2 Minutes With ... Shaun McIlrath, Global Chief Creative Officer at Iris

Inspirations and favorite work, from Adidas to Pizza Hut

Photo illustration by Ashley Epping

Shaun McIlrath joined Iris in 2008. He served as executive creative director for the U.K. before rising to global chief creative officer in 2016. 

He has overseen global campaigns for clients such as Adidas, Guinness, Samsung, Domino's, Pizza Hut, Mini and Jeep. The Jeep "Portraits" spot won the Super Clio in 2016 for being the best commercial on the Super Bowl. 

We spent two minutes with McIlrath to learn more about his background, his creative inspirations, and recent work he's admired. 

Shaun, tell us... 

The town where you were born. 

Belfast, Northern Ireland. Amazing people. Awful politics. Completely screwed up by religion. Basically, a little Guinness-drinking microcosm of the world. 

What you wanted to be when you grew up. 

A seagull.

How you discovered you were creative. 

When I was 10, an English teacher told me I should be a writer. But as it didn't seem to involve soaring majestically or stealing fish from trawlers, I wasn't terribly interested. 

A person you idolized creatively growing up. 

Bruce Lee. And an actor called Justy from The Belfast Arts Theatre, who wore fingerless mittens and let my girlfriend and I in to watch rehearsals when we bunked off school. 

A moment from high school or college that changed your life. 

I wrote some sketches for a Fringe Theatre show that were picked up by the BBC, albeit heavily censored. That led to TV, which led to advertising. 

The first concert you saw, and your favorite band or musician today. 

First concert was the Stranglers. I don't really have favorite bands these days, just favorite tracks that I play on repeat until I, and everyone I know, is sick of them. Currently that would be "The Clown" by Maribou State. 

Your favorite artist. 

Lisa Snook. Louise Bourgeois comes in a distant second. But, unlike Snook, she's not my wife. Banksy would be in there too—artistically, not matrimonially. 

Your favorite hero or heroine in fiction. 

Saga, the autistic detective from a Nordic noir called The Bridge. She's the freshest fictional character I've seen for a long time. 

The best book you've read lately. 

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr. 

Your favorite movie. 

As it's Christmas, Elf. But if the truth be told, I enjoy watching my family watching Elf more than I actually enjoy watching it myself. 

Your favorite Instagram follow. 

@textsfromyourexistentialist. Because the world needs more silly.

Your favorite creative project you've ever worked on, and why.

Noooo! That's like being asked to choose your favorite child. So here's a grandchild, by which I mean I wasn't directly involved in the conception, but I love this baby and all its siblings. It's 5 now, but when it was born it was a completely fresh voice, that's been much copied since.

adidas | There Will Be Haters
adidas Football | Never Follow feat. Paul Pogba
Your favorite creative project from the past year, and why. 

This film and app to make the U.K. aware that Pizza Hut deliver. We'd previously helped Domino's to 12 quarters of double-digit growth until a new marketing director moved the account. So there's a little slice of schadenfreude in there. It was also interesting to see how well a U.S. tone played in the U.K. market. 

Pizza Hut | Now That's Delivering
Someone else's creative project that inspired you years ago. 

"If You Let Me Play" by Nike. Levi's "Creek" is up there, too. And, given the sad passing of Paul Silburn, John West Salmon cannot be forgotten.

Nike | If You Let Me Play
Levi's | Creek
John West | Bear
Someone else's creative project that you've been envious of lately. 

Mother's Ikea Christmas Ad.

IKEA | Silence The Critics | #WonderfulEveryday
Your main strength as a creative person. 

Blind optimism. 

Your weakness or blind spot. 

Being a little too able to see other people's points of view.

One thing that always makes you happy.


One thing that always makes you sad.


What you'd be doing if you weren't in advertising.

20 years to life. 

Tim Nudd
Tim Nudd was editor in chief of the Clio Awards and editor of Muse by Clio from 2018 to 2023.

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