ITV appoints Kate Waters to build closer relationships with brands

Waters is leaving Now, the agency she co-founded.

ITV has appointed Kate Waters as director of client strategy and planning as part of its aim to forge closer strategic partnerships with brands.

Waters, who is currently chief strategy officer and founding partner of Now, is taking up the newly created position in February. She will head a new team that will spearhead ITV’s "More than TV" strategy, which is based on working more closely with clients as strategic partners. ITV has signalled it is interested in building closer relationships with creative agencies, which tend to originate ideas, as well as media agencies, which control ad spend.

Dame Carolyn McCall, ITV's chief executive, is driving the changes at the broadcaster.

Waters will report to Simon Daglish, deputy managing director, commercial, who unveiled ITV Commercial’s strategy to move from being brands’ media partner to trusted business partner at the ITV Palooza alongside Kelly Williams, managing director, commercial.

Daglish explained that Waters will act as a conduit between ITV’s new amalgamated data intelligence unit and its client community. She will lead a team of eight, some of whom will be new and recruited from creative agencies. "Creative agencies have good creative and strategic thinkers who we would love to work with," he said. 

He added: "As a major partner to thousands of brands, it is important that ITV continues to develop its capabilities to add real value to clients’ marketing plans. This requires a much more strategic approach and I cannot think of anyone more qualified to lead this team than Kate Waters – we are delighted she is joining us."

Waters said the decision to leave Now, the agency she co-founded seven years ago, was "an incredibly difficult decision" to make because the agency has been her "second family". However, when she received the call from ITV, she instinctively knew it was for her, adding: "I feel like I’ve got one big challenge left in me. I love TV and I love ITV as a brand – it is a channel that really understands the nation."

According to Waters, the role will present a very different type of challenge for a planner: "ITV are on an exciting journey – they are as much a digital brand as a broadcaster. In a multiplatform world, reasserting all the things that TV does and living comfortably in that multichannel environment is a brilliant opportunity."

John Townshend, chairman and founding partner of Now, added: "We're obviously sad Kate is going because she has helped shape a great agency, but we are all delighted – and not surprised – that she has been asked to do such a great job."

Waters was a key force in the multi-award-winning "#OutOfOffice" campaign for the Women’s Equality Party and  was named one of the best ad planners in 2018 by Campaign. 

New strategic approach for ITV

Waters' hiring crowns a strong year for ITV. More than 11 million people tuned in to watch Harry Redknapp crowned king of the jungle this month, more than a million more compared with the 2017 finale. The broadcaster signed 11 commercial partners for Love Island, brought more product placement to Coronation Street and took part in the multi-award-winning "Project 84" for Campaign Against Living Miserably.

However, the political and economic uncertainty of Brexit is putting pressure on marketing spend. "Brands need more support," Daglish said. "They are spending large amounts of money and they need the reassurance and insight to back that up." 

ITV has a substantial wealth of consumer data, with 26 million logged-in users for the ITV Hub and its audience planning division and bespoke research panel The Village. By combining this insight, the broadcaster plans to enhance its strategic capabilities for brands.

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