It's so different when you're actually pitching to a client. It feels like I have way more responsibility. It's way more exciting

Ciara Gilmartin

From a Masters in Advertising to being mentored by the advertising industries greatest in Cannes, Ciara Gilmartin is a first class example of where talent will take you.

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Daryl:               So, it’s the Tinpod, the Tinpot Productions podcast. We like to speak to all kinds of different people from different areas of production industries here and overseas and everywhere. Today we have Ciara Gilmartin, who is currently interning at Rothco. And I’m going to let you tell us a little bit about your own background in just in just a second. So, my thinking behind bringing you in today is we’ve interviewed lots of people and over the course of producing this podcast. Typically a lot of the people we’ve spoken to are maybe in the industries for 10 or 20 or 30 years, so they have a certain perspective on the industry. What I think is really interesting about you, and you’ve had some very notable successes just coming out of college and very early in your career, you’ve only started working in an agency, reasonably recently. And I’m interested just to find out about the perspective of somebody who’s just coming into the industry. So, you might start by maybe just telling us, for the benefit of people who are listening, a little bit about your own background.

Ciara:               Yeah. So, I’m from Sligo. I’ve always been really creative. I’ve always been really into art; painting, drawing, especially since I was no age. Naturally I wanted to do an art course when I was coming up to go into college and I ended up doing fine art in DIT. So, I was in Grangegorman in the new campus there, so it was fab and that was a four year course. But coming up to the end of it, everyone got a bit anxious and realized, “Oh, what are we actually going to do? How are we going to make a living?” And I suppose the art scene is quite contemporary at the moment, so our lectures would have been hoping that we’d keep up an art practice, but that’s very hard to do.

Daryl:               Does that limit amount of opportunity if you’re a fine artist too? There’s not a huge industry for you to just to dive into presumably.

Ciara:               Yeah. And you’d have to have a second job to support yourself, so you have to be 100% committed to it. And I just wanted something a little bit more stable. So, I started looking into creative careers and what I could go into with an art background. And I stumbled across the master’s in creative advertising in TU Dublin. I didn’t know too much about advertising, so I started watching a few documentaries and stuff and decided that was for me, so that’s how I ended up in advertising.

Daryl:               So you did the master’s course in DIT. You finished up in that. You then heard about the Cannes Lion awards. You were made aware that there’s an application process, people from all over Europe in the world can apply for this. Is that right?

Ciara:               Yeah. So, what I applied for was the Roger Hatchuel Academy. So, it’s a program for students. So, you have to be in an advertising course or a related discipline and to be in your final year of studying. So, IAPI did it for the Irish students. So, they came over to DIT and told our year head, and she told us all, “You need to apply. This is a really good opportunity.”

Daryl:               So how many people would get to travel to Cannes and would get to go as part of this from around the world?

Ciara:               There was 32 students, so from 32 countries. It was the first year Ireland ever applied to have a student in it. So, I was the first Irish student to get over on the program.

Daryl:               And presumably it must have been very competitive if you’ve only got a small number of places and people playing from everywhere.

Ciara:               Yeah, I was really, really surprised to get it. It was kind of we had to make an ad and then TU Dublin and IAPI judged that initial process. And then three of us were selected as finalists, and then our applications got sent to Cannes and then they picked a winner. We had to make a two minute video. And then I found out about a month later I got chosen and I was shocked.

Daryl:               Tell me about when you’d heard about the application process, that this fabulous opportunity to go to Cannes, there’s an opportunity not just to experience all that there is at Cannes, but also for your career for networking. But you’ve got to come up with an idea or a pitch. So, what idea did you come up with and how did that come about?

Ciara:               The brief was to advertise advertising as a career. I’d spent ages on this okay idea for a week and a half and I’d made it really pretty and it looked great, but I knew it wasn’t amazing, but I couldn’t come up with anything. And then-

Daryl:               And what was that idea, the one that you spent the week and a half on?

Ciara:               It was playing on ad-venture, so it was a bit punny. I did some nice illustrations, I was happy with it. But then the night before I was getting ready to go to sleep and then I thought of a way better idea, so I redid my application process and I literally did it in five minutes. It was really simple. I just thought of doing blank ads and point out someone needs to fill this space, why not you? I can’t remember what my exact line was. But it was that idea.

Daryl:               And then there was a two minute video you did as well, wasn’t there?

Ciara:               Yeah. So we had to show why we deserve to have a place on this program or why we want to go to Cannes. So, I came up with the idea to do a campaign. So, I printed out loads of different posters saying why I wanted to go to Cannes and got my dad to film me sticking them up all around Sligo.

Daryl:               So, just explain to people, you’ve printed up poster saying, “Advertising is this and that,” and that and you put them up around different locations in Sligo. And then at the end you run into the sea.

Ciara:               At the end I run into the sea, yeah.

Daryl:               By the way, at the very end of the video, did you fall over or is that you actually diving into the sea?

Ciara:               Oh, I jumped in, yeah.

Daryl:               Oh, you jumped in?

Ciara:               Yeah.

Daryl:               I wasn’t sure. It looked like you tripped.

Ciara:               It was so windy though, I didn’t think I was going to make it. But I was debating stopping halfway, but I kept going.

Daryl:               Yeah. You just kept chugging.

Ciara:               Yeah.

Daryl:               So you submitted that. Did you think you had a chance or what were you thinking at that stage?

Ciara:               I didn’t know. I’d seen the guys videos as well, the other two finalists, and they were really, really good as well, so I had no idea. So we were all hoping. But yeah, it was a really nice surprise and we didn’t find out until ages after we submitted that video, so it was a distant memory.

Daryl:               Yes. Yeah. And then, so you’re selected.

Ciara:               Yeah.

Daryl:               The people in Cannes, which must’ve been great decided that you’re worthy, which must have been a nice pat on the back.

Ciara:               Oh yeah, it was amazing.

Daryl:               And then you get to Cannes, what was the experience like? And tell us what was involved and what it was like.

Ciara:               So, IAPI brought me over, they included me in the Young Lions, who are all the under 30s who’ve won in the Young Lion competition, who were going over there to compete. So, I’d met them at different events through IAPI before, so I felt really comfortable that I knew loads of people. So, we all flew over together as well, which was really nice. But then I was banging at like eight o’clock for class the next morning for the seven days, which it was really intense, but it was amazing.

So, we come into this room in the Cannes Lions school campus, it’s an incredible facility. And there’s 32 different students and we have two deans of the academy, so these two young guys who’ve set up their own agency and they’re introducing us all. And at the start I was thinking like, “Oh my God, everyone here, we’re so, so different. How are we all going to get on for the week?” But it was amazing how quickly everyone gelled because we have so much in common through advertising. It’s weird, even though like most of them didn’t speak English, or a lot of them, their English wasn’t very good, but everyone had a sense of what a good ad and what a bad ad was and what funny humor in advertising is and all that kind of stuff.

Daryl:               So you are getting workshops from industry experts from around the world?

Ciara:               Yeah. So, the deans of the academy, they set up a lot of stuff, they did loads of workshops with us. We had lots of mini projects within the class. But then we had lots of the main speakers from the main stage at Cannes come in and talk to us. And that was really, really nice because you usually don’t get to speak to people like that and ask them questions like we were asking them. And they were all really down to earth and just giving us really, really good advice. I got really good advice on my portfolio, my CV, how to stand out, or how to make people read your application and stuff like that. So, it was really good, it was really beneficial.

Daryl:               If it was possible to nail them down, what would you say were maybe the two or three key takeaways that you came back from Cannes thinking, “You know what, I never thought of that or I never knew that,” things that maybe will be useful to you for years to come or in your career?

Ciara:               Well, actually the main thing for me was I would have been slightly shy when it came to a public speaking, but because we had so many young confident speakers in with us the whole week, I just thought to myself, “Oh, they’re also great. I wish I could speak like that.” And we’d had to speak so much on front of our peers throughout the week that by the end of it I just didn’t care anymore and was speaking way better than I ever have. So, that was my main takeaway I think.

Daryl:               Yeah. Yeah. And do you feel that having done that, would it put you in a better position in terms of going for job interviews or progressing your career and knowing how to go about it?

Ciara:               Yeah, absolutely. I feel way more confident now with everything. And another really good thing was just CV tips, lots of people were giving us tips, they were saying when you’re my age and you’re coming into the industry and you have no experience, there’s no point saying in your bio and your CV, “I have this, this, and this,” because they’re saying it’s nothing compared to more experienced people that might be applying for the same job. So, they were saying to us what’s really, really good is if you just say, “This is what I want to achieve and this is what I want to get out of this job. Or this is what I want to do in the next year.” And they were saying then they see that that’s actual ambition and they’d be way more likely to hire someone like that.

Daryl:               And it shows enthusiasm. Enthusiasm is something you can’t train, you can’t say to somebody, “This is how to be enthusiastic.” So if somebody shows it, it’s a huge plus. So you had all of that experience and in Cannes, then you come back to Dublin and you start working in Rothco. You’re there, at this stage, as we’re recording now, you’ve been in Rothco two and a half months.

Ciara:               Yeah, just over two months.

Daryl:               And I’m interested maybe in the perspective of somebody who maybe came from not being in the industry. You’d had the experience in Cannes, but maybe can you recall what the difference is working in Rothco to what you thought it might be like? It may be better or it may be worse, but what are the differences in terms of your own perspective?

Ciara:               There’s so many differences, from just comparing it to college is what I keep comparing it to, because I’m used to coming up with campaigns and ideas in college and with my classmates. But it’s so different when you’re actually pitching to a client, not your lecturer. It feels like I’ve way more responsibility than I’ve ever had. It’s also way more exciting because it’s there’s a chance that, “Oh my God, this actually might get made.” Whereas before it was like, “Ah, I might get a good mark.” It’s way more exciting.

Daryl:               What have you worked on so far in Rothco?

Ciara:               So, I’m on Powers social, which is really nice. And that’s constant, so that’s something that we keep coming up with new ideas for. And then I was on Fáilte Ireland and now I’m on FREE NOW, which is the new brand for mytaxi.

Daryl:               And are you at the stage where has any of the work that you’ve created been pitched to the client had been presented to the client? Or how does it work when you’re just in the door, so to speak?

Ciara:               Yeah, well they were easing us in the first couple of weeks. But me and my copywriter partner, we wanted a little bit more responsibility, so we asked to sit in on a briefing, and we asked, “Could we just do this brief, the Fáilte one.” It looked interesting and we ended up coming up with some good ideas for it and we got to pitch to the client, which was really good.

Daryl:               Brilliant. And has that gone ahead at this stage? Or do you know? Or is it-

Ciara:               No, they made some changes. It’s still ongoing, but they took us off it. It was a really good experience.

Daryl:               Yeah. That’s part of it, you do the experience and you learn, and the next time, you know, “Okay, these are the pitfalls.” Because I wonder is that one of things, I mean you’re obviously a very creative person, you’re from an artistic background, but there’s another element to a successful agency person where you’ve got to meld that with the commercial or the client considerations. It’s about art, but you’ve got to temper to a certain extent, don’t you?

Ciara:               Yeah. I’m not used to that either. That’s a weird one. We’re pitching for mytaxi on Friday, I think, or else on Monday. But just little things I’d never think of that I keep missing that I’m just not used to, like that’s slightly off-brown because of like X, Y, and Z. That would just never come into my head. It’s easy to forget those things when you’re just focusing on the creative. So, I suppose that’s why it’s great to have execs to bring you back.

Daryl:               That’s part of the skill set though, isn’t it? To be able to maintain creativity within-

Ciara:               Certain boundaries.

Daryl:               Yeah, yeah, constraints and just to maintain that. So, you were saying that you’re creating stuff for social media and on one of the campaigns, I think you said for Powers. Is there a difference, do you think, if you’re creating content for social media, which is an interactive very brief medium, as opposed to creating it maybe for a static medium, like a billboard? Is there a different approach creatively as to how you look at doing that?

Ciara:               Well, yeah, it is different. It’s really different because instead of coming up with even one big idea for a traditional campaign, it’s sometimes lots of little ideas mixed in together. Do you know what I mean? For social. So, we have a main platform and we make content under three different pillars, and they mix that up every post so they’re not all the same thing, they’re not all product shots or they’re not all about socializing or whatever it might be. So, there’s way more of a process. It’s laid out.

Daryl:               And are you designing for Facebook, Twitter, or Snapchat? Is it five, six platforms at once? Or do you-

Ciara:               They only do Instagram and Facebook. Well that’s all I do for them. So, that’s nice. And they’re the same format, you just might change the ratio slightly.

Daryl:               Yeah. But the idea is the same?

Ciara:               Yeah. Yeah, and they’re nice I suppose because there’s a little bit more freedom, you can have a little bit of animation or you can have GIFs or things like that that you can’t have on print or more traditional mediums. So, that’s nice.

Daryl:               Yeah. Do you see yourself, in terms of your career, do you see it something where it might be one agency for a couple of years, then another agency? I mean, I think maybe 10 or 15 years ago people might have worked with an agency, stayed with the agency for five or 10 years, but things are a lot more fluid nowadays, aren’t they?

Ciara:               Yeah. Yeah. Well it’s a weird one because I’m starting in Rothco, I never thought I’d start in Rothco. So, now it’s like, “Well, where do you go from there in Ireland?” I just think it would be so strange to come from such a massive agency. It’d be so different.

Daryl:               Rothco’s probably one of the biggest in Ireland, if not the biggest, is it? Or it must be amongst them.

Ciara:               Yeah. It’s absolutely huge. There’s 40-something creatives, which is bigger than most agencies.

Daryl:               Wow. Yeah, yeah. So, hundreds of staff.

Ciara:               So, I don’t know, I definitely want to say there for a good few years at least and work my way up hopefully and get a good solid. I wouldn’t say no to work in abroad in the future either. And Rothco’s owned by Accenture now, so there’s some nice links with some global agencies. So I don’t know, could that be a thing to look into in the future?

Daryl:               You had mentioned, I think, I saw one of the things on your application video for Cannes was you said you were obsessed with advertising. What do you think are, I suppose, the key components of a good ad?

Ciara:               Of a good ad.

Daryl:               Yeah, if that’s not putting you on the spot.

Ciara:               No, that’s okay. For me, it’s something really, really, really simple, but smart. I just think the simpler, the better. I think once it’s goes over-complicated or it takes someone more than a sentence or two to explain it, then the good in it has been lost.

Daryl:               Are you looking for a reaction from the person who sees it or hears it or whatever? What’s your hope for the person, the consumer let’s call them, maybe that’s not the right word.

Ciara:               Yeah. Oh, my hope would be that they think like, “Oh, that’s really smart. That’s really clever.” Or something that makes people feel like, “I should have thought of that before,” or something like that. I think that’s the best reaction to provoke in someone.

Daryl:               You’ve obviously just started in Rothco, but say if you were to go back three or four years, maybe to somebody who’s now starting the course, or a couple of years starting the course that you’ve just completed in TU, would you have any advice for them as to what’s a good way to progress?

Ciara:               Honestly, I think doing the absolute best you can do in the master’s. I wouldn’t have been a top student in my undergrad by any means, but when I started the masters, it’s only a year, and I was thinking to myself, “I just need to put my all into this.” And I really, really did. I just worked really, really hard at everything, at all the different classes. And tried to make an impression even within the course, because lots of our lecturers are in the industry and lots of our lecturers have connections in the industry, so I felt that that was massively helpful to do that and I think that that really helped me to get a job probably as well.

Daryl:               Yeah. Again, that comes back to the enthusiasm side of it, doesn’t it?

Ciara:               Yeah.

Daryl:               And just the willing to work.

Ciara:               Yeah. And also just to apply for everything, like the thing for Cannes, the Roger Hatchuel Academy, and there’s loads of things I applied for that I didn’t get throughout the year. There’s D&AD New Blood Awards, and me and a team, we spent loads of time coming up with a campaign for that and we didn’t get through to any sort of second round. But it’s really good experience to do things like that anyways. So, do all the extra little competitions and stuff, they really, really help.

Daryl:               Yeah. I suppose you make the breaks really, the more stuff you’re doing. So, two questions we ask everybody we interview, the first of which is what we call killer kit. If there is a piece of equipment, software, hardware, or anything, something that you think is just essential to the job that you do, it could be anything, is there anything that springs to mind?

Ciara:               I have a little drawing tablet that I use Illustrator on. They’d be my two together.

Daryl:               What’s the name of the tablet?

Ciara:               I think it’s an Artist XP Pen. It’s a really cheapy version of a Wacom tablet but it’s great. I absolutely love it and I couldn’t live without it.

Daryl:               And you just sketch ideas and work on whatever.

Ciara:               Yeah, storyboards and all sorts.

Daryl:               Do you still do art? You probably have less time, but are you still doing stuff in your spare time?

Ciara:               Oh yeah, I draw away in my spare time. I’m more digital now, but yeah, I do when I have time.

Daryl:               Would it be art towards with a view to exhibitions? Or just sketching? Or just-

Ciara:               Oh no, just for myself.

Daryl:               Just for yourself?

Ciara:               Yeah. Yeah.

Daryl:               Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. Very good. Second question, play it forward. So, this podcast is really just about speaking to people who work in the creative sector, whether that be in just getting their perspectives and insights. Who do you think we should interview next?

Ciara:               Oh. Oh, I have no idea, let me think. Maybe Niamh Ryan, she’s a copywriter in Publicis, and she’s new into the industry as well. And since she started, she’s just won everything. She did Upstarts a couple of years ago and she’s just a really big name now. She’s great, I did an internship with her in Publicis, not with her, I did my internship in Publicis where she works and she’s amazing. She’s really, really creative. Yeah, and she won an award in Cannes this year.

Daryl:               Okay, brilliant. Thanks very much, Ciara.

Ciara:               No problem.

Daryl:               I really appreciate it.

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