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Michelle Hutchinson

Michelle Hutchinson Lead Nurse

Be Inspired Series

Tara West

Head Of Creative Development
Genesis Advertising

Tara West is a multi-award-winning creative with a long-established career in advertising. She is one of the most awarded copywriters in Northern Ireland and at the last Publicity Association of Northern Ireland Awards,she and her team picked up 11 awards

Most recently, she has created campaigns for firmus energy, SPAR, Health and Safety Executive for Northern Ireland, PSNI, First Trust Bank and Invest NI. Tara is also a novelist and is one of only six local writers to be supported under the Arts Council of Northern Ireland’s Artists Career Enhancement Scheme. Her first novel, Fodder, was published by Blackstaff Press and her second novel, Poets Are Eaten as a Delicacy in Japan, will be published in 2013 by Liberties Press. 

What do you do?
As Head of Creative Development at Genesis, I am the ‘guardian’ of creativity. Industry research proves that creative advertising is 11 times more effective than a simple selling message, which means creative advertising is better value for money for our clients.

It is my job to ensure that each of our campaigns is as creative and effective as it can be. Campaigns that I have worked on have included firmus energy, Spar, Dale Farm, Invest NI, First Trust Bank, Department of Justice (Domestic Violence & Counterfeit Goods) and the Health and Safety Executive for Northern Ireland (Carbon Monoxide and Farm Safety).

What does your job entail?
As well as coming up with ideas, writing scripts and rationales, and directing TV and radio production, I oversee the ideation process. Campaign strategy is summarised in the creative brief, which inspires the creative team to come up with ideas. I scrutinise the ideas for their strength and viability before we share them with clients: is this really an idea (a thought that can have many expressions, and is based on a truth)? Or is it an execution (a thinner, one-off expression that can only work in one medium)? Is this the expression of an idea that isn’t quite formed yet?

Once the ideas are explored and defined, they are evaluated against Genesis’s proprietary Effectiveness Predictor Matrix, which assesses their efficacy against the brief and other relevant factors. I enjoy the debate and tussle as we discuss the merits of each idea.

Is it 9-5?
Not really. Not unless you can turn creativity on and off like a light. I get a kick from ideation, whether I’m answering a creative brief, coming up with ideas for stories, or spotting gaps in the market and running imaginary new businesses in my head.

How did you get your current post?
I was appointed Head of Creative Development after having held a number of senior creative positions and proving my mettle on high profile public and private sector campaigns, including for the Public Health Agency (Mental Health, Breastfeeding, Sexual Health & Binge Drinking campaigns), Invest NI (Go for it campaign), Equality Commission, firmus energy, Spar UK and Brennan’s Bread.

Outline your career to date?

I entered the industry as a trainee advertising planner and then made the move across to copywriting two years later. I’ve always written — I wrote my first play when I was eight and my first novel when I was 12.

I was a freelance copywriter before being appointed Head of Copy at Genesis, and I’ve had the training to be able to take on a management role.

Tell us about your qualifications/training?
Much advertising training takes place on the job, but I do have BSc (Hons) Communication, Advertising and Marketing from the University of Ulster with a Diploma in Industrial Studies. I’m currently studying part-time for a Master of Artsin Creative Writing at Queen’s University.

Are there any projects you have been involved in which you are particularly proud of?
Genesis recently pitched for the advertising account for AF Blakemore Ltd, the biggest Spar wholesaler in the UK, and we won for our innovative creative approach based on a strong strategy. The fact that we were pitching against major UK agency TBWA Manchester made it particularly gratifying.

I’m also proud of the fact that Genesis picked up so many gongs at this year’s Publicity Association of Northern Ireland (PANI) Awards — we picked up 11 awards, more than any other agency, across every category. We won awards for clients including firmus energy, the Health and Safety Executive (Carbon Monoxide and Farm Safety campaigns), Spar and Invest NI. Our campaign for firmus energy did particularly well this year — not only was it recognised at PANI, it was also awarded at the UK Drum Awards, shortlisted in the All-Ireland Marketing Awards and won a Belfast Telegraph Business Award.

What qualities are required for your job — personal and professional?
You must be driven, resilient, able to listen, take feedback and learn. Patience is a valuable asset, but you need to be able to think on your feet too. Energy, curiosity and enthusiasm are essential.

What do you like to do in your spare time?
What with work, writing and family, I don’t get a lot of spare time, but one of my favourite things is making soup. I get a zen-like satisfaction from chopping vegetables and frying spices.

Tell us an interesting fact about yourself
I almost became a fine artist.

Who has inspired you most in your life?
My bright and funny mother, Joan Pollin, who encouraged me to read, and to write; Prof Ian Sansom, writer, teacher and critic; Stephen Bogan, MD of Genesis, who champions higher standards.

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