5 Minutes with…Kate Howe, President / Draftfcb London
LBB > What makes Draftfcb so unique? What makes your offering so enticing to clients?
KH > Draftfcb was the first global network to offer fully integrated solutions with one management team and one P&L; that makes us absolutely unique. There are lots of agencies that talk about it and struggle with it, but no one has the global network to support it. And then, our own 6.5 seconds That Matter operating system. Through a lot of research in different markets, we found out that the consumer would give an average 6.5 seconds to engage with a message. The whole point is that consumers are very time poor and we’re living in an age of too much information, so you’ve got to connect with them really quickly to make that 6 and a half seconds count. We’re very focused on getting a deep understanding on what matters in the category, to the consumer and then marrying that with big creative ideas. We put those two things together to drive what we call ‘Return On Ideas’, which is our own ROI around what matters to our clients, to build their brand, to increase their business and to fundamentally improve their sales.
LBB > Most of your work is on global accounts, but do you also work with locally based clients?
KH > We do. In fact, in London we’ve as much local business as we have global. We work with COI, The Post Office, Hyundai UK, Pizza Hut UK…; I could give you a whole long list. What’s really interesting is that we’re a full service agency for some clients, we are a digital media agency for others, a direct response one for some, a brand strategy and advertising agency plus stewardship agency for all their other third party agencies and in-house capabilities for another client. So there is a real diversity to what we offer our local clients that is a real testament to the solution neutral approach that we have.
LBB > You were quoted during your appointment in 2009 as saying that Draftfcb 'puts equal emphasis on the art of creativity and the science and math of marketing and accountability’.
KH > That sounds good - I can’t believe I said that…
LBB > I know, it’s quite impressive… So one of the questions we’ve been asking people is ‘what’s more important creativity or effectiveness’? In that sentence you’ve already said that they mirror one another, but could you explain?
KH > Joking apart, we really do believe that they are inextricably linked and I personally believe that enormously, which is one of the things that made working here so appealing to me. If you look at the Gunn Report and the IPA Effectiveness Awards, really great creative drives effectiveness. They are inextricably linked, and we go out of our way to treat them that way. So we don’t consider one to be more important than the other, they’re both absolutely equal. Again, the thing that makes our model so interesting is that we have as many data planners as we have brand planners, as we have creatives. I think that’s quite a good proof point that we put our money where our mouth is.
LBB > Draftfcb is one of the largest global advertising agency networks in the world. What do you see in the future for large agency networks?
KH > There’s a lot of talk about the fact that we’re in the era of big data and I think that is really true with the growth of social, local and mobile; all things are digital. Clients have got so much data at their disposal and we’re in a position to help them make sense of all that data and get the right and relevant insights out of that. To use it to inspire great creativity, I think is really where the future is. We are in the age of too much information but agencies who can help clients with managing data, understand what we can learn from it and turn that into creativity that drives business is, in my view, the role of agencies.
LBB > And that can be maintained within a large network?
KH > I think so. Absolutely. Well, I think if you’re set up to do it. The whole point is if you’ve got one P&L, then you don’t mind what you’re doing for clients as long as you’re adding significant value to their brand and they are remunerating you appropriately.
LBB > Last spring Draftfcb London merged with digital house Blue Barracuda. Can you tell us how this came about and what you each bring to the party?
KH > Yes. In order to live our model to the max we really needed to add breadth and depth to our digital skillsets within the agency and to scale organically is really difficult in digital because of the need for so many different types of skillsets. We wanted to be very strong very fast and the only way to do it was through acquisition. We are doing a number of acquisitions around the world but we just got on and made it happen here in London. We met with many agencies but Blue Barracuda ticked all the boxes for us. They are a really grown up management team. They’ve been building a successful business for quite a few years. They’ve been doing some neat, innovative technology based stuff for some really good clients. There was some lovely overlap with some of our clients with no client conflict and it just felt like a good fit and clearly they felt the same as they’ve moved in. What’s really interesting, especially as they are now physically in the building and are fully integrated with us, is that you’ve got the robustness that comes from the approach that big brands and agencies bring to the party but when you assimilate entrepreneurial agile digital business into your culture it ups the energy. It makes everyone think in a broader way. It opens your mind to how fast everything can actually be done and so I think that we do complement one another a lot, in terms of speed and agility and entrepreneurialism married with kind of thorough, robust, big thinking. It’s quite exciting for me to be running it actually.
LBB > You joined Draftfcb in 2009 as their London President. Your CV is pretty outstanding, with past experience in senior roles at Nitro Ltd, Gala Coral, AMV/BBDO and Leo Burnett. How did you get into advertising?
KH > My Dad had an agency. I literally grew up in the business. I think I was doing work experience from about 10 years old. I spent every school holiday in his agency and so, when I graduated I just wanted to get into central London, into one of the big agencies and to get going. I used to say when I was little, when people would ask me what I wanted to be when I grew up, and that I wanted to be an agency receptionist, because I thought it was the most glamorous job.
LBB > It is though…
KH > It is, completely. Our receptionists are much more glamorous than me, everyday… And then I wanted to be an account exec because I thought “I want to go on shoots” and then it just kind of went from there, but it never occurred to me that I wanted to do anything else.
LBB > Can you tell us more about the role of President and how you manage to keep output so high?
KH > I just see my job as being about creating an environment which everyone can do their best work within. I try to share as much information and knowledge as possible with everybody and I also invite everyone to take some responsibility for their own environment. So, we have a team of people who are completely mixed across levels of seniority, different departments and they are invited to tell us what they would change about their environment, the systems and processes, the social culture… as we have to make an environment which they can enjoy more and feel great about.
It’s partly about creating the environment in which great work will be done and it’s partly about having a really strong connection with our clients; I do try to be really connected with our clients and actually I really enjoy it.
LBB > How do you select and find talent for Draftfcb?
KH > I was at a company conference late last year and our CEO, Laurence Boschetto talked about talent, which is always very high on his agenda and it’s all about aptitude, plus attitude. That really resonated with me and I formally launched it here in London. It’s now something that I consciously think of when we are recruiting. We have a really strong HR function here and our interview process works out whether people have the aptitude - the right skillsets - so at the final interview it’s actually about the attitude, it’s ‘are they coming here with a burning ambition to do great work and be an indispensable source of inspiration and partnership for our clients?’
LBB > Do you still enjoy advertising and if so, what is it about this industry that excites you?
KH > I love it. I think for me the industry is probably more exciting than ever because of the pace of change. If you can keep up, it’s just constantly opening up new possibilities and so, I think pitching now is probably one of the most exciting things you can possibly do because great ideas could, literally, come from anywhere. A client can ask for a TV campaign and you can win a pitch with something that doesn’t do TV at all, just that it’s a better idea. You have to think harder and smarter, for me that makes it more exciting than ever.
LBB > What has your favourite job been in the last year? Is there a piece that's really resonated with you and if so, why?
KH > No question it has to be our global Beiersdorf business. We pitched and won the global Beiersdorf business in late 2010, which is primarily the Nivea brand, among others. In the first four months of last year we had to create and launch a global campaign to relaunch the brand and celebrate its hundredth birthday and it ran completely through the line in 72 countries. We had retail assets, we had on pack stuff, and we had a lot of digital work. We had a partnership with Rihanna, huge outdoor campaign, a number of TV executions. It was stunning. I woke up in Hamburg one day, went to the airport and saw it all surrounding the airport perimeter. Landed into London, dashed to the office and saw it on the A4 coming in from Heathrow. Went out that night to Lisbon, landed in Lisbon and saw it in Lisbon on the way from the airport… So I saw it myself in three countries in one day, which made me suddenly realise what we’d achieved. The work looks great. It had a significant impact on their sales. Their share price went up as a result, it’s quoted by Beiersdorf’s global CEO and you can see it on their website as having done exactly that. It was phenomenally hard work; it was one of the highpoints of my career.