Us in Action

Date: 7 July, 2020

Stuff we did

Jimi McGrath
Emily Lyons

By Jimi McGrath & Emily Lyons

Managing Partner & Account Director
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We're all hearing the resounding echo of ‘finally!’ as the lockdown starts to lift and our worlds start to look more familiar again, and as with all communications, our reality is often reflected in what we consume. It’s refreshing to see brand communications reflect that which is happening in society and culture. We’re seeing production options open back up, we’re seeing the narrative and tone shift into one of positivity, and a sense of escapism and freedom is creeping back onto the airwaves. We’ve been busy launching brand communications back into the world.

Around the World Island

As lockdown eases we’re all itching to get away and have a jolly good time again, and in the summertime that means holidays! During Covid-19, Fáilte Ireland have been supporting their colleagues in the HSE to ensure our country had the best possible response to Covid-19. And whilst the campaign, ‘Hold Firm’ that we helped them develop, continues to keep our country safe, Fáilte Ireland have now been able to turn their attention back to the core of what they do, that is promoting domestic tourism. This is something that keeps the heart of our economy pumping.

Holidaying at home has never felt so attractive, and it was with that attitude that we were able to get stuck into creating a campaign, that we could only describe as giddy to get stuck into.


With the excitement of the country opening back up again, our ‘Make a break for it’ campaign encapsulates this. The campaign took a remote crew across counties all over the country. The piece brings us on several fast-paced journeys across the country with families and friends, giving the viewer the nod to get out there and enjoy a trip to one of Ireland’s many holiday destinations.

Everyone can relate to that pre-holiday feeling of pure excitement. It’s not just a national feeling it’s a worldwide feeling. ‘Make a break for it’ captures this universal feeling against the beautiful backdrop of Ireland.

The beat of everyday life is switching back on

With most of the country at a standstill due to COVID, ESB Networks continued to keep every home, business, shop and hospital powered. We saw many businesses across the country turning off their lights and shutting up shop. Fortunately, as we’re coming out of lockdown, those lights are beginning to shine again with many businesses operating as usual as the restrictions have eased. We’re delighted for many reasons, we can now enjoy the many things we’ve missed, we can also show you our new work depicting the essential work that ESB Networks does for our country every day, work that’s never been more important. To encapsulate the role ESB Networks play in our everyday, a track was created using a clever use of sound that encompassed the ‘music’ of everyday life. Music that without ESB Networks, wouldn’t be possible.


Without the ability to shoot any visuals, our track was then brought to life using stock visuals that had to be matched up precisely to every beat. Sound designer, Denis Kilty, and Rothco’s very own in-house wizard, Gabriel Teixeira, were more than up to the task, with more than a little help from the meticulous Sam Caren.

The result is an uplifting and joyous piece of music that builds from what you see on screen, before breaking out into a chorus of bright vocals – giving us a little taste of just how ESB Networks keeps the country humming.

The Claw hits our shore

2020 was the summer of Covid-19, but it’ll also be remembered (by a very particular audience) as the summer White Claw hit our shores in Ireland & the UK. With alcohol sales reaching new highs as everyone battened down the hatches to stay home, it was an unlikely yet optimum time to launch this groundbreaking drink. And also it is very satisfying to see a brand we helped create, and have worked on for over four years now, return home. Similar to state-side, White Claw’s launch here has been a phenomenal success. As the weekly trip to the supermarket had become the highlight of our week, the new addition to the drinks aisle was a more-than-welcome one. A wave of pure refreshment.


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Us in Action

Date: 26 May, 2020

Stuff We Did

Jimi McGrath

By Jimi McGrath

Managing Partner
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What is the best way for an agency to react when they are requested to hand over the lead idea for other organisations to bring to life?

An idea that a large gang have invested all their blood, sweat and tears into. Late nights and weekends. Continuous pushing, shaping, questioning, testing and revising. The sort of effort that gets you to an answer that you know is going to work. And because you have such ambition and hope for the idea, all you want to do is protect it. Wrap it up and keep it safe from even the slightest interference from an outsider because once they touch it, it’s ruined. That may be a little over the top, but it is a very natural reaction and one I have witnessed for years.

“But some of our recent work with the HSE has completely changed my point of view on how to behave in these circumstances.”

Many of us have been involved in difficult interagency teams with underlying tensions bubbling away - where the lead agency would be accused of not sharing their thinking early enough. Or when the people at the table that used to offer complementary services are now direct competitors. Or when the finger is pointed at supporting agencies for sitting back, critiquing ideas and yet bringing nothing new to the table in their own discipline. In the middle of it all you have a client who just wants to see true collaboration that produces the most effective work. It can be a shit show.

I had a healthy debate recently about this topic with some of my nearest and dearest and I expressed some strong opinions based on my own experiences. But some of our recent work with the HSE has completely changed my point of view on how to behave in these circumstances.

Holding firm

It started with a question around how communications would need to evolve as we moved through different phases of the crisis. Early messages were very rational and informative – good hygiene, washing hands and social distancing was the focus. Our strategy team put forward a case that as time in lockdown continues and new cases rise, people will begin to feel hopeless and as a result will become complacent with all the recommended behaviours.

Not long after the case was presented, the weather improved and social media was covered with pictures of street parties and people heading to their holiday homes in Wexford. The HSE reacted with speed and decisiveness and we were fortunate to get the opportunity to work on a campaign that would motivate people to show their resolve and finish the job we started. We needed everyone to feel that this was worthwhile and achievable.

Our idea was ‘Hold Firm’. A simple, motivational call (inspired by a line from a poem by our President, Michael D Higgins) to everyone to dig in and show others your determination to stand strong for Ireland. The campaign was launched with a TV spot with a rainbow visual device and then we had a conversation around the plethora of ideas that we could deliver to generate a wider adoption of the idea.

Letting go

HSE had people knocking on their door to support the idea. It was a unique situation. Media and production partners, other agencies, charities and corporations - and while the hesitation to openly share was there, it was completely overshadowed by that ambition to produce not only the most effective campaign, but to start a movement for everyone to get behind.

The importance and role of the work trumped everything else. So we wrote a simple set of guidelines, packed up the creative and handed it all over.

“The concern about sharing can get in the way of the impact of the work.”

No doubt you have seen the work; in the form of the TV commercial, the street art, the road signs, the projections, the international news coverage, minister speeches, national new broadcasts, celebrity videos and all the posts on social channels of children’s drawings in windows across the country. Nobody was jumping up and down if the rainbows weren’t the perfect semi-circle.

So many have supported this work and the response has surpassed all our expectations. Everyone involved added something to the success of the work and there should be a collective pride in that. And that’s my take out from all of this. The concern about sharing can get in the way of the impact of the work.

When faced with this situation I would encourage you to step back, remember what you are all trying to achieve, do what you need to do brilliantly and let others do the same.


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Us in Action

Date: 28 April, 2020

Stuff we did

Jimi McGrath

By Jimi McGrath

Managing Partner

It’s hard to believe that we’re at Issue 4 of Inside Out already. More and more talented people across the agency are getting involved and it is great to see the format grow in popularity with our clients.

In this edition, we’re focusing on the work we’re doing with our clients. There’s no doubt that it sits comfortably with this week’s theme, as when it comes to client conversations, well, ‘they are a-changing’.

Initially, the discussions many of us found ourselves having was around how to react immediately to the pandemic. Speed trumped perfect output as we raced to produce multiple campaigns in restrictive conditions.

That storm has since settled and the change we are witnessing is that more conversations are focusing on long-term planning. What can our clients do now that will set them up for success in the future? Our understanding of people, our ability to connect through innovative media and agile production are all key requirements, but digital transformation and technology is without a doubt the top topic. Digital advances that may have been viewed as a ‘nice to have’ are now been expedited.

Some of the productions in progress at the moment continue to be heavily influenced by Covid-19, and this week we start with more work from Tesco, who are really living up to their brand platform Every Little Helps.

Value is so important to customers in uncertain times and the Tesco gang have re-imagined value messaging. By looking at insights from the realities of life in lock down, selected bundles of products have been presented in the most relevant way. We’re finding that more planning is going into the weekly shop as customers think of how dinner leftovers can be used for lunch the next day. The resulting execution describes how one batch of the same group of products can be used in several different meals.

Other executions show how toilet roll and milk and egg cartons and can be repurposed as arts and crafts materials. Of all the great in-house production happening right now, we have to call out our own Jill Jordan as our prop designer on this one.

Like many agencies, we are in the middle of developing work for a number of important good causes who face fundraising challenges such as the Irish Cancer Society and the Irish Heart Foundation. More on those next week.

One final thing for those still looking for ways to entertain the kids at home. Woodies have launched their ‘Little Landscapers’ competition. They are asking anyone under 16 to draw their dream garden and when it’s safe to do so, the winning design will be made into a reality by Woodies, to the value of €5,000. The attached creative, which was produced in collaboration with Irish illustrator Jacky Sheridan, and all the details can be found on the Woodies website.

We have a busy week ahead and we’ll be back with lots more updates next week. In the meantime, grab some markers with the kids and map out where your BBQ is going to fit around their new swimming pool.

Us in Action

Date: 8 April, 2020

Stuff we did

Jimi McGrath

By Jimi McGrath

Managing Partner

As we approach the Easter break there is no doubt that many will take the time to reflect on how we are working through this crisis. Our new routines, how we are set up at home, even how disciplined we are in closing down our laptops at the right time. Have we got the balance right and what improvements can we make for the weeks ahead?

It will also be a time to look at how brands have reacted to date. More and more brands are taking it upon themselves to simply be more useful to customers during the crisis and as we look at the work going through the agency at the minute, there is a lot of evidence to support that approach.

One of our clients frequently host large scale events bringing thought leadership and training workshops to small business owners across EMEA. In response to the crisis we are working with them in digitising all of this content. It is a massive undertaking and requires investment but the alternative would see an audience in desperate need of support, missing out on valuable training and advice.

Our strategy team are working on various white papers and then collaborating with experts in each field to present the findings to specific audiences. We are producing webinars with speakers from across EMEA covering a number of topics and even though these are being presented in the absence of a professional studio (see visual) the content addresses the needs of business owners operating in the most challenging environment.

The response has been quick, supportive and agile. But most importantly comes from an understanding of the needs of small business owners and the role the brand can play to be useful.

So many people are using this time to hone their skills or learn new ones in anything from digital training to baking in the kitchen. The gang working with Powers Whiskey saw it as an opportunity to demonstrate how to make the perfect Irish Coffee. Brand Ambassador Derek King, took to Instagram Live with his own take on this Irish classic with freshly brewed coffee, soft brown muscovado sugar, dark chocolate, fresh cream and 35ml of Powers Gold Label. A skill worth learning!

As we are on the topic of whiskey, we should take a moment to recognise our partners in Irish Distillers and the team in Midleton for their incredible proactivity in producing much needed hand sanitizers for our frontline healthcare workers. A gesture of real leadership that will go a long way to help those who are helping so many.

For those in need of help in setting up your Easter Egg hunt at home this weekend then take a look at Tesco’s social channels where this week they are posting tips on hiding places and tricks for the kids. The team are also working closely with Irish Illustrator Paula McGloin in developing a special message for kids in press for Easter Sunday. We wanted to show thought leadership on Easter, so we went straight to the very top. All will be revealed on Sunday.

Again, this is just a snippet of all the great work going through the agency at the minute. More and more brands are taking on the challenges that Covid-19 presents and it is amazing to see our people working closely with our clients to lead the way. More to come in the weeks ahead.

Us in Action

Date: 3 April, 2020

Stuff we did

Jimi McGrath

By Jimi McGrath

Managing Partner

Finding a way

The last three weeks have been challenging as we all work from home. Emails, calls, WhatsApp, Microsoft Teams, Zoom and the rest allow us to stay connected but it feels very different. Despite these unprecedented new challenges, our goal is still business as normal – or business as new normal – and we’re continuing to push to deliver for all our clients.

Here’s a few stories of just getting things done, and in particular, how inventive we’ve had to be in producing work during this time.

Here is a picture of Marie Ruane. Marie is our voiceover artist for Tesco, who’ve been doing stellar work in response to Covid-19. In order to keep things going without a studio, Marie had to find the perfect location to record new scripts without interference. That perfect place was inside her wardrobe.

We had a similar situation on some support work we developed for the HSE with Failte Ireland. The plan was for our voiceover artist, Donal Gallery, to record the script in a studio in London. But that studio was closed following restrictions put in place by the UK Government. Donal tried a number of spaces in his apartment and eventually found a spot that worked – under his duvet.

The gang on Woodies developed social content to inform customers of safety measures they had introduced to all stores. Our Art Director, Steve Clifford, wanted to go with an illustrative style, but needed to urgently brief a brilliant illustrator. His suggestion: Tony Clifford. Tony is Steve’s brother. They live together. It worked, and they got it turned around in no time.

And finally, there’s the story of our Digital Daffodil Day launch with the Irish Cancer Society. One of the biggest fundraising days for this amazing charity was going to be pulled, as people were asked to stay at home. The fundraiser is a supporter of Night Nurses across the country, allowing them to offer a service that is vital to patients and their families.

The gang was set up and they worked relentlessly to deliver a whole new digital campaign. The film they produced shows a number of people talking about the importance of the Night Nurse service to their own family. There was no cameraman or sound engineers. Those on screen had to film themselves with their own phones.

Some contributors were unsure of how to effectively use the camera – but the team gave all the advice and support possible to help them capture their stories. The result is a piece of real and emotive content that has generated national PR and huge donations. The gang responsible delivered all of that in only five days.

These are just a few incredible examples – from just the last two weeks! – of how agile our people are and how inherently excited we are to tackle hard things.

It’s the same buzz that gets us up every ‘normal’ morning to go to our office and solve any and every kind of business problem with creativity alongside our clients.

We’re just doing it from home now.

See you online!