How green are faraway hills?
|Aoife Nagle on how she and seven other young Irish advertising agency executives are getting on abroad, from London to New York, the Middle East to New Zealand|
Around 110 Irish people are emigrating each day, most of them aged between 25 and 44, the Central Statistics Office (CSO) reported last year. It is estimated that over 76,000 people emigrated from Ireland in 2011. I was one of them. Last August, I was offered a transfer from Vizeum Dublin to its London office. Upon my arrival in Triton Street, I was told I was being promoted from the First Division to the Premier League, which is a pretty accurate comparison.
It is tough and challenging every single day, which is exactly why I signed up in the first place. While embracing the opportunity, I cannot but help miss Dublin. So I decided to reach out to others who have also emigrated to discover their thoughts. Many of Ireland’s talented media, marketing and advertising professionals embarked upon new career opportunities overseas last year. I took a virtual globe trot and interviewed seven of these missed individuals to find out their motivations and reasons for heading off to pastures new.
The panel consists of seven executives. Claire Carroll moved to Auckland in New Zealand to join Spark PHD as media director. In Dublin, she worked as an account director at Mediaworks. Catherine Kearns is a planning manager with MediaCom in Sydney (pictured). She had worked with me as an account executive at Vizeum; Mike Callaghan left Google in Dublin to move to YouTube in London as industry manager; Catherine Fitzgerald, who worked as business director at Mindshare in Dublin, moved to Doha in Qatar as UM’s business director.
Amy Purcell works with The Marketing Store in London on Vodafone and was with Storm Promotions in Dublin. Catherine Forrest is an account manager with Google in London, having been with Mediaworks. Caroline Lennon left Mediaworks to move to New York to become marketing manager with Interior Management Inc.
WHAT PROMPTED THEM TO MOVE OVERSEAS?
Reassuringly, the general consensus on the reason for emigrating was career progression and life experience as opposed to job loss or recession-related episodes. Personally, there was an opportunity for me to work on the same clients in London and apply my expertise from home while gaining new experience in London. So, not surprisingly, I jumped at the chance.
Claire Carroll was looking for a sense of adventure and an opportunity to experience quite a different market. Catherine Fitzgerald moved to the Middle East and Doha. When asked why, she said Qatar is undergoing huge development in advance of the World Cup in 2022 and an opportunity arose to head up the UM office in Doha and develop the business at local level. She said it is an exciting time to be in Doha and experience the Middle East first hand.
Mike Callaghan, who now works with YouTube in London, said: “I wanted to get experience in the video advertising and evolving display industry landscape. Video is the fastest-growing medium and online display is going through an evolution as agencies and media owners develop ever more sophisticated technologies.” Amy Purcell, Catherine Forrest and Caroline Lennon all moved as they wanted to broaden their experience and skill set.
LIFE DOWN UNDER
Catherine Kearns, who works on P&G at MediaCom Sydney, enjoys the lack of recession in Australia as media spend has been flat for the last three years.
HOW ARE THINGS WORKING OUT?
All seven of the panellists are extremely positive about their experiences so far but admit it has been a challenging and character-building move. Claire Carroll says: “I landed in an excellent agency with buckets of resource, inspiring leadership and a mix of young and experienced enthusiastic team-mates. I’ll admit I underestimated the time required to get up to speed with the New Zealand market, media landscape, the different trading methods and so on.”
Mike reveals: “It's fantastic, I have been in the role since January 2011 managing the Aegis, Havas and IPG agency groups. Not only have I had the chance to learn a great deal more about online display and video but I have also improved my knowledge with regard to TV and social.” Amy says: “Excellent, I love it here. At the start I found the quick pace of life a little intense but now it is just a part of my daily routine.”
Catherine Kearns is working on the P&G business for MediaCom in Sydney and has the opportunity to deal with the Singapore and NZ offices to ensure campaigns are aligned or adapted where relevant across the regions. Catherine Forrest loves London, but admits: “I really miss home and the pace of life. The pressure work wise is immense. I’m working in a environment where learning is constant, which can be draining but hugely challenging.”
IS THE NEW MARKET WHERE THEY WORK MUCH DIFFERENT TO DUBLIN?
From a personal point of view, it took me some time to get my head around working with budgets in the millions rather than in the hundreds of thousands. You get used to it quickly though and at the end of the day it’s just a number. The daily task is making sure you are efficiently spending your client’s money to guarantee the campaign delivers all it set out to do.
As one would expect there are similarities across the markets but it transpires that for our ex-pats, it proves demanding and time consuming adapting to the different ways of working in cities around the world. Claire Carroll’s experience in New Zealand is that there are certain parallels – similar scale with a population of 4.1 million people spread over five main cities and several regional towns; strong links with a larger neighbour and a similar media landscape.
The NZ ad industry also faces challenges akin to Ireland's: loss of control with decision-making moving to Sydney or Singapore. Claire also finds it’s not so advanced in certain areas. Time-shifted viewing measurement just started in January; the TV digital switch-over only starts to roll out later this year and most areas of digital are less developed. Research is not as strong. There is no audience measurement of any kind for outdoor and TV ratings are 15-minute averages. There are no end breaks on TV and 20-second copy is non-existent.
Mike and Catherine Forrest both agree that in London, online marketing is much different. The split between media spend in the UK and Ireland is evident with a much high proportion of budgets being allocated to digital. For the government to live up to its mantra of becoming a digital economy, Irish businesses need to do more to embrace digital. In Sydney, Catherine Kearns enjoys the lack of recession as media spend has remained flat for the last three years.
HOW DO SALARIES COMPARE?
Not surprisingly, overall, our emigrants are more affluent in their new lives. Salaries are considerably higher in New Zealand. Claire says that similar to home it's a meritocracy and hard work is well rewarded. Without giving too much away, Amy says “let’s just say I’m happy”. Catherine tells us salaries in Sydney are substantially higher. This may be because the cost of living in Sydney is higher. While Catherine Forrest is reaping in the benefits of being paid in sterling, she says she still earns a much better salary. That said, her job is far more pressurised and demanding than in Dublin so the pay does need to be commensurate.
ARE WORKING CONDITIONS SUPERIOR?
In general, the working conditions are on a par. Catherine Fitzgerald says working in Qatar presents cultural challenges. Media is not necessarily done in the same way as in the UK or Ireland. Working conditions are similar in line with the Interpublic global network. Being fair-skinned, she worries a little about the heat in summer. Mike Callaghan finds that both the UK and Ireland have similar working conditions but believes that digital teams in Ireland have to be a master of all trades, while in the UK there are teams for specific disciplines. Catherine Forrest has no complaints about working for Google, saying “I’m very well cared for here.”
Personally, I think given the size of the agencies in the bigger cities such as London, it means overall there are better resources and training available which helps one’s career progression.
IS THE SOCIAL SCENE BETTER THAN DUBLIN?
All our emigrants agree that there is no place quite like home for a good pint, pub atmosphere and the craic. Claire finds that Auckland is quieter than Dublin and lacks the buzz. Mike finds London pretty similar but misses a good pint of stout in a pub like Grogans. For Amy, the only thing missing from her London social life is the people that she went out with in Dublin.
WHAT DO THEY DO THEY REALLY LIKE ABOUT THEIR NEW CITY?
From my own perspective, moving to a new city has proved hugely exciting. There is an abundance of things to discover, visit, see and experience. All my ex-pat friends agree that it is hugely exhilarating. Doing something completely new every week is a joy. Claire raves about the countryside in Auckland: “It’s absolutely stunning – perfectly conical, snow-capped volcanoes; rivers, waterfalls, mountains; rolling green hills; white sand beaches on the east, black volcanic sand beaches in the west; amazingly diverse forests; crystal clear aquamarine.” Catherine Fitz’s first impressions of Doha are positive. Everyone is friendly, it's a safe place and there is a buzz, aside from the fact that some areas in the city resemble a building site. Fellow Londoners Mike, Amy and Catherine Forrest love how every day offers something new. Amy is really making the most of her new abode. As a new year’s resolution, she printed off the Time Out list of 101 things to do in London and is working her way through it.
THINGS THEY MISS ABOUT HOME?
All our panellists miss their friends and family. Claire also talks about missing the ordinary craic and banter too. She says: “I never appreciated it fully before, there's nothing like it on earth. The way we spin yarns, speak so indirectly and can hold an entire 20-minute conversation without actually saying anything at all...well, it’s just hilarious and unique.” Everyone misses the good pubs, the Irish way, the slower pace of life, the people and the craic.
DO THEY SEE THEMSELVES STAYING ABROAD?
All interviewees agreed that ultimately home is where the heart is.
Níl aon tinteán mar do thinteán féin.
Aoife Nagle is a senior account manager at Vizeum London