Aiming Higher


Ensconced in leafy Ballsbridge, a dozen or so doors up the way from the Schoolhouse Hotel on Northumberland Road, resides Target McConnells. The agency was the toast of adland in 2012, when, after winning Topaz and the GAA, it rounded off the year by picking up An Post – the whole nine yards, aside that is from the National Lottery, which DDFH&B has.

On entering the agency, a painting of 1916 revolutionary Michael Collins in full voice hangs to the right. Almost opposite, in reception, an Aer Lingus ad marking the 1958 International Theatre Festival faces the leather sofa for waiting visitors. But the coup de grace is the agency boardroom, with its Charlie McConnell portrait and a 40-year commemorative poster.

McConnell, after whom Target McConnells was partly named, founded Ireland’s most celebrated agency in Easter week 1916. As Hugh Oram wrote in The Advertising Book – the History of Irish Advertising, McConnell would trot out the same anecdote at every staff party, until the entire agency knew the words by heart and adland fondly embraced his sentiments.

“Three important things happened in 1916,” McConnell was heard say. “McConnells was founded, my son John was born and there was a little trouble down in Sackville Street.” The “little trouble” McConnell was referring to was, of course, the rebels taking control of the General Post Office (GPO) on O’Connell Street as part (and parcel) of the Easter Rising.

Almost a century on, McConnells gets reinvented and the new target is An Post. Charged with the job of making sure Target McConnells delivers is Geoff McGrath. He started out in adland and worked on Guinness in Arks. He joined Bank of Ireland in 1997 and helped develop the bank’s memorable ‘Ask not what your county can do for you’ GAA sponsorship.

Three years later, McGrath joined McConnells. He ran the group’s direct arm and added Eircom and AIB projects. In 2003, it was time to move on again. He joined Target, run by the inimitable Gary Brown. The agency dominated the An Post Direct Marketing Awards for clients like Diageo and went home with the Agency of the Year gong five years on the trot.
The mantelpiece and shelves in the Target McConnells’ boardroom are testament to the regard in which Target’s work was held, not least in winning the coveted diamond Echo award in the US for the world’s top DM campaign. In 2005, Brown sold the business to DDFH&B and WPP. Two years later, they set up a digital business, known as RMG Target.
Clients such as Vodafone, Bord G

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