MSQ’s Kate Howe picks her Desert Island Ads


Kate Howe is executive director at MSQ. She joined MSQ in 2020 and is responsible for shaping and implementing the group’s growth strategy. She joined MSQ from Dentsu Aegis Network and before that was CEO and chair of B2B agency gyro, European regional president of DraftFCB, MD of Leo Burnett and CMO of Gala Coral Group.

Desert Island Ads

One thing I learnt very quickly when compiling my list of Desert Island Ads was just how easy it is to overthink it. There are hundreds of ads that have meaning for one reason or other. There are the ads I remember loving as a child, the brand mascots I laughed with, the straplines I still recall today. The first ad I was part of as a junior account exec, the first ad I led as an account director. The first ad I signed off as a client (a particularly daunting task after years of being the one doing the convincing!). The ads that friends have made that made me jealous (and they still do today)… the list goes on.

So I’ve made a concerted effort to not overthink my selections. Some do have meaning to my career, others are just bloody good ads I still enjoy watching today. Some are just in there because they made my Dad laugh. Whatever the reason, I hope they give you as much pleasure watching them as they do for me…

John West ‘Bear’

I am going to start with one ad that’s meaningful to my career… because I can categorically say that one of the more daring moments of my career was calling our John West client to ask them if we could present this work, having already pushed deadlines and their patience to the wire cracking a previous idea for the brief (an idea, I hasten to add, that was already in production).

We knew this idea was better, and I will always respect Ian Meadows, the MD of John West Foods, for agreeing to pull the other work and support us in making this one instead. The team spent 3 weeks, in the rain, in Aberdeen, but it was so worth it. The late, great, Paul Silburn was a joy to work with – and of course a creative genius.

Levi’s ‘Twist’

This ad is as cool as it gets. An amazing soundtrack, brilliantly produced. It brings back memories of a fantastic year at Cannes when the whole industry was buzzing – there was so much confidence, so much style and there was a ton of work – like Twist – that was worthy of winning a Grand Prix.

Levi’s Creek

If I’m not overthinking these choices then I’m not going to get too bogged down in picking two Levi’s ads. Because this is also up there as one of the best spots from the time – BBH just produced one great Levi’s ad after another, it was so exciting to watch.

Cinzano ‘Airline’

An absolute classic. A great duo, with perfect timing. It’s exactly my dad’s sense of humour and I remember him laughing at it every time it came on. And it still makes me smile today.

BT ‘Clothes Shop’

This whole campaign was spot on. Indeed, another one of the ads from the series was picked by our The Gate San Francisco CCO Beri Cheetham as his own ‘Blast from the Past’. But I particularly love the Clothes Shop because it’s an ad that made its way into my everyday – when explaining that someone seems to want everything, I still find myself using the phrase ‘they want all the colours in all the sizes’. Though I can’t deliver the line half as well as Maureen, obviously.

Cadbury ‘Gorilla’

What can be said about this ad that hasn’t been said before? Not much. But that’s not the point. It’s joyful. It’s original. It weirdly reminds me of my brother (hope he doesn’t read this!).

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