MEDIA HEADLINER: Motive’s cuddly crooner now doubles as brainy strategist. Kevin Brown talks to Claire Beale about his new role as creative guru at Motive

I remember the first time I met Kevin Brown. 5am, Sorrento hotel lounge. Him at the piano, eyes misty, fingers still nifty. Playing some mawkish love song to a blearily intoxicated muddle of easily pleased industry folk.

I remember the first time I met Kevin Brown. 5am, Sorrento hotel

lounge. Him at the piano, eyes misty, fingers still nifty. Playing some

mawkish love song to a blearily intoxicated muddle of easily pleased

industry folk.



In fact, most times I’ve seen Brown he’s been misty-eyed, beerily

charming, cuddly even, which is quite something for a guy built like a

brick shithouse.



I suspect this is most media people’s experience of Mr Brown.



So it’s quite hard - for those who know him as a never-knowingly-sober

bar-room buddy - to imagine that Brown’s big boulder of a head contains

an equally big brain. A brain big enough, indeed, to be chosen as

creative guru at Motive and charged with spearheading strategy.



Brown now revels in the suitably vague business school moniker of

’executive director, strategy’, and has been handed responsibility for

spinning off Motive’s own strategic media credentials on an a la carte

basis for clients who want to tap into the agency’s reputation for

clever media thinking.



Now, for a company which has criticised, ridiculed even, the existence

of strategic media agencies, this could appear tantamount to

surrender.



Motive has always positioned itself as a full-service media outfit

offering all its clients a creative and strategic media approach, no

question. By chasing strategic-only business, is the agency merely

jumping on an already speeding bandwagon?



According to Brown, the reorganisation is simply a formalisation of the

position Motive already occupies. ’We’ve always been strategy-led; this

is about opening that up to a wider audience.’ And it’s certainly not an

acknowledgment that there’s any value in a strategic media agency.



’Our feet are firmly rooted in the reality of the media market,’ Brown

explains. ’We’re a planning and buying business. If we weren’t we’d be

in danger of just offering fresh air and no real business benefit.’



So the idea is to package a slice of what Motive clients now enjoy -

strong creative communications thinking underscored by a practical

knowledge of the realities of the media market - and sell that on to

clients looking for help on their communications strategy.



But given Motive’s status as a middle-ranking agency - outside the top

15 and without a coherent global proposition - could it actually hamper

its growth prospects by offering the elite part of its service as a

solus purchase? Won’t some potential clients attracted by Motive’s

creative reputation now simply buy the bit that could really give added

value, the thinking bit? Why use Motive’s planning and buying when you

can get access to its brains and use the brawn of, say, a Carat or a

Zenith? After all, Motive isn’t best known for its dog’s-bollocks

buying.



Brown, naturally, would beg to differ. ’The media market is so

accountable now and so well audited that great media buying is a given.

That’s a discipline we’re very good at. Our buying is at least as good

as, if not better than, the market as a whole. But clients are

recognising that it’s ideas that make a difference, not prices. This is

simply about saying to clients who have an issue with their

communications strategy, Motive can help.’



OK. Assuming Motive can still continue to grow its full-service media

business, will those clients looking for a strategic communications

solution really think of turning to Brown rather than, for example, a

George Michaelides or an Andy Tilley? Well, Motive has an unquestionable

reputation as a thinking client’s media shop. Given that the agency has,

ironically, been pretty poor at its own communications, this reputation

must be founded in delivery rather than carefully crafted hype.



Mark Cranmer, the managing director of Motive, is convinced the

company’s creative credentials are secure in Brown’s hands. ’Kev’s a

hero,’ he says, ’a brilliant, brilliant thinker.’ Brown explains simply

that he’s got a passion for using media to create business success. ’I

want most of all to be considered as someone who can offer clients real

business value.’



But as Brown - still flush from his Christmas marriage to IPC’s TV

Weeklies’ marketing director, Phillipa Stuart - settles into his new

role, a question mark still remains over Motive’s future. Last year,

Motive was due to merge with Leo Burnett’s media department. Personal

politics derailed the plans but the issue lingers. Does Brown worry that

all might come to nought in the face of a bigger corporate game plan?

’In this business you live and die by what you deliver,’ Brown believes.

’We’re passionate about what we deliver and because of that, Motive will

always be a strong brand, whatever the issues with Leo Burnett.’



THE BROWN FILE



1982: Aubrey Fogarty, media executive



1984: Nestle UK, media co-ordinator



1986: BMP DDB, media manager



1990: Bartle Bogle Hegarty, media group head



1995: Motive, director



1999: Motive, executive director, strategy.



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