His first year, he said, his goal was to "drink the Finns under the table." (A large Finnish contingent attends every year, and they're known for their consumption of stout.)
Now, however, Mr. McCloskey aspires to more serious pursuits. "The focus here is not on the work; it's on chemistry," he said. "It's about making and developing contacts and relationships."
Nicely put. For all its charm-and Kinsale exudes it-this creative competition is as much about the people in attendance as it is about what's entered. Those from the U.S. who have attended say, uniformly, it's a wonderful, uplifting experience.
"It was relaxed and easy," said Harry Cocciolo, creative director of Leagas Delaney, San Francisco.
This year's festival was Mr. Cocciolo's first Kinsale; he went with John McGleenan, principal of One Union Recording Studios in San Francisco, who is Irish and a Kinsale veteran. They hooked up there with John Butler, partner and co-creative director of Butler, Shine & Stern, Sausalito, Calif.
"The people all seemed to be there to have a good time," Mr. Cocciolo said. "It was refreshing. I can't imagine that it will ever turn into a Cannes, and I find that quite attractive."
Actually, what Kinsale should turn into is a question Irish adfolk have been grappling with. The festival is administered by the Institute of Advertising Practitioners of Ireland and run by a volunteer committee of members of the Irish advertising community.
Donald Helme, an affable Irish adman who is chairman of the Helme Partnership, Dublin, is the outgoing chairman of the IAPI's festival committee. His involvement with Kinsale extends over two decades, and he is its heart and soul.
Mr. Helme said the festival has not done a good job of marketing itself in the U.S.
Indeed, what's largely missing from this festival is U.S. involvement-aside from the single Yank judge each year. This year, that judge was Sally Hogshead of creative boutique Robaire Hogshead in Venice, Calif.
One of the elements that contributes to the festival's cozy feel also is a serious limitation: Kinsale is a small town, and the festival can accommodate only 380 people at its closing awards presentation.
Mr. Helme would like to see that grow to at least 500, so the ceremony could attract better speakers and address key issues that face the ad community. But the festival would have to leave Kinsale to do so, and risk losing its unique character.
Mr. Helme said the Kinsale festival has attracted some good U.S. entries in the past, and he has visited New York and Chicago to drum up interest.
This year, the festival sent out a limited mailing of cards calling for entries. They contained catchy headlines that compared the event to other shows. One read, "It's like Cannes without the bikinis, or the politics."
Some comparison to Cannes seems apropos. Both are festivals where you can screen all the work that's entered. But, given the significantly lower volume of entries in Kinsale, that doesn't take nearly as long as it might in Cannes. The total number hovers at just under 1,000, and this is divided between radio and TV-there are no print or new-media awards.
But that's about where the similarity ends. This is a decidedly Irish show, with a very Irish feel.
"We encourage people not just to enter but to come, to shoot the breeze and have a pint," Mr. Helme said. "It's our way of talking about advertising in a relaxed way that's meaningful to us, not a high-pressure Madison Avenue or West End of London kind of way."
The only U.S. work entered directly this year came from Leagas Delaney's San Francisco office and from Butler, Shine & Stern. There was a smattering of Australian and Dutch work, but the bulk of the winners were from London, where the festival continues to draw work from top agencies.
LONDON SHOPS STAR
Leagas Delaney entered and took the Grand Prix this year with an imaginative spot for the BBC. Bartle Bogle Hegarty entered work for Levi Strauss & Co.'s Levi's and Dockers, while Lowe Howard-Spink entered work for Smirnoff and Labatt's.
Free-lance copywriter David Fowler, who was a judge at Kinsale several years ago, liked the fact the show revolved around U.K. work, not U.S. efforts, as Cannes often does.
"It's a great way to compete against the European standard," he said. "There are not that many shows where you can say that. It's a unique arena to see how your work stands up."