Susannah O’hUadhaigh, junior art director at The Monkeys Aotearoa, recently participated in AWARD School’s online program, delivered virtually for regional and overseas students. Campaign Brief caught up with O’hUadhaigh to chat about her experience with AWARD School and what’s in store for the future.
Prior to AWARD School O’hUadhaigh was living in her home town of Dublin studying visual communications. After finishing university she landed a job as a designer even though designing was not her main passion.
“I was excited to see how an agency runs,” says O’hUadhaigh. “I am proud of the work I was doing there but two years in I had started to feel like I was dreaming up ideas bigger than what my hands could create.”
O’hUadhaigh was determined to make a career in advertising and so the journey to New Zealand began.
“My tutors at uni had always said I was better suited to art direction and, though the timing couldn’t have been worse, I decided to move to Auckland in 2021,” she says.
After many coffees and pints O’hUadhaigh found a creative partner, met with a few different agencies and the pair eventually found their perfect fit at The Monkeys Aotearoa where they have been working for the past year.
For O’hUadhaigh, advertising was always a natural fit.
“My parents raised me to ask for forgiveness, not permission, and at a young age I came to believe an industry built on interrupting someone’s day was a good place for me to end up,” she says.
“I learnt quickly that even the strongest passion needs craft but unlike many of the people I work with and look up to, I didn’t have any formal advertising training. It began to slowly affect my confidence. I knew I could do better and I was hungry to gain the skills to get there.”
AWARD School was recommended to O’hUadhaigh by a friend and AWARD School mentor.
“It sounded exactly like what I needed,” says O’hUadhaigh. “I knew if I did the course, I could learn the same amount in twelve weeks as I would in two years in the industry – and I was right!”
O’hUadhaigh said the Monday night lectures and Thursday tutorials were great, “I got the inspiration I needed to nail that next brief,” she says.
A lesson that O’hUadhaigh really enjoyed was understanding that some of the ideas that she had looked at everyday took two years to complete, “It wasn’t a wham bam thank you mam and done in a few months, like it seems from the outside!”
O’hUadhaigh says that although it was tough to juggle night lectures with full time work, the people she met and the group she worked with made it worthwhile, “One of our tutors said it was lovely to see how we were working like a team instead of individually, it was a lovely environment.”
For O’hUadhaigh, key highlights of AWARD School were learning from mentors and working alongside her peers.
Says O’hUadhaigh: “I learned that great work is a team effort. Though we were solo sketching week after week, it was the inspiring words of my mentors and fab classmates which kept me motivated through the late nights, and thus really made my experience.
“The most valuable lesson I learnt over the course is the difference between an idea and an execution. It was something I previously struggled with (and we wont lie still a little blurry) but I now know how to work through it and just how much tenacity is required to make, sell and deliver great work.”
O’hUadhaigh is looking forward to her future in advertising.
“To this day when I am on the phone to my dad, he still asks me ‘so what do I tell people you do?’ I want to keep growing and honing my craft so that one day I can create an ad which allows my parents to say ‘That’s Susannah’s!’”
As well as art direction, O’hUadhaigh is very passionate about helping girls and women go further in creative industries.
Says O’hUadhaigh: “I am so impressed by the work that The Aunties are doing in Australia and I’d love to be involved in making something similar happen here in Aotearoa.”
View Susannah’s portfolio here.