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Building a Career as an Art Director in Advertising: Meet Associate Creative Director, Ciara O’Meara

By August 25, 2018 No Comments

Ciara O’Meara is an award-winning, Associate Creative Director hailing from the west of Ireland. After studying Multimedia and Creative Advertising in Dublin her career began at Ogilvy & Mather in 2008 making work for global brands such as Coca-Cola and GSK. From there she joined integrated agency Brando and within 2 years helped the agency win Ireland’s first digital Cannes Lion for O2. She then moved to DDB Canada where she continued to be awarded for her work and in less than a year was on the Canadian Strategy Top Art Directors list, twice.
Now, she is based in London. Currently at Joint London since working on Amazon Global, Kettle Chips, Thatchers Cider and TSB. Before here she was at BETC as lead creative on Danone and Rimmel. While there she made the first song scientifically tested to make babies happy for Cow & Gate gaining the brand a UK number one, created new global brand campaigns and positionings for both Bacardi and Rimmel and helped bring back the hunk for Diet Coke.
By evening she volunteers with She Says as a committee member and as a Who’s Your Momma mentor – supporting young women in advertising with events and workshops.
By night she draws her Twitter followers and has sketched over 600 portraits for her blog – #TwitollowerSketchesCiara O'Meara - Advertising - Associate Creative Director

For Creative Girls: You have so much Advertising experience, and you’ve been engaged in different aspects of it. Can you tell us about growing up and how your childhood/growing up influenced your Career in Advertising/Creativity?
I grew up in a small city in the west of Ireland called Limerick. My mum is an artist, teacher, and trained graphic designer. Because of her a lot of my early memories are to do with some form of creativity. We would do everything from batik making to painting and going to galleries and craft fairs on the weekend. One of my favorite things was going to these art fairs with her and help on her painting stand as I would get to go around and see lots of different crafts and creatives there.

When you decided that you wanted to be in Advertising, how did you get your first job and how did that lead to the next?
I got my first job at Ogilvy & Mather, Dublin. They offered a placement to the Advertising Masters course I did. We all had to interview and show our books and luckily my then creative partner and I got it. However, they wanted to pay us peanuts and after three months I just couldn’t afford to stay there on such little money so we left. We then got offered two proper paid jobs and picked a great independent agency called Brando (now called In The Company of Huskies).

You are an Art Director as well as a Writer, that’s a beautiful combination and sort of feels like you’ve got the best Superpower combo. Which came first and how did you add the other one?
It’s great to be able to do both and I do believe that all great ad creatives can learn to craft both skills. We are creative people. Our ideas should not be locked to a picture or words. However, it does take double the practice and time.
For me neither came first, I was never really one without the other. Even as a young child I would write books and draw the pictures to match. I’m still proud to say I won ‘Write A Book’ at age seven! At school, I loved English, Art, and Music and I’m actually trained to be a classical flutist while in school. Then when college came around I thought about studying English or going to Music or Art College but I didn’t want to give any of them up. With a bit of research, I found a Multimedia course where I could do them all and more.

You’ve done so many amazing campaigns! A lot of Creative people often have to battle with having clients who don’t understand or appreciate wildly creative executions. Have you dealt with clients like that? How have you been able to work around this type of struggle and still do amazing campaigns?
The first thing every Advertising creative needs to realize is that we are that exactly that, ADVERTISING creatives. The work we create needs to sell something. Just looking pretty won’t cut it. To sell something right we need to understand and listen to clients about what they want and need their brand/product/service to communicate and achieve. When you know that it’s easier to discuss work and justify how your idea can answer those objectives. If those conversations are always hard then someone isn’t clear about what the goal is.

How do you combine your day job with side projects and other creative pursuits? Do you have a daily routine you stick to?
I bought myself a Tardis! Honestly, it’s not easy. Advertising is a demanding job but I just force myself to get to that event, do that course, design that extra project in an hour or two at the end of the day or on Sundays. I always feel better for it so that makes me want to find that time for myself.

What are your favorite tools for Art directing and Writing?
For writing, I love Google docs (currently typing this in one), my Apple notes app that syncs on my phone and laptop and randomly a case altering site called I think it’s an art director/writers dream since it clears and creates formatting for all programmes.
For art direction, a pen, and paper. I have a collection of sketchbooks I draw in for my blog #twitollowersketches. Plus I always draw up my ideas on paper before hopping onto any of the Creative Cloud apps.

Your work has received so many recognition and you do a lot of volunteering. What legacy do you hope to leave and what changes do you plan on enacting?
My aim has always been to work with great people and make great work. A lot of super talented people have given me their time and thought me what they know. I want to do that for others and pass on that time to help nurture young talent like I had.
Unfortunately, the industry timelines are becoming faster and faster and the time to learn from people with great skills, therefore, becomes harder and harder because the work just needs to go out now. Or yesterday! Sadly hugely important crafts like typography, proper art direction, drawing, creative writing etc. are being forgotten about because of this. I’m currently planning on trying to help change this by creating a calendar of events to help these crafts get passed on. Stay tuned.

Tell us about 3 women you admire.
Cindy Gallop. For her undying energy to make a change in the industry and encourage others to do the same.
Laura Jordan Bambach. Because she is a mother, creative director, an agency founder and an activist for female creatives all in one.
Last not least my Mum. Obvious but true. She gave me the gift of creativity.

Your favorite books and websites.
Books for advertising inspiration in both life and idea:
‘It’s Not How Good You Are, It’s How Good You Want To Be’ by Paul Arden
‘Little Black Book: A Toolkit for Working Women’ by Otegha Uwagba

Websites I check in work most days:
It’s Nice That.
Creative Review.

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