2014: Review by Elaine McDevitt

With organising or curating any event, regardless of how much thought you’ve given it, how long you’ve discussed it, what picture of the event you have in your mind – there is always that element of uncertainty beforehand. Rarely more so than when your event is part of a larger one that you have little hand in. So, it was with some trepidation and, let’s face it – great excitement, that ICAD arrived at OFFSET on Friday 21st March for the first day of this most important creative festival.

As we’ve grown used to at OFFSET the sun was shining, the queue was long and the atmosphere was a little electric and a little mellow too.

The first Magenta Stage session was our ‘How to get into advertising’ Masterclass.

ICAD’s hopes for this session were pretty straightforward – to offer practical advise, creative inspiration and to attempt to de-mystify the process of breaking into the advertising industry. Ad agencies can seem like fortresses of creative secrets – Mad Men mixed with acronyms and long hours. I’ve worked on the periphery of the industry for over a decade and I’m still not sure what ‘a day in the life’ of an ad agency would really be like, so any way this session could make people passionate about starting out in advertising feel less intimidated and more enthused was going to be a good thing.

We knew we had chosen our speakers well – ICAD was represented, IAPI was represented, there were senior, middle and junior creatives and an MD. We didn’t yet realise how well we had chosen them and the incredibly high level of informative and useful insights they were to offer:
Eddie Gardner, Publicis D, ICAD board member and chair of this panel
It was important to us (ICAD) that the advice given at this session wasn’t prescriptive but rather gleaned from true experience – one of the initial reasons that Eddie got involved with ICAD at a board level, was that he had been on a similar panel at OFFSET a number of years back and felt strongly that ICAD could add some authority and experience to the subject. So, he dutifully opened with a little information on our ambitious but humble community of creatives and gave some background on Portfolio Lab and our Upstarts programme.

Eddie spoke about what appeals to him when he sees a portfolio (IDEAS, IDEAS, IDEAS) and in between introducing panellists and doing such an excellent mediation job threw in gems of advice – “go the extra level, put the work in and you WILL stand out”.

Starting from left to right the other panellists were:

Eamonn O’Boyle, Irish International
Eamonn originally received a Visual Communications degree from NCAD and practised as an illustrator. In that role he found himself frustrated with how he was usually brought in at the end stage and asked to implement someone else’s concept. He became more and more intrigued with being the one to develop that concept and so he undertook the DIT / IAPI post grad.

He described meeting Robert McBride, who he was to become one of ‘the tallest team in Dublin’ with, as “love at first sight”. Robert was a mathematician in his previous life so possibly brings a unique perspective in that regard to the Dublin advertising scene. They were hired as a team straight off the back of the ICAD Upstarts programme by Irish International – Eamonn compared doing the post-grad to Rocky boxing training and doing the ICAD Upstarts to ‘stepping in the ring’.

Michael Walsh, Bloom
You couldn’t accuse Michael of being quiet during this session and when someone is throwing quotable advice out at such a rate, it’s hard to keep track. I tried though because his insights were so concise, valid and useful.
“Don’t exist in a vacuum. Try to get sounding boards. Be prepared to take criticism. Be prepared to kill your portfolio. Be prepared to kill your portfolio again. Find the percentage of your portfolio that’s good and increase it. Don’t think that the pressure of finding the idea is all on you – in an agency, you will have support. Try to find support on your way to an agency. It’s all about the idea. Be slavish to the proposition of a brief. Don’t polish a turd – focus on the concept rather than the finish”

Bairbre McGlade, Boys and Girls
Bairbre explained how, after doing her masters, she knocked on doors and fruitlessly tried, for two years, to get into advertising. So much so, that friends patiently asked ‘are you sure it’s what you want to do?’ and family just didn’t know what she was doing.

Bairbre applied for the ICAD Upstarts Programme and didn’t get on. Two years later she applied again and not only was she accepted but it was her concept that was chosen as the one to promote the annual Upstarts exhibition. She forgot (rather humbly) to mention that she also won the inaugural, and as it turned out, only, ICAD advertising Upstart of the year award (replaced the following year with the greenhorn award, designed to reward juniors who were excelling in their field).

Having spent those years knocking on doors, she described Upstarts as having doors opened for you. Bairbre advised entering student competitions as a way to differentiate yourself and reflected on how many Creative Directors she had contacted and how busy they were. A great tip on getting your book seen – she says “Find an ad you like, find out who did it and try to meet the creative team”.

Orlaith Blaney, McCann Blue and President of IAPI
It was immediately clear how passionate Orlaith is about the industry and she advocated for anyone trying to break in to be the same. “This is the best industry and you get to work with the best people. Make sure you are always learning from those people. Make sure you want it.”

She advised on being open to opportunities in education but mainly to be careful about the details, citing how many CVs she had received addressed to Mr. Blaney. “Treat yourself as a brand – you’re out there selling yourselves”

Orlaith expained how clients are looking for confidence, leadership and a sense, when they walk in the door of your agency, that you can handle what they give you.

That seems like a good way to conclude how a potential employer might want to feel about a potential employee. So – believe in what you’re doing, follow the concept, work hard and enjoy it – the jobs will follow.

At 5pm, up against Jessica Walsh (it had to be someone), ICAD took to the Magenta Stage again to discuss ‘The Value of Recognition’.

This was always going to be a slightly trickier session, not just because of the schedule but because by its very nature, it would likely meander its way through dichotomies. It was addressing a human instinct. For someone taking notes, tangents were inevitable.

We had billed the session as ‘a panel of zealots and skeptics discuss the value of recognition – through competition, peer review, publishing, etc. – in the Design and Advertising industries and beyond’ and that’s what they did.

Our panellists were:
Gavin O’Sullivan, DDFH&B and chair of this panel
Adam Gallacher, We Make Design
Carol Lambert, Publicis and The Sharks
David Smith, Atelier David Smith and The 100 Archive
Ian Robertson, Professor of Psychology, TCD and writer of The Winning Effect
Padraig Ó’Raighne, TG4

A debate is currently taking place within the Irish advertising and design industries about the value of competition and awards. Design and advertising professionals are increasingly questioning the value of industry awards and seeking alternative forms of recognition – online publishing, peer review websites, blogs, social media, etc.

As an organisation, rewarding creative excellence is not only important to us, but part of our mission statement. ICAD first ran its first competition in 1959. We are proud of our awards. Our bells are not only things of beauty in their own right but they have integrity. They must be earned and earned hard.

Being an ICAD session, perhaps unsurprisingly, a good portion of the initial discussion surrounded awards themselves rather than the broader notion of recognition.

“Do you believe in awards?” Gavin asked Adam in what was to become potentially my favourite quote of the session. “Well, I know that you know they exist, but what do you think of them?”

So, this was the crux of the matter – awards exist. But do we rate them, do they validate us, what other methods of validation are there and what level/s of importance do we place on any recognition?

The big questions were asked – “In our industries, why we do what we do and what we do it for? What is recognition – are we in it for the love or the money?”

Carol answered that one leads to the other but that principally it’s about trying to do what you do as well as you can. “Winning awards is about the recognition – by definition it says you’re reaching a high creative standard”, she said.

From a very pragmatic perspective, she acknowledged how the receipt of awards can allow you to expect higher remuneration and a certain status.

Carol also stressed how important it is that the best people in the industry are deciding what the standard is, that they are the ones judging your work.

Advertising agencies will have varying policies on awards (how much they spend, which ones they enter, how much they enter) but it would be very difficult to find an ad agency that doesn’t enter awards. Design studios are different. A little like free pitching, they might. Or, they might not.

David expressed how, despite the ability of the studio to avoid traditional pitching or tendering and to rely on the adage that good work begets good work, as an indicator of a standard, awards are extremely valuable and they matter to clients. He added “We don’t seek client validation of our design, we seek to meet their expectations. Peer acknowledgement of the work however, makes a difference”.

He explained “the only record for a long time were annual awards journals and exhibitions so awards were the only public way to demonstrate our activity”.

It was interesting to hear Padraig (TG4 were the first winners of the re-introduced ICAD client awards in 2011) talk about how the client agency relationship is very much a partnership and that to expect good creative, you had to allow for it. He explained how when TG4 started up they had to establish themselves as something different and yet they didn’t have the budget of other TV stations – so they traded on ideas.

In response to the initial awards question, Adam explained the problem of not supporting awards (you are perceived as jealous or bitter). When, not only did he feel his client’s success a very relevant validation, he felt that much design work doesn’t actually fit the awards model. Awards, or the judging of, is by nature subjective, but also relatively instant and in the case of the space he works in, instantaneous absorption was not always possible. By his own admittance, sometimes working long weeks over long months left him bereft of the ability to analyse his own work before establishing some distance from it. Awards or peer judging cannot perhaps recreate that distance. “There is an internal metronome of what good work is – we try to give clients the solution they need, not the one they like”

In designing this session, from an ICAD perspective, we were aware of these issues and hoped to encourage broad discussion, even argument. We are known for our awards but they don’t define us – our members do. We are aware that for some of our members, participation in the ICAD Awards is a perennial activity, for others it is partially dependent upon available resources, and for still others the decision to enter reflects the creative opportunities available or created during the previous year.

A question from the floor posed ‘Is anyone uneasy about the standards by which awards shows are judged?’ Overall, our panellists felt that handing over some trust to the judges was part and parcel of awards and that you had to allow for subjectivity. I think this is crucial to the value of one award over another and the responsibility of awards shows is to allow, in so much as possible, for transparency, objectivity and fairness, whilst establishing and maintaining a standard.

ICAD is fully conscious that no awards can claim to be truly representative or objective but we go to great lengths to nurture an environment conducive to viewing work during judging – laying out simple and professional procedures and allowing for the courtesy, care and professionalism of our judges.

We had hitherto been discussing the notion of winning awards within a professional context but what about the human value of recognition? Ian explained that there are three fundamental drives us humans have –
1. Affiliation – acceptance by other people
2. Power – control over other people
3. Achievement – strive for excellence and achievement of goals

So, there has to be balance between those drives – somebody for whom affiliation is extremely important may not be able to assume power and manage others, somebody for whom power is so important may gauge that as an achievement in itself and so on.

Ian spoke about how there must also be a balance struck regarding recognition. He cited banks who pay their staff too much for fear they may go elsewhere – this can actually discourage loyalty and motivation. “Intrinsic motivation is a more robust means basis. The more awards you have the more you devalue them”

However, an amazing fact offered by Ian is that Oscar awards winners live, on average, four years longer than Oscar awards nominees, while Nobel prize winners live on average 18 months longer than Nobel prize nominees. To put that in context, increasing an average life span by four years would be what you got if you cured all cancers.

One of the questions we had raised prior to the session was – is there a substantial difference between the old awards model and these newer opportunities and channels for recognition like The 100 Archive? Or do these newer opportunities simply address the same (universal) need for recognition? Ian responded “I suspect that the human race is going to have to move more towards a distributed system but this should be balanced with individual creativity”.

So yes, recognition is valuable to us, it could even help us to live longer and it motivates us to strive for excellence. How that recognition is given varies and its relevance should be assessed on an individual basis. An audience member asked should we be nurturing sub-levels on a ladder of recognition. I’d say absolutely and ICAD has developed the Upstarts Programme and the Greenhorn award for this very reason. Ian said, more succinctly “the greatest resource for anyone is confidence”.

Thank you so much to all of the ICAD@OFFSET panellists. Your input was invaluable.

Thank you also to the OFFSET2014 organisers. The conference is a perfect mix of inspiration, professionalism and friendliness and it easily claims its place amongst the world’s top creative conferences. Kudos.

See the sessions here:


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