From the Jaws of the Sharks

October 3, 2016 / Features

By Alex Reeves

The most memorable truth-nuggets from Kinsale.

I’d never taken the Kinsale Sharks seriously enough to bother going. It’s always seemed a frivolity – an excuse for London’s production companies and a smattering of agency producers to have a catch-up over Guinness and under the pretence of work. As Susie Innes wrote a few years back, “it has little kudos,” but it is “good craic”. 

I decided to see for myself this year. I couldn’t keep ignoring those emails from reps every year asking if they’d see me out there. And the prospect of more than a few pints of Guinness in a quaint Irish harbour town is hard to resist.

Of course it was good craic. Loads of familiar faces and a great environment to meet new people. I soon discovered that I should in fact be drinking the impossibly smooth Murphy’s Stout from Cork, not its more famous Dublin rival, and it flowed freely in each charming little pub (and there are more than enough of those).

But as a delegate, there was so much more to it than pints of the black stuff and diddly diddly bands. I found to my surprise that I was also able to stimulate my brain cells in the day before I killed them off in the evening.

In its 54th year Kinsale have shaken things up a bit. With Creative Social curating the speaker schedule, the content was consistently inspiring. While bigger festivals may have more celebrity speakers and ‘creative luminaries’, they are invariably hit-and-miss and often full of unoriginal platitudes. Every speaker at Kinsale held my interest and made me think of advertising in new ways.

Here are some of the best lessons harvested from the speakers’ presentations.


“The true power of creativity comes from a real belief in the transformative power of creativity, from a real belief in the best that humanity has to offer and for choosing interesting rather than doing the same old thing over and over again.”
- Laura Jordan Bambach, Creative Partner, Mr President

“The people that are often responsible for the great work aren’t represented [in Cannes]. The technologists, producers, the young creatives they don’t get a look in. So Cannt is trying to remedy that.”
- Laura Jordan Bambach

“We all know diversity is a massive issue. Why on earth is it not happening on a grand scale across these massive agencies?”
- Laura Jordan Bambach

“It’s never OK to make someone feel bad about themselves just to sell something.”
- Laura Jordan Bambach


“We’ve fallen into a terrible trap. Lack of time outside of work is killing creativity.”
- Emma Perkins, Executive Creative Director, MullenLowe Open

“A good friend of mine said to me ‘you should only ever give 80%’. It was the opposite of what I thought being ambitious meant. The very ambitious tend to give 150% so if people like me give 80 no one will notice. I’m getting away with it beautifully.”
- Emma Perkins


“The parameters we set ourselves actually free us to do better work [...] So work in a box rather than outside of the box […] The important thing is you’ve got to find your own limits that energize you. […] You’ve got to get into something tighter because that’s when the work gets better.”
- Tom Kelly, Freelance Creative Director


“We do everything within our grasp to say thank you to our clients’ customers because great advertising is a thank you to customers from brands and great design is a thank you to customers who buy our clients’ products.”
- Maggie Mouat, Founder & CEO, Luvly New Zealand                      


“When you bring your version of the truth, your own experience and your own belief and the conviction of passion that come with it, and you apply it to human truths, that’s when you create magic.”
- Kenn MacCrae, Executive Creative Director


“My existence is simple. I serve to entertain and amuse.”
- Mr Bingo, Illustrator

“Work with people that can do things that you can’t do. It’s amazing to work with people that can write a beat, record a rap song, make a book or make a rap video.”
- Mr Bingo

“If you think you can do better than what’s out there, it’s worth having a go […] Don’t talk about it. Just do it.”
- Mr Bingo


“I professionally refer to [straight8] as a monster side-line hobby from Hell. It’s one of those things that seemed like a good idea at the time.”
- Ed Sayers, straight8 Founder


“Teaching takes you out of your commercial environment where you’re always making things for someone else. It’s really nice.”
- Fuscia MacAree, Illustrator


“I think we can all agree that communication has gotten a little lazy. Let’s provoke and scare ourselves, then persuade our clients and make work of consequence.”
- Susan Hoffman, Global Executive Creative Director, Wieden+Kennedy Portland


“It’s really important that we try to absorb things from different areas to make us the best possible in our field.”
- Louise Sloper, Head of Art, BMB

“Having space to think means that you end up coming up with much more creative ideas, rather than rushing and contantly working.”
- Louise Sloper


“I think fame has become a false god. People want to be famous just for the sake of it. To have a vocation is so important. While people are doing reality shows there are people who are following vocations – the nurses and doctors and sewage workers.”
- James Bradley, Founding Partner, 750mph

“FAIL is an acronym for First Attempt In Learning.”
- James Bradley


“I speak seven languages fluently and on top of that I can understand maybe ten or 15. […] The French version of World War II will be different from the Italian version, which will be different from the Russian version, etc. Somewhere in the middle you’re going to find an area of truth. That objectivity inspires me to know that I’m going in the right direction.”
- Jason Romyeko, Worldwide Creative Director & Commercial Artist

“I’ve lost all respect for job titles. […] We are all commercial artists making art for commercial purposes. […] Like artists, commercial artists have to put eyes on screens and bums on seats, but like artists they are responsible for setting trends or opening doors that have been closed for a long time.”
- Jason Romyeko

“We shouldn’t always be guided by research. We need to respect that consumers have taste, but they are waiting for cues from us, so we must with confidence remember that we are makers.”
- Jason Romyeko

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