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Cementing a place for Ireland among the global creative elite

Charley Stoney, CEO of the advertising industry body IAPI, charts the rise and rise of Ireland’s creative media sector at the ‘Oscars of Advertising’ looking at everything form award wins to government support

Charley Stoney, chief executive, Institute of Advertisers in Ireland

I first attended the Cannes Lions Festival of Creativity two weeks into my role as chief executive of the Institute of Advertising Practitioners in Ireland (IAPI) in 2018. Cannes Lions is THE global creative festival if you are part of the commercial communications, advertising and marketing industry: the Oscars of advertising.

Back then, it felt like a very daunting task to tackle this huge beast, with a view to gaining a foothold for Ireland at the festival. With 20,000 advertising and marketing executives in attendance, thousands of award entries to see, hundreds of talks across six stages, as well as numerous fringe activities and all the beaches taken over by tech giants such as Google, Meta, Spotify and Amazon, it was, and still is, intense.

Having said that, given that we punch above our weight in Ireland in so many different ways, I was confident that we could make ourselves heard, even at an event with such global scale.

Cut to the present, and I am hugely gratified to see the positive shift in position and awareness of the Irish at the festival.

The inaugural Irish Lunch at the Cannes Lions Festival offers an unparalleled international stage for Ireland’s creative talent and will connect leading agencies with global brand leaders. Photo by ANCA MOICEANU

So, how did the Irish industry break ground in Cannes? Rothco, now Droga5 Dublin, had a huge focus on making a name for themselves in Cannes and their efforts paid off with multiple awards. This had a halo effect on Irish advertising and other Irish agencies and their client brands followed suit with Boys+Girls, Three Ireland, Diageo Ireland, An Post, AIB, Folk VML, Publicis Dublin, Thinkhouse and more also being awarded over the intervening years. This year, Heineken, Publicis Dublin and Thinkhouse came away with an armful of awards for their latest campaign, Pub Museums.

However, entering awards at Cannes Lions is expensive, time-consuming and a gamble, and due to the uncertain outcome each year, we required an Irish presence at Cannes Lions that isn’t just about the awards.

IAPI’s efforts have always focused on the Cannes Young Lions competition and celebrating the young talent that this wonderful global competition promotes. The Young Lions looks to reward advertising professionals at earlier stages in therir careers across seven categories. Every year, IAPI bring 14 young lions to the festival to compete against their international peers and we have had our fair share of winners. This year, The Young Designer Lions brought home a silver award and the Young Marketers and the Young Digital Lions came in the top five against 60+ countries in this global competition. A terrific result by anyone’s standards, and we can confidently say that the future of the Irish advertising and creative communications sector is in safe hands.

In addition, IAPI nominate senior creative judges for the Cannes Lions awards jury, which is a huge accolade for any creative professionals in the industry and yet another way of extending the Irish influence. We have seen an increase in the number of Irish delegates attending and bringing back invaluable nuggets of creative thinking to their businesses.

A personal highlight was to be asked to MC one of the main stages for two days during the festival - a huge honour and testament to the leadership shown by the Irish industry among the Cannes Lions festival organisers.

Following the launch in January this year of the collaboration between IAPI and Enterprise Ireland, and their commitment to support the international efforts of our members, it was particularly reaffirming to witness the commitment and positivity at our jointly hosted lunch on the Tuesday of the festival. Attended by 80+ Irish marketers, agency professionals and international figures in the industry, it was, for me the standout event of the festival. With support from Enterprise Ireland and the government via the creative services roadmap, I see no reason why Ireland can’t become a global centre of excellence for our industry.

Charley Stoney is chief executive of the Institute of Advertisers in Ireland, the professional representative body for commercial and creative communications of Ireland with membership of over 60 advertising and media agencies