MEDIA: HEADLINER; Channel 5 puts its faith in the Guardian’s youthful visionary

David Brook faces a major task creating a brand from scratch, Claire Beale says

David Brook faces a major task creating a brand from scratch, Claire

Beale says

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

market demands.

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