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
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
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
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
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
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.