“The Irish commercial creativity and communication industry is opening its’ doors to more and more international creatives”, says Charley Stoney, CEO, IAPI (Institute of Advertising Practitioners in Ireland). “Udi’s background and experience brings a different way of thinking that is hugely beneficial to his clients’ creative communications. He is one of our superstars!”
LBB> You have an international background. How does your experience across borders influence your work?
Udi> I was born and raised In Israel. My grandparents came to the country as refugees from three different places: Iraq, Russia and Turkey. This meant that from a very young age I was exposed to completely different languages (my grandparents hardly spoke any Hebrew), cultures, cuisines, music, stories, histories etc.
My international professional experience started when I decided in my early twenties to pursue a career in advertising. I went to study art direction at Miami Ad School in Florida and then continued my degree in Milan where I attended Accademia Di Comunicazione, one of the main advertising schools in Italy.
Upon finishing school, I started as an intern and then got hired to work in 1861 United. It was an amazing learning experience to work under two legendary figures of the Italian creative industry, Pino Rozzi and Roberto Battaglia. I worked on campaigns for clients such as Vodafone, Sky, Alfa Romeo, Yamaha and others
After nine years in Milan, I moved back to Israel and worked in different agencies in Tel Aviv with some great professionals. Even though I was born there it was a completely new experience. After all, my professional experience was only European. I had to readjust, until moving once again to Dublin five years ago, for perhaps the best reason you could think of… love. It sounds a bit of a cliché. But a good one.
All of the above allowed me to have a broad perspective on life and work, a multi-layered experience. It has taught me to be very open minded and adaptable to different kinds of outlooks and approaches to our profession.
Each country has developed a different aspect of me, professionally. In Italy I learned to have an almost manic attention to detail, craft and aesthetics, as well as conceptual thinking. In Israel, I learned how to be proactive, decisive, reactive, and fast at thinking and producing ideas. Ireland has taught me to be a bit more patient, and have more respect for the process, without cutting corners. Something that helps bring everyone on the journey of a creative idea, inside the agency and with clients. Ireland is definitely the country that has made my approach to work more mature.
LBB> And how does creativity in Ireland compare to what you have seen in places like Italy and Israel?
Udi> Creativity ultimately boils down to the same principle everywhere: It requires passion, curiosity and willingness to think differently. Ireland, Italy, and Israel are no different in that aspect. All three countries have strong creativity in their DNA and for different reasons.
In Italy, there is a long tradition of creativity in the fields of design, architecture, art and fashion. All are dealing with beauty, aesthetics, and attention to detail. It is not a surprise then that a lot of the time, creative work in Italy will look very polished, well produced and crafted, as if it was taken out of a fashion magazine. Then again, this is the country that produced some of the greatest artists in human history.
Israel is a young country of an ancient people with a rich history of the written word. This is probably one of the reasons why copy-based creativity is more dominant than a visual one. Contributing to this is the fact that Hebrew is a language that was not spoken for over 2000 years and was basically brought to life in the beginning of the 20th century and evolved dramatically since the foundation of the state of Israel. That meant that a whole new range of words, terms and slang had to be invented through the years, making the new-old language become the glue of a nation of migrants and refugees, and a creative playground for the local ad industry. Being a young country there is a lot of ambition to do stuff in every field, out of necessity.
From agriculture to high tech, there is a need to be very proactive and fast in the processes. That also reflects on the local advertising that sometimes is too fast paced, but also exciting and full of creative opportunities.
Irish creativity enjoys some from both worlds. On the one hand this is a country with a rich history of storytelling, amazing literature, poetry, and music. On the other hand, Ireland is experiencing a revival and massive progress. The last 30 years have brought more ambition, more wealth, more diversity, and more exposure to the world. This inevitably has led to more creativity, and a drive to produce work, products or services that can compete with global markets. Creativity in Ireland is both reflective of local nuances, but also broader human truths, and the attention to detail and standard of craft is ever-growing.
Another thing that characterises Irish creativity is the role of humour. You’ll easily find it behind the scenes with clients and colleagues, but also in the work to connect with Irish consumers. In other words, humour is no joke in Ireland!
LBB> What do you think is the aspect of Irish culture or society that lends itself to creativity?
Udi> Ireland is a magical country that has always captured the imagination of people from all over the world. This is not only for the beauty of its nature, but also thanks to its rich creative heritage of storytelling, literature, poetry, music, and art that are just as famous in the world as Ireland's green hills or rainy days.
In terms of present times, and I touched on this earlier, the economic progress and societal changes in the last 30 years have created a perfect environment for people to think freely and express themselves differently and more creatively.
As I mentioned before, humour is also a creative way to approach problems and difficult situations, and Irish people have that in abundance. Everything is an opportunity to crack a joke and tell a story. I am always surprised how many funny stories people can tell you over a pint in a pub. Let’s be honest. Over many pints.
One last point, as the country becomes more diverse, it becomes more creative as well. People bringing different points of views to the mix to create something new in every field, from the culinary industry, to high tech, and of course, design and advertising.
LBB> How would you describe Irish creativity in the ad landscape?
Udi> I think it is becoming more ambitious and hungry. Agencies are gaining more confidence to compete on the global stage, and becoming more demanding in terms of the quality of the ideas and the quality and level of craft and execution. This is mainly thanks to wins in international award shows, such as Cannes Lions and D&AD, over the last five years. This has proven to everyone here that Irish creativity can be as excellent as anywhere else in the world, while still retaining the uniqueness of the country. Creativity here is also becoming more diverse and international with people moving to Ireland and joining the industry and bringing new points of views. It is in a very exciting place now, and we are only getting started.
LBB> Is there any work that has come out of Ireland that you wished the world had heard more about?
Udi> ‘Remember the Rainbow’ - for Pride Month, Damian Hanley, our ECD, and the team in Huskies saw an opportunity to align the mnemonic used to remember the rainbow colours with its symbolic meaning – respect and equality.
The project reinvented a mnemonic used in Irish primary schools to teach young children the rainbow colours. ‘Richard of York Gave Battle In Vain’ became ‘’Respect Others. You Grow By Including Variety’ - a new more inclusive one.
This simple, yet smart idea meant to encourage inclusivity and diversity from an early stage. An educational video and resource materials were created and adopted by the Irish Department of Education and used in schools across Ireland. This was a great success here and a very useful idea to shape our future society, something that other countries could adopt.
LBB> Huskies mission is to “create thumb-stopping, head-turning work that makes you laugh and cry.” In your opinion, how is this achieved on a practical level - what elements go into show-stopping work like this?
Udi> I think that first you need an environment where people feel safe to think in a free, new, and different way. You need a place that allows everyone to have their voice heard and contribute in a constructive way to the creative output. For that matter, I think that Huskies are in the perfect position. We have a group of talented people in all departments. People who are good at their job but are also genuinely good people from top to bottom.
Once this is established, you need everyone in the agency to share the same ambition for excellence from the moment a brief is written, to the selling of an idea and its execution. Any piece of output should have a clear point of view. The messaging should be clear, simple, and sharp. It should be derived from a strong human insight and have cultural relevance. The strongest ideas have cultural impact, and sometimes become a part of culture itself.
Finally, great work must always have careful attention to details and relentless crafting of every word and every pixel that is put out there in the world. We are competing for the attention of consumers against the best creative talent and content in the world that exists outside of advertising.
LBB> What are some of the projects you have been most proud of being involved in?
Udi> A few things come to mind. First, ‘The Connected Island’ for Three Ireland. I was lucky to be the art director of this project during my time in Boys and Girls. This started as a B2B brief but developed into a 2.5 year journey and a 360 nationwide campaign. To prove the transformative power of Three for medium and large businesses in Ireland, we took the small Island of Arranmore and treated it as a big enterprise.
Arranmore was suffering from a lack of connectivity, and this meant people were forced to leave the island to pursue job opportunities elsewhere. If things continued as they were, it was projected that the island would be abandoned by 2050. To tackle this Three installed broadband on the island and connected it to the rest of the world. We also provided tech solutions for different aspects of the islanders’ lives and even opened a digital hub for remote working (pre-COVID), so that people can move back to the island and work from there.
The campaign was a huge business success for Three, and was a great experience on many levels. On a professional level, we were a tight dedicated team (led creatively by Kris Clarkin) that worked with a lot of passion. On a human level, going to the island and meeting the islanders and seeing their struggles gave us a real sense of duty and meaning for our job. Finally, this project won the biggest recognition in advertising: a Gold, a Silver and a Bronze Cannes Lions, as well as a D&AD pencil.
The second project was a campaign I did early in my career. Sky Italy had purchased the broadcasting rights for all the major football leagues in Italy and Europe. The line of the brief was, ‘It’s Sky's best year of football’. My copywriter at the time, Mario Esposito, and I came up with a simple yet crazy idea. Football, just like wine, is different in every season. And some years are better than others. But this year, Sky could guarantee subscribers that it had the best vintage of football ever.
We thought of a unique type of vineyard in beautiful Tuscany where instead of grapes, some of the biggest football stars at the time, such as Kaka’, Buffon, Materazzi and De Rossi were growing between the bushes - under the strict supervision of the vineyard owner, Marcello Lippi, Italy’s coach, and World Cup winner. Just like grapes, we see the football stars being collected to go through the production process till the best football (wine) was ready to be tasted.
The scale of the project, the huge budget, the international football stars, and the location were all incredible. The campaign was a huge success in Italy and picked up a few awards.
A third project, which is a very personal piece of work for me, started as a proactive idea called ‘Rainbow Blood’. This was created with Mark Tuthill and Laurence O’Byrne for Belong To Youth Services. The idea was inspired by a shocking incident in London where two girls were physically attacked on a bus for showing affection. It made the headlines around the world and highlighted the rise in hate crimes against LGBTI+ people. In the execution, we see a young man bleeding from his nose. Instead of red pouring out, we see blood that’s the colour of the rainbow. The beautiful photography was the work of Alex Telfer and won a gold medal in the Irish Advertising Awards.
LBB> What exciting projects are you working on next and what would you like to be more involved with?
Udi> There are some exciting things on the horizon. I would like to continue to create and lead work that brings business success to our clients, and that gets noticed by the public and the industry for the right reasons. At the same time, I would like to keep working on projects that have social importance and can improve and help people's lives. I would also like to move up the creative ladder towards more senior and leadership roles in the creative industry.
LBB> What advice would you give to up and coming Irish creatives looking to take their work to the next level?
Udi> I would give them the same advice I give myself everyday: First, be a sponge. Try to be a bit interested in everything. You don’t need to like everything, but you need to know a bit of everything. Watch a lot of TV. Go to the cinema, theatre, exhibitions and cultural events. Read books and newspapers to know what’s happening, locally, and around the world. In other words, know what people are talking about and what people will be talking about. We are in a profession that’s connected to human behaviour. The more we know about people, the more we can create work they can engage with and capture their attention.
Second, be an ad nerd. Follow the current work of people, brands and agencies that makes a difference. Stay up to date daily with the main ad, design, and creativity blogs, but also
study the work and the thinking that has already been created by the giants of this industry around the world. These are the people who have paved the way for all of us and laid the foundation for what creative excellence is.
Third, surround yourself and work with people you admire both on a human level and a professional level. People you can ask for advice and learn from their experience and their work.
This leads me to the last piece of advice: Be modest and kind, but at the same time be ambitious and proactive. Don’t ever be afraid to work hard.