The Irish Lunch at Cannes
The Irish Lunch at Cannes

Ireland is currently experiencing a cultural renaissance, with its creative industries leading a charge that has placed the nation firmly on the global map of contemporary arts and culture. This year, Irish musicians, actors, and artists have continued to make their mark worldwide, reinforcing Ireland’s position as a cradle of creativity.

Now, the same can be said of Ireland’s brands and advertising agencies.

“In the background, we have been crafting campaigns for some of the most iconic global brands,” says Charley Stoney, CEO of the Institute of Advertising Practitioners in Ireland (IAPI), which stands committed to nurturing its diverse agency members and heralding Ireland as a bastion of commercial creativity. “It is time for us to harness our creative legacy and assert our presence on the international stage.”

This year marked the beginning of an exciting collaboration between IAPI and Enterprise Ireland, the government’s trade and innovation agency, which supports Irish enterprises to achieve their global ambition. The partnership was inaugurated in January and will be highlighted at the Cannes Lions Festival of Creativity in June, where the first-ever Irish Lunch will be hosted.

“The creative industries in Ireland account for almost 10% of national employment and the advertising sector generates over €1.7bn for the Irish economy annually,” says Conor O’Donovan, head of communications at Enterprise Ireland. “We are actively supporting the industry under the Irish Government’s Roadmap for the Digital Creative Industries to internationalise and grow creative services companies. The Cannes Lions Festival is an important platform to engage global decision-makers, partners, and customers in support of our ambition.”

The Irish Lunch will convene Irish agencies, brand marketers, and a select group of influential figures from the advertising and media sectors under the banner ‘Ireland: Where Creative is Native.’ The focus is on presenting a united front and showcasing Ireland’s creative excellence rather than individual agency achievements.

Keynote Speaker
Keynote Speaker

Toby Southgate, global CEO of Forsman & Bodenfors, will be the guest speaker at the event. As a luminary in the advertising world, Southgate will share his insights on the current surge in Irish creativity.

Talking about Forsman & Bodenfors’ decision to acquire the independent Irish creative agency, In The Company of Huskies, in 2023, Southgate says, “We were founded in Gothenburg, the second city of Sweden. We’ve always been fiercely proud of being the underdog. We’ve always believed you don’t have to be based in one of the so-called big markets to be a world-class agency. In fact, it can be helpful to see things from the outside – most real people aren’t in and don’t really care about ‘AdLand’, wherever that is. So, when we got to know Huskies, we saw some of that same spirit – a top-class agency, with the humble fight of the underdog, and a creative capability as strong as anyone."

“The Irish economy is still a beast. The world’s tech platforms have their EMEA headquarters in Dublin. And it is the only remaining English-speaking member of the EU. Any agency network with ambition should want a geographical presence in Dublin: it’s a springboard to the world’s second-largest market and offers access to some of the world’s fastest-growing companies.”

Also present at Cannes this year is Boys + Girls, a leading independent Irish agency that is being supported in their international operations by Enterprise Ireland. “Geographically, Ireland really won the lottery when it comes to its ability to deliver brilliant international work,” says Pat Stephenson, co-founder & director, Boys + Girls. “A small country situated between Europe and the US and very much dependent on international trade. We understand how to best communicate effectively in a culturally resonant way no matter the language or market.

“Maybe that is why our own agency’s experience in international pitches has been so overwhelmingly positive. From Irish brands with a global presence like Roe & Co Irish Whiskey and Ornua [the company behind the world-famous Kerrygold butter brand], or international brands like Three mobile and I Love NYC, when the opportunity has arisen, we’ve often outperformed our international rivals.”

Geraldine Jones, managing director at Publicis Dublin, emphasises the city’s magnetic pull for international creative and strategic talent: “It’s our appeal to global creative and strategic talent that makes for a really great mix of national and international viewpoints. They are attracted to Dublin for a balance of the lifestyle with creative opportunities. This has a real benefit to local brands, as well as our international clients which include Heineken, Standard Life UK, and Dalata Hotel Group.”

It's Ireland's Time to Shine
It's Ireland's Time to Shine

It is not only the big agencies that punch above their weight internationally, as Sinead Boyle, managing director of Bloom Advertising, a small Dublin-based creative agency, says: “We have worked on campaigns for clients right across Europe, including the UK, France, The Netherlands, Germany, Italy and more recently Luxembourg. I like to think we are good at creating international work here in Ireland. We speak English, we like to travel, and we don’t carry that much historical baggage. Brands and clients seem to accept us wherever we go. There is a perception abroad that we are exceptional storytellers and that really helps.”

Ireland’s creative sector is not just thriving domestically; it is also carving out a significant niche on the international stage, propelled by a unique blend of talent, strategic positioning, and a celebrated tradition of storytelling. The nation’s creative pulse is hot right now, and the world is taking notice.

The Irish Lunch at Cannes, hosted by IAPI & Enterprise Ireland, is by invitation only. If you would like to attend, please register your interest here.