celebrating brilliant account women

From Client To Agency: How Kate Howe Became One Of The Finest Account People

Celebrate with us as we recognise some incredible account people. This week it is MSQ executive director Kate Howe

By creative salon

An all-too-rare suit, the executive director at MSQ Partners Kate Howe, has worked both client and agency side in her three decades career working in the industry. Howe probably had advertising running through her veins. Her father ran his own ad agency in Windsor.

Howe was seconded to Burger King as UK marketing director in 1996 and landed her first agency leadership role in 2001 as managing director at Leo Burnett London. Three years later, in 2004 she switched back to client role and joined Gala Group as board-level marketing director, becoming group marketing director when the company merged to form the Gala Coral Group a year later. 2008 brought her back to agency life for a senior role as president of Draftfcb London where she worked closely with clients such as Post Office, and Nivea before being appointed CEO of Draftfcb Europe in 2012. Whilst there, she led the acquisitions of Blue Barracuda and Inferno. Howe is known for her determined spirit and as someone who always relishes a challenge, and her next adventure led her to relaunch gyro Communications in the UK, which was subsequently sold to Dentsu where she then joined the Dentsu UK board.

In 2020 she joined MSQ and is now responsible for shaping and implementing the group’s growth strategy and multi-disciplinary proposition. Howe also sits on the Board of Trustees at Macmillan Cancer Support.

MSQ CEO, Peter Reid says: "Kate must be one of, if not the most popular woman in UK advertising – among clients, intermediaries and agency folk alike.

"She has combined leading client-side roles with having run some of the largest consumer and b2b agencies in the world, giving her fantastic perspectives, not only on what makes a great agency, but also of the business and commercial contexts in which agencies and campaigns need to operate. Such skills are often in limited supply in the industry and this combined with her drive and passion has set her apart from her peers in building and managing client relationships."

All of which may make Howe sound hugely entrepreneurial and fiercely ambitious. She is both these things and so much more. For those who know her and have worked with her - what really does shine through is her warmth and her empathy. And never one to sit still, when asked what more she's hoping to achieve in the future, this is what she says - study psychotherapy "to get better at understanding and helping others."

Global marketing procurement consultant Tina Fegent describes Howe aptly as a "visionary leader" and adds: "She has really transformed MSQ into a future-focused creative and technology group. She has a rare combination of strategic insight, commercial acumen, and collaborative spirit that makes her a real pleasure to work with.

"I admire Kate's passion for delivering excellence and innovation for both MSQ and their clients as well as her commitment to supporting causes such as Macmillan Cancer Support and the IPA. She is a true supporter of all things marketing procurement and that is really appreciated by the industry."

Kate Howe on being an Account Person

Tell us about one experience you’ve had as an account person that made you really proud

Turning around gyro UK from when it was 13 people and not doing so well to around 50 people when we sold to Dentsu Aegis, merging in their B2B media agency and acquiring and integrating a brilliant research agency B2B International such that we were then closer to 200 people. That was one extended experience that made me very proud. Clients were won (and lost), careers were started and advanced, friendships were formed, lessons were learned, awards were won, weddings happened, babies were born and many of us are still connected today. It was a special time.

What’s been the biggest learning you’ve had in your career?

The very unique and special power of diverse teams. I feel it’s only in the last five years I’ve had the opportunity to really experience how much better it is to work in truly diverse teams of people. When you find the right people and bring them together in the right environment then the quality of the debate, the ideas and the work rises to a whole new level. And it’s a thoroughly enjoyable to participate in.

What’s that one skill that the best account people you know have?

The ability to think. I could say listening or being enthusiastic but neither of those matter if you can’t think smart thoughts. No-one needs a bag carrier. Everyone needs people who can add value and if you can do that by showing initiative with original thinking you can make a difference.

What makes for a strong, productive client/agency relationship?

I’m tempted to say shared ambition here. A mission that unites both parties. This needs to be underpinned with open and transparent communication born of trust and a genuine care about the business outcomes, about the work and for each other. If you have a shared goal, trust and you both care a lot then you’ve got strong foundations for shared success - and being successful together does tend to make for strong, long-lasting relationships.

What advice would you give to people wanting to be a brilliant account person?

Go for it! It can be a very interesting and rewarding career and if you really want it you can make it happen. Keep your head up and looking outwards. Read widely. Join the IPA and/or other relevant trade bodies. Expect to work hard. Side-step any politics. Be good to all those around you. Aim to deeply understand your client’s business. Embrace coaching, maybe seek out a mentor. Make time to have some fun and try to keep it all in perspective. It’s a brilliant job but we aren’t saving lives.


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