CLOSE-UP: NEWSMAKER/BRIAN BROOKS - HR supremo of WPP to take up the IPG challenge. Brian Brooks faces a tough task filling Kent Kroeber's role

If you think you're someone in this business and you've never heard

of or met Brian Brooks, you're a nobody. You certainly won't have read

about him in Campaign. As one of the few power brokers in advertising

who remains in the shadows - hence his nickname, the Prince of Darkness

- Brooks wields enormous influence with a PR profile close to zero. He

is a member of an exclusive breed at the big communications groups: the

human resources supremo.

While Interpublic's Kent Kroeber gets the credit for inventing the

specialism, Brooks, at 46, is the hottest thing in HR that the modern

advertising world has to offer. Appropriately enough, he is to succeed

Kroeber as soon as he can extricate himself from WPP.

A patrician figure, Kroeber is retiring at 62 after more than 30 years.

He had a huge influence in growing IPG as a holding company under Marion

Harper in the 60s and as a public company in the 70s. His expertise?

Devising incentive and remuneration programmes that inspired people to

work for or sell their agencies to IPG.

Unfortunately, Brooks is unable to confirm Campaign's exclusive story

that he has accepted a similar post with a rival. As a WPP main board

member, he is tied up in legal red tape concerning his notice period.

The fact that he has given 12 months' notice of his decision to step

down suggests that he will not be joining IPG soon. On the other hand,

how long will WPP want him around?

Born in 1955 in the US, Brooks subsequently lived in Sweden and Canada.

He was educated at the University of Wisconsin where he read economics

and he went on the read law at Vanderbilt University Law School. His

first job was at a benefits and compensation consultant called Hewitt

Associates in Chicago. Three years later he joined the HR and executive

reward specialist, Towers Perrin, in New York. As the principal of the

company, he moved to Towers Perrin in London in 1989.

It was at Towers Perrin that he first came to Sir Martin Sorrell's


The group chief executive of WPP liked what Brooks had to offer so much

that, in 1992, he asked him to join WPP in order to start a HR function

at its centre. Sorrell's aim was to move away from the model of a purely

financial holding company to a more strategic positioning committed to

promoting inter-company collaboration and managing talent. It was a

statement of its importance that the job was a board-level one, based in

New York where the group's three main advertising networks are


Brooks' role changed the longer he spent at WPP. As a consultant to the

company and in his early days there, his main purpose was to put in

place clear, consistent and competitive incentive schemes at a company

that until then had been little more than Sorrell's personal acquisition


The latest of these - WPP's five-year Leadership Equity Acquisition

Plan, introduced in September 1999 - is unique for two reasons. First,

because it measures WPP's performance against its competitors in terms

of total shareholder return. Second, because participants have to invest

at least the equivalent of one year's salary of their own money in the


Brooks is one of the 15 people who invested a major part of his personal

net wealth in WPP shares to join LEAP when WPP was trading at more than

£13 a share (today it is at £7.38).

But if the performance targets are met and the market revives, everyone

will be laughing: Sorrell's $10 million personal investment, for

example, could turn into $50 million - or $108 million

when teamed with his current incentive plan.

It wasn't until later in his tenure that Brooks evolved into the

Kroeber-type figure, dealing with senior and promising people within WPP

to help develop individuals and organisations and identifying talent

outside the group. Thus Brooks played a role in luring Paul Simons to

run Ogilvy & Mather in the UK.

The second part of Brooks' role plays to his workaholic tendancies for

it involves endless criss-crossing of the globe in order to fill his

Rolodex with senior people who someone somewhere has a good word for.

Like Sorrell, Brooks is on call 18 or 20 hours a day. Like Sorrell, he

is fantatical about checking his e-mails, phone messages and faxes. The

role also taps into his skills as a listener and a politician, for much

of what Brooks heard from senior people would be inevitably passed back

to Sorrell.

Of course, none of this is relevant to Brooks' brief from IPG's chief

executive John Dooner, directly. But if he has a moment to turn his gaze

in Dooner's direction, Brooks will find some meaty HR issues at WPP's


Who runs what in the muddle of IPG's four principal worldwide divisions?

How to support the new Lowe network chief, Jerry Judge, who recently

took over from Frank Lowe? How to accommodate the ambitions of Donny

Deutsche? What to do structurally to bring IPG's stock price back

towards the level of its peers? How to restock the senior talent pool

when thousands of jobs have been lost in an effort to cut costs? And all

this is underscored with a global advertising boom that has come to a

shuddering halt. Brooks could be forgiven for feeling apprehensive about

the challenges ahead.


Become a member of Campaign

Get the very latest news and insight from Campaign with unrestricted access to, plus get exclusive discounts to Campaign events.

Become a member

What is Campaign AI?

Our new premium service offering bespoke monitoring reports for your company.

Find out more

Looking for a new job?

Get the latest creative jobs in advertising, media, marketing and digital delivered directly to your inbox each day.

Create an alert now

Partner content