MEDIA: HEADLINER; Brown pushes Motive on with his own brand of Irish charm

Motive’s director obeys the quality not quantity ethos, Anne-Marie Crawford says

Motive’s director obeys the quality not quantity ethos, Anne-Marie

Crawford says

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