“The only obvious qualifications I possessed were a headful of useless information and a short attention span. A career in advertising beckoned.”
It was 1995.
I’d split my band The Fat Lady Sings and moved back to my native Dublin, having given away all my guitars, firmly resolved never to bother with the head-wrecking machinations of the music industry ever again.
Apart from writing a poem every day for a year (don’t ask) and winning a big prize for a short story (at the Ian St James Awards, for Expect Jail), I really didn’t do very much in the way of creative endeavour in that first year off the road.
But, then, having tragically failed to write a Christmas Number One, I realised that I needed to start earning some money.
I scanned my somewhat bizarre CV – qualifed as solicitor and gave up same day; two years of video games journalism while trying to get the band up and running; six more years exclusively spent throwing televisions out of hotel windows (only joking – we hardly ever got to stay in hotels).
The only obvious qualifications I possessed were a headful of useless information and a short attention span.
A career in advertising beckoned.
Apart from being thrilled at how generous, thoughtful and amusing most of my new industry colleagues turned out to be, I couldn’t believe that people would actually pay me for coming up with goofy ideas.
But as it happened, my goofy ideas went down well.
Over the past 15 years, in collaboration with a variety of agencies, clients and other talented creatives, I’ve been responsible for Roy Keane dressing up as a giant leprechaun to mug Gary Lineker; Michael Fassbender swimming cross the Atlantic Ocean; Saoirse Ronan travelling back in time; the Green Party making an election broadcast without featuring a single politician; Carbon Monoxide Awareness having a salt-of-the-earth banjo- playing Dublin canary as their spokesbird; and AIB diverting the budget they were going to spend on their own ads into making ads for their small business customers instead.
I’m lucky enough to have won many domestic and international awards for my work across all media, from a Clio for the epic Guinness TV ad Tom Crean, to an Epica for the ambient Keys activation for Focus Ireland.
I’m also lucky to have found a way of earning a living which fuels my other creative activities – not just financially, but also in terms of education and inspiration.
I would never have got into movie-making were it not for the experience and contacts that I picked up on ad shoots – and today that experience has enabled me to become a director as well as a writer of ads.
In the past couple of years, I’ve directed TV or cinema spots for the Irish Film Archive; for poverty charity SVP; for electricity provider and Irish football sponsor SSE Airtricity; and for 15 different AIB Small Business Customers.
I think I’ve become a much better collaborator on musical projects since I started working in tandem with art directors and designers.
Most of all, my head has become ever fuller of those useless pieces of information, gleaned from the incredible breadth of human activity that I come across in the course of my work every day – what writer (in any medium) could ask for anything more?…