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Creative is Native: “This Young Generation Is Fearless, Action-Oriented, Politically Engaged and Hugely Connected”

Opinion and Insight 328 Add to collection
Jane McDaid, founder and head of creative innovation at THINKHOUSE, on tackling the globe’s biggest issues and why we should always listen to the youth
Creative is Native: “This Young Generation Is Fearless, Action-Oriented, Politically Engaged and Hugely Connected”
In the latest edition of our interview series, in association with Little Black Book, we spend some time with one of Ireland’s most innovative and influential people in the industry, Founder + Head of Creative Innovation at THINKHOUSE, Jane McDaid.

Jane’s passion for vital issues such as sustainability, motivating our youth to join our industry, and diversity and inclusion, means that she continues to remind us to hold ourselves to account where it matters. She is an inspirational force in the industry, and we’re delighted that, as an IAPI member, we benefit from her energy and leadership. Charley Stoney, CEO, IAPI.


LBB> Having grown up in Ireland, what is your view on Irish creativity?

Jane McDaid> Our cultural history is deep, magnetic and powerful. When you walk around old Georgian Dublin, our rich heritage seeps through the veins of our beautiful little city. Our cultural future is proud, diverse and alive - some of the most innovative and exciting young creatives in the world are here, shaping a vibrant cultural landscape for Irish people and visitors to enjoy. 

Ireland is geographically positioned between the US and Europe which gives us certain privileges as we are exposed to multiple cultures, outlooks and influences. Ireland is soon to be the only English speaking country (first language) in Europe after Brexit. Over the last 10+ years we’ve had a lot of European and EMEA headquarters position themselves in Ireland and this has helped Irish creativity flourish and reach wider international audiences, as our diversity grows and our international network broadens.

Our diversity, heritage and connection breeds a special creativity which you see in our people and our work - whether it’s expressed in Irish culture, entertainment or indeed, in our marketing.


LBB> Did this rich heritage help influence you and your choice of career? 

Jane> I always had a passion for learning and I was privileged to grow up with a mother who was endlessly curious and incredibly creative herself. She was into heritage, art and culture and she took me to galleries and on walks and hikes (before it was hip to be in nature!). My mum is also a sports fanatic and an obsessive GAA fan - the Gaelic Athletic Association - which is deeply ingrained in our culture. All of those things made me appreciate the world around us, and Irish culture, from quite an early age. 

In terms of my passions, I found myself mostly drawn to technology, culture and the arts. I studied theatre, dance and film and, as a student, I used to do brand promotions in the evenings and on weekends to support myself as I produced plays and worked in film. I realised I was actually quite good at it - and I enjoyed the buzz of it - so I pursued it a little further. I went on to study marketing then, realising that this was an intersection of business and culture which appealed to me. That’s how I ended up where I am today - it was through the arts, ultimately.


LBB> You founded Thinkhouse to help brands connect better with younger consumers. What would you say are the biggest factors important to young consumers right now?

Jane> With important life milestones cancelled or postponed, COVID-19 has had a huge impact on the lives of young people when it comes to: intergenerational relationships, distant / remote learning and social separation. The sudden adjustment to remote learning tested their ability to stay on top of their studies and remain motivated and focused without the social support of their lecturers, teachers or peers. Because access to technology is typically tied to socioeconomic status, the switch to online learning will disproportionately affect already disadvantaged young people - widening the gap between the rich and poor even further. Many of the world’s low paying jobs (in retail and hospitality) impacted young people - meaning they quickly lost out on their main income sources. This, combined with a bleak jobs market as a result of the pandemic, means they face a lot of challenges and insecurity right now.

It’s fortunate therefore, that this is the most progressive young generation ever. Today’s highly educated, highly creative, action-oriented do-ers recognise their own individual ability to influence the world around them. They are politically engaged and hugely connected. They see activism as a core part of who they are. They are fearless and have a disdain for traditional hierarchical systems - instead fighting for justice and equality. Their digital prowess is native - it’s in their DNA - meaning that they have the collective ability to overthrow anything that comes before them if technology allows it happen faster, better or more sustainably. 

When it comes to brands, this generation is more curious and aware of a brand or organisation's moral behaviours. In western culture, they are not afraid to hold brands accountable for their actions - particularly relating to the environment and/or employee or supply chain conditions. In other markets, status remains important and brands are a symbol of how progressive or successful they are. The younger generation coming through (often referred to as GenZ) has proven to have a higher attention span than those that came before them - particularly when it comes to skippable video ads that last less than 2 seconds. They’re far faster at processing information that people give them credit for.


LBB> What does a typical day as Head of Innovation at Thinkhouse look like for you?

Jane> A typical day involves working with our disciplinary team of experts across our 3  service areas: FAME, TRANSFORMATION & PLANET.  I try to create space for people to express themselves and bring their whole selves to THINKHOUSE, every day. I work hard to ensure that we have a safe space for people to learn, innovate, experiment and have fun.  

My days are filled with moments of bringing people together - listening to the newest movements, actions and creative innovations that we see from young people around the world and ensuring that we are bringing the freshest thinking to our work and our clients. 

I also add a daily injection of client conversations and get stuck into much of our agency’s strategic and creative work. I am so fortunate to work with some of the most progressive, brave and curious clients and a team of people who, pandemic or no pandemic, are ‘in this together.’ 


LBB> What are some of the projects you have been most proud of being involved in?

Jane> I’m really proud of the beautiful, clever, creative work on amazing brands and campaigns over the years for companies such as Unilever, Heineken, Pernod Ricard, RTÉ (Ireland’s national broadcaster), Tony Chocolonely, innocent, The One Foundation and Ben & Jerry’s.   
But I’m most proud of the unseen work. The long-term strategies we’ve co-developed with brands on a global and local level that require a new outlook and involve cultural and operational change. These strategies demand bravery, consciousness and positive action.

Compared to other generations, today’s youth (18+) have a higher expectation that brands should engage in a more proactive way with society and its citizens. I’m proud of the workshops we’ve facilitated for industry and business leaders to hear, first hand, how the next generation expects them to behave.  

I’m proud of the moments we empower our clients to make brave decisions that break with convention by prioritising our planet and our people - above all else. And I’m proud of our team’s daily listening - every day, listening to young people all over the world, making their voice heard and working with them to shape a better future where brands play an important role. 

Every morning, that’s what makes me jump out of bed - an excitement for the reinvention of our world.


LBB> The ad landscape in Ireland seems to be growing rapidly, how have you seen it develop over the past few years?

Jane> I think, as an industry, our international confidence has grown. We recognise that we have the ability to compete internationally and win. Our geographical location, between the US and Europe, means we’re well positioned to lead global marketing and the fact that English is our first language is also a benefit.

From a tech perspective, Ireland has been reasonably progressive. I think this progressiveness; married with our heritage, our creativity, our geographical location, and our work ethic; perfectly positions Ireland to thrive as an international creative centre of excellence.


LBB> Is there any work that has come out of Ireland that you wished the world had heard more about?

Jane> Wishing isn’t my style. Anyone who’s heard about, or visited, The Wild Atlantic Way, Ireland’s Ancient East or Dublin’s Temple Bar has witnessed some of Ireland’s best marketing at work. Anyone who remembers Live Aid; listens to U2; read literature by Oscar Wilde or James Joyce, enjoyed ‘Normal People,’ flies with Ryanair or used Stripe to make digital payments for goods and services - has witnessed some of Ireland’s most innovative, brightest, most creative, minds at work.  


LBB> What exciting projects are you working on next and what would you like to be more involved with? 

Jane> I’m excited about the opportunity that exists right now to reset and reshape for a more sustainable future.  Alongside my colleagues, I’m involved in The Great Reset movement in the UK and Ireland, helping the industry wake up to the climate crisis and realise that actually our industry has contributed to the mess that we’re in. We need to think about how we can use our gift of great communications, incredible creativity and phenomenal people, and put it to good use to create a better future for the world - one that is not depleting the natural resources of our planet. 

I believe in the power of our industry to do that. I believe in the necessity for our industry to do that. And I believe in the power of our people, the creativity, the imagination and the will to do that. It’s all about supporting new thinking with enlightened leadership to shape an industry that contributes to a better future.  


LBB> What advice would you give to up and coming Irish creatives looking to take their work to the next level?

Jane> Listen to, believe in and take your inspiration from young people, always. 

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The Institute Of Advertising Practitioners In Ireland, Tue, 22 Sep 2020 08:59:12 GMT