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Sailing Through the Storm: Why a Post-Pandemic Ireland Is More Creative Than Ever Before


Huskies CEO Jonathan Forrest on how Ireland’s ingenuity has helped it navigate the global turbulence of recent years, and positioned the country as the spark for a new creative renaissance

Sailing Through the Storm: Why a Post-Pandemic Ireland Is More Creative Than Ever Before

Modern creativity in advertising is far more than the combination of art and copy. A cursory glance at the Grand Prix winners at Cannes demonstrates that innovation - the capability to explode business performance by solving problems in new and innovative ways - is just as important as creativity itself.

When it comes to Ireland, most people are aware of the great creative minds that have driven our global creative reputation. From our four Nobel prize winners (Yeats, Shaw, Beckett and Heaney) to the works of Stoker, Joyce, Wilde and Swift, to a literary reputation sustained to this day by the likes of Anne Enright, Sebastian Barry and Sally Rooney, Ireland has always punched above its creative weight. 

It is a story well-told and a position well-understood by most across the world. And it translates well in the art and copy of our industry. But by today’s definition of creativity, that’s not everything. In fact, it’s not enough. Innovation is the new kid on the block and, somehow, it needs to become creativity’s best friend.

In more ways than one, modern creativity and innovation are living through tumultuous times. From Brexit, to the pandemic, to inflation, to supply chain issues and a war on European shores, there has been no shortage of recent opportunities for a small island on the edge of the Atlantic Ocean to drift into decline and negativity. But Ireland hasn’t done that.

And understanding why we haven’t means understanding the story of innovation in Ireland. Our ability to solve our own problems in new and innovative ways explains just why the country is so well-placed to spark a new creative renaissance, with implications far beyond our own European neighbourhood.

It’s a story which begins around fifteen years ago. At that time, the list of the world’s biggest companies would have told you one thing very clearly: Geography mattered. It was a list dominated by oil and gas giants, and their growth was inextricably tied to their location for obvious reasons. Fast-forward to today, however, and things have changed. 

Now, the likes of Alphabet, Apple, Microsoft, Meta and Amazon top that list. And successive Irish governments have been successful in their ability to persuade these companies to pick Ireland as their EMEA headquarters. 

And it’s not just Web 2.0 that’s doing incredibly well. The largest Web 3.0 companies, including, Coinbase, and ConsenSys, have followed suit. In addition, nine of the world’s top fifteen pharmaceutical firms have substantial operations here. As do thirteen out of the world’s top fifteen medical companies. If you’re thinking that technology, medicine, and blockchain are three of the best-placed industries to navigate the chaos of the post pandemic world, you’d be right. And the effect of this on Ireland’s economy has been transformative. 

The momentum has been building for some time. In the five years leading up to 2020, Ireland’s GDP essentially doubled thanks to yearly growth of between 5% and 7%. What’s remarkable, however, is what visibly happened to Ireland’s growth when the pandemic hit: Nothing. In 2020, as the global economy shrunk by between 5% and 8%, Ireland’s continued to grow by another 7%. And in 2021? 14%. 

But what might appear on the surface as an economic miracle is, in fact, nothing of the sort. There’s nothing miraculous about the way in which Ireland regularly and intentionally innovates the Irish economy into one that is perfectly suited for the modern world around us. 

In real terms, this 15-year period has left Ireland as the second richest country on the planet in terms of GDP per capita. Even by the arguably more accurate measurement of GNI per capita, (a formula which is adjusted for multinational profits which leave the country) we are the world’s fourth richest country.

You can see that core thread of reinvention, creative problem solving, and innovation running through so many recent examples of Irish creativity in our industry. The Wild Atlantic Way was developed when Failte Ireland identified a single route along the west coast of Ireland that, without the need of any additional infrastructure, would celebrate how Ireland’s rugged coastline and wild shores helps shape a uniquely local experience. Today, the Wild Atlantic Way is a globally recognised, world class destination that Huskies (and other Failte agencies) are so proud to have helped play a part in shaping. Boys and Girls, another Dublin agency, saved a small island off the coast of Ireland from imminent extinction by transforming Arranmore into "the most connected island in the world”. And we took innovation into the classroom when we re-styled a classic mnemonic for the colours of the rainbow to ‘Respect Others You Gain By Including Variety’ in response to a brief from LGBTQI+ charity BeLonG To Youth Services, promoting tolerance and open-mindedness in the process. 

You’d be forgiven for thinking I was painting a picture of confidence and swagger, the kind that tends to come along with rapid economic success. But the truth is that we don’t always get it right, and nor is everything all sunshine and roses. The Celtic Tiger was far from our finest hour. The urban to rural wealth divide is accelerating, the pandemic has caused an enormous amount of disruption to travel, retail, hospitality and tourism, and we’re in the middle of what seems like an insurmountable housing crisis (as anyone looking for an apartment to rent in Dublin right now can attest). The truth is that creativity and innovation in Ireland today is inclusive of all our flaws. 

A rich creative tradition in the arts, literature, and music inspires our copy and art. A proven track record in global innovation gives us the confidence to solve big problems in new and innovative ways. And our ongoing challenges ensure we approach each with humility, empathy and an understanding of the fundamentally flawed nature of the human condition. 

Together these primordial elements are combining to spark a creative renaissance in a post-pandemic Ireland that is more creative, and more innovative, than ever before. And capable, one would hope, of sailing bravely through the coming storm.

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Genres: People

In The Company Of Huskies, Wed, 27 Jul 2022 07:40:44 GMT