WHOSAY’s Kat Gates: It’s Our Job to Deepen Relationships Between Customers and Brands

WHOSAY Sr. Creative Director, Kat Gates, said that it's the ad agency’s job to “continually find ways to deepen relationships between customers and brands.”

Gates shared the insight at the New Jersey Ad Club’s 2018 State of the Advertising Industry SmarTalk Panel. The evening was moderated by Rob Schnapp, ECD of Coyne PR and president of the NJ Ad Club. Along with Kat on the panel were Lara Griggs, Chief Operating Officer of Y&R/NY and Alison Lazzaro, VP, GM Brand Marketing & Advertising at Prudential.

From left to right: Lara Griggs, Kat Gates, Rob Schnapp and Alison Lazzaro

From left to right: Lara Griggs, Kat Gates, Rob Schnapp and Alison Lazzaro

This powerful, all female panel had a dynamic discussion on agency models. Schnapp chose this particular panel to represent the different agency offerings. “We have representation from a large global agency, a world-class in-house agency from one of the most recognizable brands in the country, an influencer marketing agency and an integrated PR firm.” Schnapp talked about how the lines between agencies have blurred, creating opportunities that many didn’t consider a decade ago. “It’s an exciting time to be in this business,” he said.

“Lara, can you talk to us about the evolution of so-called “traditional” agencies, the dreaded ‘T Word,’” Schnapp asked Griggs, who clarified she’s “not afraid of the ‘T’ word. “There is a difference between perception and reality. Traditional agencies are doing digital, we certainly are at Y&R. In fact, we shortlisted in Cannes last year in Mobile. If traditional agencies weren’t doing digital their doors would close,” she added. Griggs also talked about evolution. “We have evolved our work and our talent. We are in a business of ideas and it’s about the power of that idea. All agencies are evolving because our clients demand more for less.”  

Schnapp continued by joking with Lazzaro. “And now for the question, everyone wants to know; Alison, what’s it like to never have to pitch a piece of business?” he said as the entire room erupted in laughter. “But seriously, we’ve seen the emergence of world-class in-house advertising agencies. Can you tell us how it works at Prudential?” Schnapp asked.

“We’re the clients and we’re the agency,” Lazzaro said. “We do work with Droga and a couple of other agencies for some projects, but we find that for most of our projects, we need the speed and knowledge of our internal team. We have a team of about 85 people, and the work is outstanding.”

The conversation then turned to the topic of talent, specifically how to retain top talent. “The challenge is keeping creative talent and understanding where they want to go and how they can grow,” Lazzaro said. “I make sure that our internal teams do most of our high-profile projects, to keep them happy and retain our staff. And honestly, they do amazing work.”

Schnapp then addressed Gates, specifically, the fact that she has been at creative agencies, Facebook and now influence marketer WHOSAY. He asked about her transition as well as about influencer marketing itself.

“In every role, I see the world as a creative canvas,” Gates answered. “We’re all thinkers, dreamers and makers. It’s our job to continually find ways to deepen relationships between customers and brands,” Gates told Schnapp about her experience ten years ago, when a senior level P&G client paid her one of her most memorable compliments. This client thanked Gates “for bringing us what we needed instead of what we asked for.” Gates went on to say that “this really stuck with me. I think it’s our jobs to continually do that.”

In response to Schnapp’s second part of the question, to tell the audience about influencer marketing, Gates replied, “Influencer marketing is a way for brands to get invited into people’s newsfeeds. The same piece of content when served through an influencer’s channels generally performs better. What WHOSAY does different, is that we put brands first. We dig for insights, come up with ideas that ladder up to the brand story and then we find the right influencers to help bring that story to life. So, we combine the power of influence with big ideas and outcomes.” 

Lastly, the moderator wanted to know whether WHOSAY competes with creative agencies. “No,” Gates replied. “At WHOSAY we create influencer content that builds on a brand’s story. As Lara said, it’s the creative agency’s job to be the keepers of the brand, to develop the big ideas and oversee them across all touchpoints. That was my role on Pampers, Iams, Always and, most recently, Facebook. My team sometimes knew the brands better than the clients. And it was our job to continually drive innovation and help evolve the brand.”

So what to even call our agencies in this era of blurred lines, digital, content agencies? “We’re an advertising agency,” responded Griggs. “We’re an advertising agency that creates stories and ideas that work across all channels, TV, print and digital. My CEO tells us to be proud of who we are and to embrace it. So, I do. I’m proud to work for an advertising agency and of the work we do.”

To learn more about the NJ Ad Club and their events go to http://www.njadclub.org