Industry Profile: GHO managing director Eithne McSwiney

By AdNews | 3 July 2018

Our Industry Insights Profile takes a weekly look at some of the professionals working across the advertising, ad tech, marketing and media sector in Australia. It aims to shed light on the varying roles and companies across the buzzing industry.

This week we speak to GHO managing director Eithne McSwiney. 

Time in current role/time at the company:

Two years

How would you describe what the company does?

Solves business problems with collaboration and creativity which drives better outcomes, faster.

Define your job in one word:


I got into advertising/ad tech/marketing etc because:

I've always enjoyed solving problems, I dabbled in management consulting briefly but I found it too profit, not outcome, focused. Ideas, innovation and great interactions get me out of bed in the morning.

What’s the biggest challenge you face in your role?

Managing change. Our business is changing all the time, with constant tech / competitors / customer behaviour etc changes.

My challenge is in making sure that we embrace change without leaving behind the proven principles of good strategic management and what makes teams connect productively and keep motivated.

What’s the biggest industry-wide challenge you’d like to see tackled?

Its a tough time in the industry. Marketing and creative teams have a powerful role to play in solving business problems. However, often marketing is pushed downstream.

The people we work with have the intellect and the tools to impact the business broadly they just need break through the structural (or sometimes political) barriers to new ideas and solutions.

They just need the right environment to engage in discussions about the broader business challenges which is what we do at GHO. We don’t want to make an ad about a product.

We want to understand the customer insight, interrogate and / or build an end to end experience.

If we happen to make some comms around that solution so be it, but our focus is always on what's the business problem we are trying to solve. Being Independent, we have no agenda other then to put that first always.

Previous industry related companies you have worked at:

I’m lucky to possess two passports; Irish and Australian, so my career has been roughly split over both hemispheres. I went from a grad program in DDB Dublin straight into DDB Sydney.

I wanted to get more BTL experience so went from there to Grey. Then home to Leo Burnett for six years in Dublin where I was a board director. Back to Sydney, Wunderman as CSD, then M&C, Back to DDB and here I am at GHO.

I don’t know all the answers, but I like to think I know the questions to ask which is usually a good starting point. It’s great to work in an independent agency not reporting to London or NY or Dublin.

We report to the client who briefed us. Yes I am a director of GHO and yes of course I want it to be profitable - but, not at the cost of good people, not at the cost of wrong recommendations based on hitting targets and definitely not at the cost of compromising my own sense of value, ethics and social responsibility.

Notable ads/campaigns you have worked on

This one… quite relevant given Ireland just won the series!

Who is/has been a great mentor to you and why?

I have a few…

Shane McGonigle, MD of Leo Burnett. I worked with him for 6 years. He taught me to look up stream, not down

Becs Bezzina, MD RGA – I’d lik to say I mentor her too, we both pull each others heads in. I still call her the ‘teenager’ because she is skilled and smart and wise beyond her years.

Tom McFarlane – A wise council who has taught me the art of presenting and polish and the value of a great idea.

Mon Macleod- I’ve always been lucky to have great relationships/ nay friendship with clients but Mon has always been a stand out. I believe we trust each others openness and wisdom and have never taken it for granted.
And more recently… Peter Hosking, co founder and director of GHO. Who (thankfully having done it for 18 years) gives me guidance every day on how to, run a business, be a great leader, make the hard decisions, and most importantly …work with people you like. Not many people get training on the job to become a great MD so I feel very privileged to be under his tutelage, I am and constantly remind myself that I am a work in progress.

Words of advice for someone wanting a job like yours?

Love ideas, debate, creativity, and most of all genuinely like people, you can’t fake that.

If I wasn't doing this for a living, I'd be:

Coaching the first Irish women's rowing 8 to win the Olympics.

My mantra / philosophy is:

Work with people you like. Don’t do anything for profits sake. Invest in relationships and be authentic. If you never lie you don't have to remember what you said.

My favourite advert is (and why):

JFK Unsilenced. Strikingly relevant today and just won some awards in France to boot.

Music and TV streaming habits. What do you subscribe to?

Google play. I love having access to any genre, song, any time, any device. Netflix, meh a bit miss and miss these days but I’ll give them my $13 a month for now, provokes good water cooler convos if nothing else.

Tell us one thing people at work don’t know about you?

Hmm I think come across quite type A and decisive but actually I agonise every time I make a ‘hard’ call. Someone told me once… to do your job you have to have a bit of a mean streak in you. I don’t believe that. I think you can be tough, but fair, compassionate and kind. Everyone has their struggles, compassion and kindness goes a long way.

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