David Brook faces a major task creating a brand from scratch, Claire
When Greg Dyke was asked at last week’s Television Show in Islington
what would mark Channel 5 out from its competitors, he focused on the
fact that it would have its very own marketing supremo.
This week David Brook, the erstwhile marketing wunderkind at the
Guardian, shuffled forward to accept the role.
It’s a smart appointment. Brook’s reputation is one of a thrusting young
buck with the legacy of being one of the youngest marketing directors on
the fictional Fleet Street.
Like Cliff Richard, Brook has enjoyed a baby-faced reputation long since
the creases became well pressed. But as marketing directors go, this one
has more than a touch of the old Zeitgeist.
Brook was Pattison Horswell Durden’s first client when the agency
launched in 1990, and its founding partner, David Pattison, says he
never fails to be amazed by Brook’s energy and ideas. ‘David genuinely
is a visionary. I know that’s an over-used word, but David really can
see and feel trends before anyone else.’
Brook certainly fits the 90s marketer label better than his baggy suits.
Fast-talking, fast-tracking whirling dervish David is a hyper
individual, sometimes frothing at the mouth with excitement. But his
passion can also be his undoing. He shoots brilliant ideas with machine-
gun madness, but his aim is not always true.
His sharpness is qualified by his rather bumbling nature - always late
and disorganised, tripping over his words because his brain has left his
mouth behind. This is a man in a hurry.
The ungainly speed with which Brook attacks life can be frustrating to
those around him. But while Brook may be demanding, stubborn and
opinionated, he’s also passionate about the product.
As Robert Saville, the joint creative director of GGT and someone who
has worked with Brook on the Guardian’s advertising, says: ‘David’s not
a traditional marketing man. He’s not just interested in outward-bound
marketing, but in developing his product and adapting it to changing
Brook says his approach has been shaped by the nature of media marketing
and the opportunities for development in the newspaper market post-
Wapping. ‘Media marketing is different. You’re not simply delivering a
product to the market, you’re shaping the product; not only presenting
the paper to potential readers, but presenting potential readers to the
For someone with his self-avowed entrepreneurial ambitions, Brook’s
career didn’t start with a bang. Having turned down a place at Oxford
University to play with a jazz band in Brighton, Brook then studied for
an economics degree at Sussex, only to rush off on a world tour with a
band as soon as he graduated.
A spell studying French at the Sorbonne was followed by a job in
marketing at Thomson Holidays. When a planned expansion of holidays to
Cyprus and Turkey was code-named ‘project kebab’, Brook knew it was time
to move on. Within months of joining the Guardian as marketing manager,
he was promoted to the board and given a free reign over one of
publishing’s strongest brands.
During his tenure, Brook has presided over a purple period for the
newspaper. He is credited by many who work with him for some of its
success. The Guardian’s brand has held up in the face of a declining
newspaper market, rising print costs and the cover-price war. And, as
guardian of the brand, Brook has done a pretty good job of packaging
himself as a marketing supremo since joining the paper in 1987.
Yet Brook’s floppy head has been well below the public parapet in recent
months. The relaunch of the Guardian’s sister publication, the Observer,
which Brook had a hand in marketing, was no triumph. Six-monthly sales
have fallen by 4 per cent year on year.
Then there was the Wired debacle. Brook was a driving force behind the
UK launch of Wired magazine, that West Coast, ‘future today’ new-media
title. But the Guardian pulled out of the venture after a dispute over
editorial philosophy. As the managing director of Wired UK, Brook was
implicated in the fiasco.
With a few minor bumps like these on Brook’s career path, his decision
to change track to Channel 5 seems a shrewd move. This time, though, he
will be building a brand from scratch. It’s a good few chapters on in
the marketing textbook from developing an established product. But as
Saville says: ‘David’s a complete media nut. I doubt he’d have left the
Guardian for another newspaper. But with Channel 5 he’ll be able to
really explore his other media passions.’
The Brook file
1987 Thomson Holidays, product manager
1987 The Guardian, marketing manager
1988 The Guardian, marketing director
1994 Wired UK, managing director
1996 Channel 5, marketing director