Motive’s director obeys the quality not quantity ethos, Anne-Marie
It seems a curious thing to be taking tea with Kevin Brown in Soho. When
I called to fix up an interview with the Motive director his secretary
suggested he might like to go somewhere for a ‘coffee’.
I have to admit, I assumed this to be some sort of euphemism for a few
swift halves down the Coach and Horses. After all, Brown is known to
enjoy the odd tipple. Indeed, this is the man a number of journalist
colleagues claim never to have seen in a fully sober state; who, on
occasions, has failed to turn up for work the next day after a night out
carousing with clients.
Yet, when we meet, Brown seems happy to be steered away from W1’s
legendary watering holes towards the comparative safety of Soho House.
We choose a quietish corner, order a pot of Earl Grey and settle down
for a chat.
Considering that he was living it up at the Channel 4 party the night
before, Kev doesn’t seem in bad shape. OK, so the lines have etched
themselves a little deeper, the hair is struggling to put in a three-day
week and the girth may never again be 34 inches. But bearing in mind
that he recently celebrated Motive’s first year as a standalone by
helping to hook another chunk of Whitbread business, Brown appears
remarkably relaxed (Campaign, last week).
Of course, much of this is down to his Irishness which as a selling
point seems to have worked a treat. Everyone in the industry knows Kev
or has an opinion about him. Cheerfulness and camaraderie are as much
his stock-in-trade as his penchant for pints.
But there’s something else, of course, wrapped up amid all the beer
boys’ stories and pleasant Irish packaging, something that made BMP DDB
try to tempt Kev back when he flew the nest to Bartle Bogle Hegarty in
1990: his media credentials.
Just listen to Richard Eyre, managing director of Capital Radio and
Brown’s erstwhile boss at BBH: ‘Kevin is the most creative media planner
there is - in fact, it’s like he’s from the creative department. Some of
his ideas are completely off the wall, but he’s not frightened of being
Paul Longhurst, the media director of Ammirati Puris Lintas and a former
joint media director at BBH, clearly admires Brown’s maverick qualities,
but you sense inwardly he still shudders to recall his organisational
skills. Longhurst remembers finding Kev in his office late one Friday
night sorting through ancient telephone bills while also trying to
finish off a presentation. ‘I said, ‘you can’t do that on a Friday
night’. And with that Kevin picked the whole lot up, stuffed it in his
briefcase and we went off to the pub.’
Brown chuckles at the tale and then tells me quite straight-faced that
if he hadn’t worked in media, he’d have been an accountant...
It’s just as well his first choice worked out, because Kev is passionate
about it (Eyre uses the word ‘compulsive’). As he puts it: ‘There are
very few businesses where, at a fairly young age, people can have such
fantastic creative expression.’
What’s more, he believes Motive has carved out a very clear identity in
the market. ‘Over the past five years, clients have done their
centralisation and achieved satisfactory costs from a media point of
view. Now they’re looking for objective media communication,’ he says,
puffing on a Marlboro Light.
Brown brushes aside caveats about size, and Motive’s relative lack
thereof. ‘It was always our ethos to be the best rather than the
biggest. If you grow bigger because you’re the best, then so be it.’ It
sounds convincing, but you get the feeling it’s not the first time he’s
trotted out that line.
The size thing will inevitably come back to haunt Brown and the rest of
the Motive management posse. But for the next five years at least, Brown
see his future bound up with Motive, helping to build it into a mature
brand and rolling with the punches.
And in between, he’ll keep doing the other things that he enjoys:
playing keyboards, going running (occasionally) with the Network’s head
of press, Paul Mukherjee, on a Saturday morning and popping over every
so often to see his folks in Dublin - something you sense is a great
release for him.
Actually, he was there for his birthday a few weeks ago (he’s 34).
Someone phoned to say there was a ticket waiting for him at Heathrow and
when he landed at Dublin, he was met by his 70-year-old mother in a
black stretch limo clutching a bottle of champagne. Brown breaks into
broad Irish brogue to recall her greeting: ‘Sure, this is what you
people who work in advertising do all day isn’t it?’ Cheers Mrs B!
The Brown file
1982 Aubrey Fogarty Associates, media executive
1984 Nestle UK, media co-ordinator
1986 BMP DDB, media manager
1990 Bartle Bogle Hegarty, media group head
1991 BBH, head of media planning
1993 BBH, media director
1995 Motive, director