DUBLIN -- Tens of thousands of Irish people are leaving their debt-shattered land because they can't find work. But one frustrated job hunter, Feilim Mac An Iomaire, 26, has refused -- and captured the nation's imagination with an inventive PR stunt.
"SAVE ME FROM EMIGRATION," reads Mac An Iomaire's billboard in the heart of Dublin, the focal point for a social media-driven campaign that advertises his 10-month search for work and desire to stay in Ireland.
The effort, costing him about 2,000 euros ($2,800), has given him a priceless global spotlight for his skills as a marketer and dealmaker.
Barely two days after re-branding himself as an Irish everyman named "Jobless Paddy," Mac An Iomaire appears certain to have achieved his goal of landing a good job, most likely in Dublin, by the end of the month.
Between seemingly endless calls, tweets and Facebook posts from well-wishers and tipsters, the commerce and marketing graduate of National University of Ireland at Galway put on his best jacket yesterday for the first of potentially dozens of job interviews in the coming few weeks.
"I couldn't have imagined the effect my campaign has had. . . . I'm just overwhelmed now," Mac An Iomaire said before his first job interview.
Mac An Iomaire returned to Ireland in August 2010, full of optimism, after working for a year in Australia as a travel agent and events coordinator in a Sydney hostel. He had a few thousand euros set aside as he started a conventional job search in marketing.
More than 100 applications yielded only two inconclusive job interviews last year, a typical experience in a country suffering nearly 15 percent unemployment and experiencing its biggest wave of emigration since the 1980s.
Staying in his parents' home and living off state welfare of 188 euros ($269) a week, Mac An Iomaire turned from frustration to inspiration: If he couldn't land a job as a marketer, he'd showcase his marketing skills to land a job.
He purchased stock photos, persuaded freelance graphic designers and photographers to offer him cut-rate creative help, and negotiated a bargain deal from a major ad agency for a lone billboard slot.
The result is an advertising icon for Ireland's economic free fall from Celtic Tiger boomland to the brink of national bankruptcy.
The billboard, placed strategically on Merrion Road, Dublin's answer to Beverly Hills, piqued Irish media interest and set the Internet alight.
Commuters slow down to see the ad everyone's talking about.
"That's a work of genius. Exactly the kind of brains we need to keep in Ireland. There's an army of out-of-work Paddies, but only one Jobless Paddy," said accountant David Daly, 39.