The Irish advertising industry has lost a bright, caring and talented professional in Catherine Keane who has sadly passed away. Declan Kelly pays tribute to his former colleague on behalf of Zenith and all the other media agencies she worked with in her short but dazzling career.
I had the pleasure of working with Catherine Keane or ‘Cat’ as we called her (sometimes even Keano!) in Zenith. I would like to put down a few words about the Cat I got to know in that time working with her. It’s a time that all of us in Zenith and Core will hold dear. Words can’t really describe the extreme sadness that hit us when we learnt of Cat’s sudden passing. It was a Friday morning, and it was a phone call you never want to get, and one that you will never forget. It has shaken us to our core, and our hearts go out to Cat’s family and friends for a life taken way too soon.
Cat joined the gang in Zenith in September 2019 as a Client Director, having done stints in OMD and Wavemaker before then. We tried a few times to get her to join us on account of the great work she had done and the fantastic reputation she had built in the industry. We were chuffed when she finally accepted our overtures. It didn’t take us long to see that we had bagged a real talent.
Cat excelled at her job, instantly putting clients at ease and delivering work of the highest quality, consistently. Cat tackled her new role with positivity and a ‘can-do’ attitude that was inspiring to see in action. No task was too big or too small; she just dove straight in and made things happen. We were lucky to have had the chance to spend a small amount of time in her company before Covid made remote working a necessity rather than a luxury. We were lucky to see how she spread her infectious positivity and friendship to all who encountered her. We were lucky that she was so generous with her laughs and her smiles and her eyes that sparkled in consensus. Never was a dad joke wasted in her company; she would still crack out the charity laugh (with maybe the odd eye roll thrown in for good measure).
Cat always spoke with great affection about her family. Many’s the Friday she would come into work with her suitcase on wheels, all set for the post-work trip to Galway. If it wasn’t Galway, it was heading out home to Meath. She loved that connection; it was so important to her and she was particularly proud of her brother Seán and sister Naoise (who she practically reared according to Cat!). She cared for them deeply. I saw this translate into how she cared for her team. They were like an extension of her family. She would always make sure they were in a good place and that a helping and guiding hand was nearby when needed.
She coached, she cajoled, she guided and advised and most of all, she encouraged them to be themselves and to enjoy it all. She led by example and was a fantastic role model for those guys; she was generous with her time and advice. Only last Tuesday, she was offering to share her knowledge to the wider team on some new-fangled tool that she had mastered before anyone else: ‘It’s grand and easy once you get the hang of it; just give me a shout if you need me to help’. It was a genuine offer and speaks volumes to her expertise and generous spirit.
Remote working didn’t faze her. We had a chuckle when she told me that her flatmate worked for a competitor. Dentsu in the kitchen, Zenith in the living room! I think they were going to set up their own agency! I asked could I join it. Lockdown did make it tough on everyone, but Cat kept busy and active, and she made time to connect with her team and colleagues. Not only did she keep the show on the road, she excelled under difficult circumstances. We got unsolicited notes of gratitude from clients on the great job she was doing, the difference she was making. Cat could do it all and was a natural. She had just come off back-to-back pitch wins, and it was only going to get brighter for her, such was her talent.
She forged strong bonds with the wider team, and it gave me great pleasure to see Cat and the guys back out and enjoying dinner and drinks as the restrictions lifted. While you wouldn’t catch me out at sea, I am full of admiration for those people that embrace sea swimming. Cat and her friends would ‘enjoy’ this activity, and I’m envious of the comradery and sense of achievement that they no doubt got from diving in. Cat’s was a life that embraced new experiences and the fun side of life. I think it was a life that was well balanced, well lived and enjoyed to its fullest.
When I think about Cat, I recall the smile, the easy laugh and the beautiful, confident, talented young woman that she was. She proved that you can be nice and get ahead. She is held in the greatest affection by all in the media industry, her friends in the media, her colleagues in OMD, Wavemaker and Zenith and Core. Her present was bright, and her future promised to be dazzling. We’ll all miss Cat; our industry will be lesser for it, but most of all we’ll miss Cat, our friend and colleague. She’ll remain forever in our hearts and minds.
I’ll sign off now, as Cat always did, with a smiley face emoji 😊. Rest in peace my friend.
Declan Kelly is Deputy Managing Director of media agency Zenith, part of Core.