Dog Day Media are a fast growing media production company based in Cork city. They are best known for their viral videos where they sent a jar of Ballymaloe relish into space and their Kearys road trip around Ireland. In the latest installment of Cork Heads, photographer Brid O’Donovan shoots the guys in their working environment and discusses the company thus far.
The Birth of Dog Day Media
Alex: We all know each other from west Cork. Billy, William and Eoin grew up there and I go down there every summer. I’ve a house there all my life. We all found each other in media. I wasn’t in media but we all sat down three years ago or maybe a bit more now. Billy was halfway through Multimedia, Eoin and William were down from Dublin from their course.
Billy: We had just graduated and we were looking for work and there was nothing so we were back home. I did Multimedia and CIT, Eoin did Animation in IADT and so did William but he was the year ahead and already working here in this building in another company. Alex was in his second year of college. So we were back home, applying for jobs, nothing really happening.
Eoin: We’re from a really really small village. Nothing happening.
Billy: That drove us crazy so we had to do something. Alex was talking to us in the bar and we just realised. It was weird, we had never really thought about it before. It clicked, that we all had skills that nowadays you can just put together. Animation and video just go together now and Alex always had the hobby of filming. So then we were just like wait a minute, William and Eoin do stuff that we can put in videos. I’ve got all the software on my computer, Alex has a camera, I can even do us a website and a logo and then we realised that we could really do something. We started looking out for our first client. At the start it was through family and friends or any businesses that are close to you. Then we got our first project.
Alex: Free work. But there was that moment when Jim, who is Billy’s step dad, that was the first job we did. He had a furniture making factory in Skibbereen and we came out of that job and we got posted a cheque. We looked at it and were like “Wow, this is brilliant. How do we cut this in three?”.
Billy: We were asked “Who does the cheque go to?”. Then we realised that we needed a name, a website! The name means the hottest day of the summer and Baltimore is where we all would have met in summer so that made sense for us.
William: I wasn’t here at that stage though. I was in a job upstairs, in a stock media company called Wavebreak Media. I got jealous of the lads and I quit!
Alex: It’s funny looking back at the timelines because we did the Jim O Donnell thing up to January of that year and then we went straight into Ballymaloe because we wanted to set the company up, not to just make any old videos and any old animations. We wanted to do really current stuff and stuff that would go viral. We had that want from the start. To be the new modern types of animation and the videos that get the views and not just corporates which we now mix in. Before Ballymaloe came along we were at it for a year and we got that meeting going, again through friends and we sat in with them and they were like “Ok, let’s make a viral video.” At that meeting, and it’s rare to coin the idea at the actual meeting, we just said, “Let’s send a jar of your relish in to space.” That video really took off and our name was out there.
Ballymaloe happened in May of that year and then I was still in CIT and I wrote up the business plan for this media company and I applied for an internship to the Rubicon through CIT. I got through all the dragon’s den pitching and you gotta really sell it and prove it to the board that you have a business idea that they are going to invest five grand in to. They take five students and you get two or five grand to start it and three months in the year with a mentor. We had done Ballymaloe and gotten huge press and I decided to go and launch this company. Lo and behold two months later I got an email saying that I had been accepted. So I had a three month summer internship and it just leaded into my last year of college. I could put the foundations in for knowing what we were going to do while the lads were still working. We all concentrated on it a lot more after that. We started to get serious then after that.
Billy: I think we had a year then of living off the company but still working from home. In September, last year, Alex graduated and William left his job and joined up with us and we properly incorporated and became a company and got an office. We were nearly three years old but technically we are only fourteen months as the company.
Alex: When I graduated we said that we were going fully into this or we are going to go our separate ways. Things changed completely when we got into the same room. We are always handing USB keys to each other, handing files, grabbing files, checking out Dropbox.
Eoin: Even being in here and talking out ideas is so much faster.
Billy: Our first office was a two person office and there was five of us in there.
The Business Side of Things
Alex: I studied Business, Recreation and Leisure – nothing to do with media at all. I have always tried to start things, even in third year. I was washing all the neighbours cars, trying to start up a car valeting company. I used to sell horse manure to all the allotments in the area. I was always trying to turn things into a done deal. I loved business all the time. I’d write up ideas and I would read different magazines on entrepreneurship.
Billy: You need the business head. Loads of creative people and companies don’t go as far as they should because they are just creatives.
Eoin: You might avoid it for ages but there comes a point when you have to deal with it.
Working with your Friends
Alex: There can be pressure there. If you start something and the lads turn around and ask you what’s going on with it, you have to have something done.
Eoin: That even comes into the projects. You find that if you are working by yourself on a project you get too close with it, you need people to say that it’s not working and you might have been working on it for ages but you don’t want to deal with that moment until you have to. It’s good to get a second pair of eyes.
William: It’s been okay so far, there’s been no blowouts or anything.
Alex: That’s always been a worry because we are four buddies and we’re starting a business together.
Billy: The first day when we went into the office, rule number one was that if anything’s pissing you off you just have to say it. If you keep it in you’re just gonna be thinking about it for days. You have to say it how it is.
Alex: No grudges.
Growing Up and Doodling
Eoin: I worked on a ferry for ten years! Took pictures of the locals…. (laughs)
Alex: You had a webcam with about 20 pixels.
Billy: Every weekend or even just after school we’d go back to Eoin’s gaff because he had a computer and a webcam and we’d just do the stupidest shit in front of it. You’ve got videos of us when we were like 12 years old!
Alex: I remember having Dad’s video camera when I was about eleven. Mum used to have a craft’s night and I’d interview the people. I couldn’t even get it off the tape but I just loved playing with video, making short videos and learning to edit as I grew up.
Billy: Me and William went to primary school together and we’d do lots of drawing.
William: Illustrations was always a big thing for me.
Billy: Building models and characters. Me and William did some funny comedy sketches. I didn’t even think about all that and we actually all did that stuff right up along. (To William) Your Dad gave you an old Mac and we started keyframing guys being hit by cars and birds pooing on things.
Doodling Your Way to College
William: I always knew I wanted to do animation. I filled out one thing in my CAO form and that was Animation! I went to IADT with Eoin.
Billy: Their portfolios were so good they got 600/600 in them. They knew where they were going. I didn’t fill out my CAO form.
Alex: We were in the bull run in Spain and you came out of a tent, sweating.
Billy: My Dad rang and we were in Pamplona on our sixth year holiday.
“I’ve just been on the phone to your Mum, she said you didn’t fill in the CAO!”
“Yeah man, I didn’t fill it out. I’m taking a year out.”
“And who the fuck is paying for that? Get to an internet cafe and fill that out!”
I was like – shit! (laughs) I literally had a few hours. I said okay, what do I like. I like music, I kind of wanted to be an actor at one point and then I was like, I like animation. I didn’t know what to do. I saw Multimedia and thought that that would cover everything. So I just picked it!
Eoin: After college I did a bit of freelancing but I mainly went home, hung out with my Mum, saw a lot of Grand Designs. (laughs) It got a bit boring.
Billy: Actually Aaron did the same course as we did as well. You were two years behind us yeah?
Aaron: Yeah, I did Multimedia. It’s a good course but when you come out of it you’re a jack of all trades but master of none because it’s so varied.
Billy: That was perfect for us because little things like being able to build a website became really handy.
William: It’s funny how none of these creative courses ever touch on working for yourself. They are just setting you up just to be dropped into the studio environment.
Billy: In fairness with Multimedia, in our year they did a bit of that. Teaching you how to price things and you did case studies where a guy would come in and pretend to be a client and you had to have meetings with him and draw up a proposal.
Eoin: There was no emphasis on that in our college whatsoever. They were setting you up just to go work in a studio and specialise. Especially in that waiting period where you get hired by a studio, a lot of people will go and do a bit of freelancing. A little bit of education on how to deal with clients would have been good.
William: But now we’ve ruined ourselves for any studio. We work for ourselves!
Eoin: I don’t think I could ever work in a studio now.
William: It’s nice because there’s so much variety in this whereas if we worked in a studio we would just be specialising in backgrounds or straight up animation. In this we do everything.
Billy: That’s true. Our projects completely vary. You’re always on your toes. I’ve learnt a lot off the two animation lads. An amazing amount. They are trained animators. I just touched on it. It’s like having lecturers in the room. They bring you up to their standards and then you have three people with the same skills at the same standard.
Eoin: We’ve all learned about what our strengths are from that sense as well.
Billy: That’s happened over the past year, each person learning their strengths so that we can delegate the work.
Eoin: Billy and Aaron would be quite good in design whereas myself and William would be quite good at characters and animation. Even that feeding into projects and sharing that is good.
Eoin: We’ve worked with a lot of different people in Cork, which is nice.
William: We know a lot of people actually. Hurrah Hurrah did our branding. We always try and stay in touch with everyone.
Billy: I do love that about Cork, like. Obviously, you’d have big ambitions to send your work abroad but I do also love the fact that you get to know everyone in the industry, in the circle. Whereas if we packed our bags and went to London, you’d have to be unbelievably big and be there for years to even scratch getting a little circle of people. Here you meet the same people at events. It’s kind of cool.
William: International work is coming into us now anyways.
Billy: So it doesn’t really matter that we’re in Cork. With animation, you can do it from anywhere.
Alex: Anyone who is in a creative space in Cork it’s just great to meet them and see what they are up to. Everyone should be looking at making great stuff for Cork, for Ireland abroad because you can do it from anywhere in the world.
Billy: There’s a cool few people that we get on really well with. We’ll send them work and they’ll send us work. We use their design, or sound recording studio, they are all similar and we are all around the same age.
Eoin: It’s funny – up until a year and a half ago we knew very few people. A while back we met a sound engineer and now we are using him all the time. We noticed that there are people around Cork we can work with.
Coming Up Next
William: We are doing some TV work at the moment which is great because that’s the next step up really.
Billy: It’s great because only two months ago we were all talking about how much we wanted to get into that space, ads on TV, we could do that! How do we get involved. The last month has been sniffing around three different jobs, we’re doing one now.
William: It’s big learning curve with the standards for television because nearly all of our stuff is based on the web.
Billy: It’s a whole new ball game in terms of specs.
Alex: Going international as well. We’ve got our first production, our first animation over in London and that’ll come back again.
William: Originally there was a version in English and in Arabic because they had a huge percentage of Arabic users with this App and now they’ve come back to us again with Russian and Portuguese. All these languages are a big of a challenge.
Billy: Animation is quite easy to export in a way because you can do it remotely. Video, again we’ve sniffed at a few jobs that may pay us to leave the country and that’s something I really want to try and do. Turn travel into work. If someone likes our brand and what we do so much that they ask us to leave the country and film that would be a big goal fulfilled for us, in terms of video.
Alex: Basically over the next while we’re going to hit out one or two more bigs ones like Kearys was over the summer. That was great, we got a good bit of publicity there. But I’d like to see two or three more on scale bigger than that over the next year.
William: That’s our goal as a company. Not to be that company where people go to with an idea and ask them to make it. We want people to come to us and say we like what you do just make something.
Billy: We are getting there. We have a list of companies that like our work and just say come at us anytime you have an idea. So if we come up with something we can go through that list and and be like “Oh, that would really suit them”. That’s the goal where that’s where your work’s going.
Alex: We’ve really noticed in the last three months that that’s what has happened. We have a list of about eight people who have said, if you have an idea for us just ring us.
Billy: We had a few spots in the papers and the radio and obviously with the Kearys project so news has gone round. Alex has done a lot of talks, panel discussions, workshops and all that sort of thing. They’re great because everyone is tweeting at them and Alex will pitch our company and videos and that’s our advertisement right there.
Alex: Our reputation has gone up a lot as a media company. We are getting invited to talk at all Cork events, marketing events and all that.
William: That’s the extent of any marketing we have done for ourselves as well because we’ve never had to go and look for work.
Alex: We want to be that creative studio who can just come out with these ideas and people will come to us. We keep an eye on the variety in our work and we don’t let things fall into a routine. We will openly say that. The web changes every month. There’s new styles out there, new movements, new trends. Your mind is constantly changing. You’re always thinking – What will work now? I’d look at the big viral sites every day or two, like Reddit.
Billy: William will keep us up to date with animation and vimeo. He’s very quick to see a new style catch on. The lads keep tabs on the big animators, show us their work and we’ll see if we can try it out.
Eoin: A lot of the time if we see something we like we will try to incorporate that into the next project we are doing.
Alex: We’re never in a position where we would copy something. It’s weird. People have asked us to copy things in the past. Don’t they see how damaging that would be for your brand? We’ve had to turn clients away because of that. We have to show a bit of our twist, a bit of our work and hopefully at the end of it something will come out!
Billy: Our social media has definitely gotten better because, with Facebook especially, it’s good to be a bit transparent. To show your personal side, you know? Not to just be a brand, not to just be a logo. We like to show us having the craic. That’s why people will share your videos. People are so used to using Facebook as their personal profile, for them to see something then acting really business-y kind of doesn’t make sense. You have to act like a personal profile. Your audience get to know you.
Eoin: A lot of the time we will do a video that is not for a client, they are for us but the thing is people don’t want to sit down and watch an explainer for another company. Other companies want to watch that. If there’s a big project like the Ballymaloe or the Kearys Roadtrip people will watch that.
William: We don’t share anything that’s not original either. We don’t share what’s happening or anything like that.
Eoin: Solitary Monkey
Billy: The lads went to Fota to film an ad for a tiger and Eoin spotted this really solitary looking monkey and then made a French/perfume ad style thing. It blew up. It was on the front page of Reddit, third one down and got 200,000 views.
Eoin: It took ten minutes to make.
William: My favourite was probably Eazy City because there was a lot of character animation and I was trying some new techniques and they were a great client.
Alex: Ballymaloe was my biggest brainchild but definitely the toughest thing I’ve done. You’re pretty much stressed for two months but yeah, probably Ballymaloe. Ballymaloe had it’s quirks as it was the first time it happened, first time something went viral. We all got into a sitting room on the weekend, the phones were going off, we were getting booked to be on TV, on radio, interviews with newspapers. Now we know how that works, we know who’s going to ring us but that time we were like “What, it’s the Examiner, what the…?” That was fun but stressful. I did it during my last year in college and my exam results went to zero. I was studying weather patterns and helium and weight ratios. In the end Kearys and Ballymaloe were the best.
Billy: To be fair the Holy Cow one was pretty fun and stress free. If you think about it. The end result, the recording it was so laid back.
Alex: The Pavilion was great because we had a greenhouse and it was the first week of hot summer that year.
Billy: Ah, in a greenhouse, it was so hot and sweaty. The hottest days of the summer and we were working in a greenhouse. It was crazy.
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