26 Questions with B2B Agency Leader Kate Howe

The Managing Director of gyro London is the first in our series of EMEA Agency Interviews

May 30, 2017

agency interview

This post originally appeared on the LinkedIn Marketing Solutions EMEA blog.

Acquired by Dentsu Aegis last year, gyro is the world’s largest creative agency dedicated exclusively to B2B marketing. That makes Kate Howe, the Managing Director of gyro London, an ideal subject to kick off our new EMEA series of interviews with B2B agencies. The agency interviews are nothing if not detailed: we put Kate on the spot with no less than 26 questions, exploring everything from her zombie apocalypse survival strategy to her views on media transparency and the use of data for B2B marketing, to what the future holds for gyro and Interprise, the B2B media agency it’s merged with as a result of the Dentsu acquisition.

Scroll down to hear what she had to say – and look out for more interviews from EMEA B2B agency leaders coming to our blog soon. And if you can’t wait for more insights like these, sit back with a copy of our Global Agency Interview collection eBook, available for free download here.

1. What did you have for breakfast this morning?

Homemade muesli, and I’d like to say green tea but unfortunately it was with multiple cups of black coffee instead.

2. What’s the last great thing you binge-watched and why?

I rarely get time to binge watch, but something that left an indelible mark on me recently was the BBC documentary on David Bowie — The Last Five Years. It was like an artwork, and as a lifetime Bowie fan (a person who is not a Bowie fan, is there even such a thing?) I can watch it again and again and again.

3. What’s the industry buzzword that annoys you the most these days?

How long have you got? Big data. Brandscaping. Content Marketing. Integration. Let’s talk about integration. As all agencies battle against this never-ending march to defend their own turfs there have been endless debates over how best to simplify fragmentation and data and the formula that everyone seems to have suddenly understood is integration. But it is a word that is being thrown around even by those agencies that are failing to deliver on the promise of integration. With the recent merger of media agency Interprise with gyro I understand not just the necessity for a new integrated agency model but also how complex it can be. Put simply, for me integration is building an agency around clients (and their customers) and not channels.

4. Where do you stand on the media agency transparency debate at the moment?

I don’t think it is just an agency issue, nor simply an advertiser issue. Add to it the transparency debate surrounding Google, Facebook, Twitter -- this spring they collectively got a dressing down from the Home Affairs select committee over fake news. And the growing boycott from advertisers over Google’s offensive and derogatory content that sits on its platform. Google is of course promising to overhaul its policies around content and offering better controls for advertisers. But we have to be mindful that transparency, trust and brand safety are all at stake. The solution in my view: It has to start with working towards meaningful business goals. 

5. What’s the last great book you read? Why was it great?

I am not big on fiction. I recently re-read Robert Greene’s The 48 Laws of Power — the author who was famously called “Hip-Hop’s Machiavelli”. From Queen Elizabeth to Louis XIV and beyond it is a fascinating illustration of the tactics of those in power.

6. What’s your favourite vacation spot?

Anywhere with my partner, with a glass of champers, and where there is no wifi.

7. What’s the biggest change in the agency business since you started?

Technology and the revolution it has triggered between marketers and the marketed.

8. How have you (and your agency) adapted?

The future belongs to the fast. So it is not just the case of having adapted, we are on that journey all the time. At gyro we believe: It’s not about media anymore, it’s about precision.

It’s not about creative anymore, it’s about feeling. Our full service offer is build around the marriage of context and content, of precision and feeling.

9. What’s your proudest moment in business?

In my Leo Burnett days when a client I really respected at Heinz-John West said to me “Kate, we are in awe of what your agency can do for us”. This was after we had made the highly awarded John West ‘Bear’ ad and also presented econometrics to prove that they shouldn’t continue their traditional Xmas price promotions, as a result of which they made a great deal more profit. I’ve strived ever-since to make all my clients feel that way.

10. In life?

That’s a hard question! Perhaps being able to put my goddaughter through private education and seeing her grow up into a wonderful young woman full of potential.

11. What’s the most important way the rise of social media, from YouTube to Facebook to LinkedIn, has changed the way companies reach their audiences?

It has provided us with some amazing tools to provide our customers with seamless and synchronised customer experiences.

12. Digital ad spending is poised to surpass TV ad spending. Is this a problem for agencies or an opportunity?

Definitely an opportunity. And an opportunity that keeps on giving because we are just getting started. It’s not just about the sheer weight of the media money that is migrating from TV to digital, the conversations have to be about the content we are delivering, the context within which we deliver it and the resulting engagement we’re driving — the platform is almost irrelevant.

13. What is attractive to you about living in London?

Being able to walk everywhere. I love wandering to Parson’s Green at the weekends, buying great food at Bailey & Sage and Randall’s butchers, my local The Imperial pub on Kings Road, the Curzon Chelsea cinema….

14. How has the availability of data changed marketing (or not)?

Enormously. But really it is not data or another set of algorithms but insight that has the power to unlock the potential of everything we are (as a creative community) trying to achieve.

15. How do you use LinkedIn — for networking? For content marketing? Searching for talent? For sales prospecting? For staying abreast of news?

All of the above. As the head of a B2B agency I wanted to master it, and I’ve got huge value out of it over recent years.

16. How do you use LinkedIn advertising for your clients, and what’s working well for them?

We see it as a great platform for educating audiences through delivering content, and as an alternative to driving people to websites or owned content platforms. We’re also excited about being able to use LinkedIn Insight to profile traffic, to enhance ABM strategies and provide fresh insights.

17. What is your top-secret superpower?

Respect. As a leader and a woman I understand the power of respect, and especially the ability to respect your opponents. Only when you respect people and their opinions can you learn the art of persuasion, and go on to influence change, innovation and performance. I have low tolerance for complacency.

18. Who should play you in the movie version of your life?

Gonzo the Great from The Muppets. I just love him.

19. If you weren't at gyro what would you be doing?

Running a holistic health, fitness & wellness business. I was torn between this and advertising from the outset and it’s remained a passion. Ironic really as a career in advertising doesn’t lend itself to these things at all these days!

20. What do you have an irrational hatred for?

Slapstick comedy.

21. Best movies ever.

Blade Runner, The Godfather, Pulp Fiction, Star Wars, Moulin Rouge

22. What did you want to be when you grew up?

A receptionist at my Dad’s ad agency. I thought that was as glamorous and exciting as it could possibly get.

23. What's your most annoying habit?

My partner would say it’s that I’m always changing my mind, but isn’t that a woman’s prerogative?

24. How long would you survive a zombie apocalypse?

I have watched enough zombie movies to believe humanity will muddle through and in the end heroically cling on to life. Eventually we shall all live to fight another day.

25. What jobs did you have at school and what lessons did you learn from them that you still put into practice today?

My mum made me learn shorthand and typing when I was 16 so that I could always earn a living. I’ve forgotten most of the shorthand but I can still type fast. Aside from that, working in the local chandlery, learning to drive a power-boat and pour a decent pint behind the bar haven’t been that useful subsequently but it was great money and great fun at the time.

26. What are you most looking forward to this year?

Embracing the ‘new’ gyro — marrying the skill sets of our agency in London and Manchester with Interprise, which specialises in media planning and buying, search, data, programmatic and live events. And doing so with daring and grit.

You’ll find more insights from B2B agency leaders in our Global Agency Interview Collection eBook, which is available for download now.