Muiris Ó Riada

Head of Marketing - IMEA at William Grant & Sons

Ben Somerset-How

Client Director


creativebrief: Why did you choose a career in marketing?

Muiris Ó Riada: I remember a knowing feeling in my schooldays that business was the profession for me, particularly Marketing. From the outside I was fascinated to know how successful companies were run and specifically the discipline of how global brands were successfully managed. I decided to study Commerce to first and foremost have a wider business appreciation, then furthering my studies with a Masters in International Marketing from the Smurfit Business School in Dublin.

I’ve always enjoyed experiencing varied cultures. I consider myself very lucky to work in the global spirits business where I’ve been able to marry the two, now having worked in about 40 countries around the world. 


creativebrief: What do you think makes a successful career in marketing?

Muiris Ó Riada: Personally I revel in the sheer variety that working in Marketing brings. No two days are the same; there are constant demands on both your creative and disciplined sides, working with multiple agency specialists or internal departments, not to mention market, competitor and of course consumer matters. So for me the most important aspects to a successful career are insatiable curiosity, passionate leadership and a determination to get things done the right way.

creativebrief: And who is a great example of this?

Muiris Ó Riada: I have been incredibly lucky to have been part of the Marketing Academy. I have had the privilege of meeting some incredibly inspiring leaders, all with varied backgrounds, yet universally successful within the very wide profession that is Marketing. It’s always hard to pick out your favourites but the highlights for me have been Christian Woolfenden of Paddy Power, Syl Saller of Diageo and Robert Senior of Saatchi and Saatchi. I particularly loved Robert’s mantra of ‘F*ck incrementalism’ – you don’t forget something like that coming from someone like him.

creativebrief: What do you think are the main challenges facing marketers today?

Muiris Ó Riada: I believe pace and focus are the biggest challenges. With so many distractions and demands on your time internally, with agency partners and consumer media distractions, it’s very hard to ensure you maintain a ruthless focus on your strategic objectives. It’s ultimately about striking a balance between the right levels of flexibility, yet maintaining a clear and focused head. 

creativebrief: How do you keep up with constant stream of innovation in marketing comms?

Muiris Ó Riada: I believe the Marketing Academy experience is unparalleled. I’ve had world class exposure to marketing comms innovation across faculty days, guest speakers and mentoring sessions. 

creativebrief: How does this impact your relationship with agencies?

Muiris Ó Riada: I would hope they’d say it leads to more informed demands on my part to ensure first class execution of our creative work. Probably the best example of this is the fact that Facebook featured Grant’s latest campaign, #IOU as a best practice case study. 

creativebrief: How do you know if you’re getting the best from your agencies?

Muiris Ó Riada: In global marketing you know very quickly! Our local markets are our customers and they’re rightly no shrinking violets in demanding the best outputs from us and our agency partners. In terms of inputs, you can quickly tell if you’re working with likeminded partners if they’re equally passionate and demanding the best of each other.

creativebrief: Of your recent work, what makes you particularly proud and why?

Muiris Ó Riada: I lead Grant’s whisky’s brand repositioning, launching the ‘Stand Together’ platform and rolling it out globally. It’s been incredibly successful for us, with the last chapter, #IOU, being the company’s most successful digital campaign with over 20 million views. Many whisky brands associate themselves with personal progress, however we wanted to celebrate the fact that success is a group project, not a solo pursuit. We’ve lived that mantra, one that’s been particularly rewarding as it’s instilled a rediscovered sense of purpose and pride in the company’s flagship volume brand.

creativebrief: How do you think marketers can raise the profile of marketing within their organisations?

Muiris Ó Riada: Simply put – deliver great work. Galvanise your team and the company around your vision, deliver work that meets it and motivates everyone to be part of its success. Raising Marketing’s profile simply becomes a by-product thereafter.

creativebrief: Do you see yourself as a generalist or a specialist, does it matter?

Muiris Ó Riada: I have consciously sought a generalist approach in my career in gaining global marketing and commercial experience. Too often people underestimate marketers ability to critically analyse wide ranging commercial challenges as well as delivering strong marketing comms solutions. I was determined to have P&L management experience in order to have the credibility to successfully drive a change agenda across the business.

creativebrief partner the Marketing Academy is a non-profit organisation which provides a unique forum for industry leaders, marketing gurus, entrepreneurs and inspirational people volunteer their time to inspire, develop and coach the next generation of future leaders. The Marketing Academy gift a maximum of 30 ‘Scholarships’ each year to the fastest rising stars in the marketing, advertising and communications industries. A team of high profile mentors and coaches develop these stars through a process of mentoring, coaching, networking and personalised learning. 86 mentors, 30 Coaches, 20 Judges, 36 companies and an owl called Merlin all provide their time, resources and knowledge to assist in shaping the minds of our future leaders. Furthermore as a vital part of their curriculum all Scholars volunteer at least one day per year through our Donate28 initiative to work with charities who need bright young marketing minds. For a full list of the individuals involved, see the Sherilyn Shackell interview.