With a rich history, a vibrant culture, and stunning natural landscapes, Ireland has long been a source of inspiration for creatives of all kinds. And when it comes to disruptive advertising, few agencies embody the spirit of Irish innovation quite like TBWA\Dublin. In this interview we hear from creative director Niall Staines about his early days in a start-up journeying through to his current role at the helm of one of Dublin's most dynamic agencies. Here, Niall highlights the power of hard work, dedication, and a willingness to shake things up.
“Niall is a gent as well as being a truly original thinker. He led the creative approach for the virtual IAPI team for the charity, BeLongTo in 2020, collaborating with volunteers from 16 different agencies which resulted in massively increased awareness for the charity" says Charley Stoney, CEO, IAPI. "He gives his time to his clients and the Irish industry with enthusiasm for which we are extremely grateful!”
LBB> Tell us a little bit about you, your background, your current role, and how long you’ve been at the company.
Niall> I started my career as a designer in a start-up called vStream. Their main focus was online video, but we ended up doing a lot of online advertising for traditional agencies around town that didn’t have digital departments. That was a brilliant experience as it exposed me to multiple agencies and clients that I wouldn’t have been exposed to if I had gone the traditional route. From there I moved to Publicis Dublin which is where I essentially went to ad school. It was a great environment with a really strong creative pedigree, and I soaked up as much as I could.
I left there as art director to join TBWA\Dublin where I’ve been for *checks LinkedIn* eight years and four months! I moved from art director to head of art and I’m now currently creative director.
LBB> What in your opinion sets TBWA\Dublin apart from other agencies within the creative space?
Niall> The culture of disruption. Having that at the heart of the agency, not just the creative department really sets your stall out. Everyone gets behind it. Clients know what to expect, they come to us because they’re looking for disruptive work.
LBB> What does creativity mean to you?
Niall> Creativity is everything to me. Jesus that sounds a bit melodramatic doesn’t it. But take a step back for a minute. Without creativity we’d lead a pretty boring existence. From the food we eat, sports we play, jokes we tell, movies we watch, books we read... Without creativity, well it’s not worth thinking about is it?
LBB> How do you achieve it?
Niall> By putting in your 10,000 hours. Like everything good in life, creativity requires hard work and dedication! It’s not sexy either. Creativity generally looks like two people in a small room, staring into space, not talking to each other for very long periods of time until one of them says ‘What if…’
LBB> TBWA defines itself as a disruption company. How exactly do you disrupt creatively?
Niall> Disruption is all about flipping things on their head. It’s an approach that challenges conventional thinking and seeks to break through the clutter of traditional advertising. The key to every brief is to find a unique way to engage your audience by creating a memorable experience that goes beyond the norm. It’s also a great way to judge work and keep our clients honest. If it’s not disruptive, what is it doing?
LBB> If you could share one lesson with the industry, what would it be?
Niall> Remember the reason that you got into the industry in the first place. I think it’s easy to get caught up in the day to day of meetings, teams calls, making decks, amending decks, more teams calls and forget why you do what you do.
LBB> What is singular about Irish creativity? How does the culture and backdrop inspire your work?
Niall> As an industry we obsess about international awards. We want to be recognised on a big stage, punching above our weight and being seen as legitimate. And there’s nothing wrong with that. I’m sure if you dig into our history there might just be a reason for that.
But the best work resonates at home. I want our work to be shared by the audience it’s aimed at, not just by the industry (although let’s be honest we all crave peer recognition). The ultimate praise is for a piece you’ve made to find its way into Irish pop culture. An ad to be shared by your audience, to be dissected and re-enacted in homes and pubs across the country, a tagline to creep its way into the vernacular. That’s when you know you’ve created a piece of brilliant work.
LBB> What in particular has been responsible for TBWA\Dublin's growth and success?
Niall> The ability to reinvent ourselves and move with the times while being true to our core values. The industry moves quick and you need to be able to adapt and pivot. You can see that in our most recent offering in Bolt. Bolt are our in-house production unit operating from a bespoke studio on the ground floor of our building in Rathmines. The creative opportunities that allow for us and our clients makes for a really exciting future for TBWA\Dublin.