AGENDA: PROFILE - Dan Brooke Head of Marketing Filmfour - Stunt man

We all know that consumers are demanding individuals and have to be treated accordingly. In his second week at Channel 4, while engrossed with plans for the launch of FilmFour, its first pay-TV project, Dan Brooke, the newly appointed head of marketing and development, received a phone call which momentarily stopped him in his tracks.

We all know that consumers are demanding individuals and have to be

treated accordingly.



At conference after conference, and in endless articles, marketing

directors and managing directors tell us that the marketing-literate

consumer is demanding ever more personalised and tailored products and

services.



But despite the obvious fact that staff are consumers too, many

businesses continue to ignore their staff completely or treat them as

robots in a production line, there simply to churn our whatever it is

that the bosses have decided the consumer wants.



We’ve all experienced it. The stilted telesales script. The modern

’jobs-worth’ unable to make any decision without reference to the

manual. The rigid adherence to the standard sales patter.



Don’t senior management see their staff sniggering behind their hands

when they tell them they want their brand to be seen as ’a friend of the

consumer’? Staff know it’s nonsense.



A friend is someone who laughs at your jokes, lends you money and

doesn’t charge you interest, and visits you in hospital when you’ve got

unpleasant diseases. A friend is not a packet of cereal, or a financial

services company ... unless you’re very sad.



Partnership jargon



It’s all part of the same nonsense that has managers trying to convince

their staff that their brand is, for example, ’customer-centric, and

committed to partnership integration’.



First, it’s almost always not true. It might be what you’re aiming for,

but seldom where you are. And second, nobody talks like that anyway.

Have you ever heard anyone in the pub talk about ’partnership

integration’?



Surely, the basic rule about your brand values should be that if you

can’t express them in the language that your staff would use in the

canteen, then don’t use it in the training room or in internal

communications.



In fact, don’t use it at all.



Of course, in the short term, it’s much harder to treat your staff as

thinking individuals. But it’s also much more rewarding and profitable

in the long term. The political parallel is that liberal democracy is

hard to get going, but once it’s up and running it outlasts all forms of

dictatorship.



So it will be with the brands of the future. Well-motivated staff who

are allowed some flexibility in how they service intelligent and

marketing-literate consumers will win the day.



In the future, the companies and brands that will triumph are those that

understand there is an enormous difference between ’service’, which

allows staff some initiative to treat customers as individuals, and

’process’ which means giving each customer what you’ve decided they

want.



As we shift more and more toward a service culture, the quality and

attitude of staff is, in many cases, going to become the most important

aspect of the brand.



And yet how many companies spend even a quarter of the money they spend

researching consumers in researching their staff?



How many companies communicate jargon? How many companies think that

their staff are as intelligent and sophisticated as their customers?



If you are committed to quality and service, then let’s treat customers

and staff as thinking individuals. If you don’t want to treat them like

that, then let’s accept that we’re talking about process rather than

service.



Sainsbury’s recently had to alter an ad because it insulted its

staff.



There should be a straight line running from your external to your

internal communications. Too often there appears to be a wall between

the two.



In his second week at Channel 4, while engrossed with plans for the

launch of FilmFour, its first pay-TV project, Dan Brooke, the newly

appointed head of marketing and development, received a phone call which

momentarily stopped him in his tracks.



The Paramount Comedy Channel, his former employer, had no further use

for the six-foot bronze statue of Peter Mandelson which had formed a

small but integral part of Brooke’s PR campaign for the station. They

were getting it forwarded to him at Channel 4. Could he please call

reception and tell them to expect it. (It never arrived. The whole

episode was an affectionate wind-up.)



Nicknamed TV’s ’King of the Gimmick’ during his two years at Paramount,

Brooke, 30, is undoubtedly more used to dishing it out than being on the

receiving end of such pranks. While at Paramount he managed to get front

page coverage for his brand in two national newspapers.



The first, in the Guardian, saw Brooke dressed as a skeleton confronting

Mandelson with a placard proclaiming ’Welcome O Prince of Darkness’. The

second, in the Independent, featured Brooke in a red jump-suit erecting

the aforementioned statue of the Paramount Comedy Channel ’hero’ close

to the Millennium Dome. ’There was a certain appeal in doctoring the

spin doctor,’ he says.



Yet the stunts paid off. His two years at Paramount - where his

marketing budget was just pounds 2m a year - saw ratings go from 30,000

to 100,000. ’We went from being one of the least popular pay-TV channels

to the third most popular non-Sky channel,’ he says.



At Channel 4, Brooke’s marketing challenge is to sell a

platform-independent film channel to a public already awash with the

launch of digital television.



He has an initial budget of pounds 5m and a target of 150,000

subscribers by the end of next year. He admits it is quite a daunting

task but is adamant he will succeed: ’We’ve genuinely identified a gap

in the market and it is an area where Channel 4 is very strong,’ he

says.



In the immediate future, however, he has first to overcome a common

misconception that Channel 4 is launching a digital-only channel. This

is especially galling because Sky’s analogue service is likely to be the

most important platform for FilmFour in the short term.



Furthermore, despite prelaunch publicity which has focused on films such

as Kissed, about a female mortuary assistant’s necrophilia, and

low-budget Hong Kong movie City of Fire (the inspiration for Quentin

Tarantino’s Reservoir Dogs), Brooke is keen to play down the image of

FilmFour as strictly for film buffs. ’It is much more mainstream than

that,’ he says.



’I am not a film buff, but I know a lot of the films we’re showing in

the first months. Those I don’t know I’m looking forward to

watching.’



Brooke has built his career working on brands he can relate to and

Channel 4 is no exception. A scooter-riding, art-collecting

man-about-town, who achieved a certain notoriety during his time at

Paramount for his ability to mix Oswald Boateng couture with a pair of

trainers, Brooke seems right at home at the ’brainy but trendy’ Channel

4.



However, his image belies his establishment background. His father is

Peter Brooke, former Tory secretary of state for Northern Ireland, and a

key figure in laying the foundations for the peace process.



This is not something that Brooke publicises and he certainly does not

fit the stereotype of a Tory cabinet minister’s son. After leaving

public school (Marlborough), Brooke broke the family mould by eschewing

high academia in favour of a design course at Newcastle Poly, although

he reverted to type with a subsequent MBA.



He has experimented briefly with a career as both an artist and an art

dealer and, despite having made a name for himself at St Luke’s working

for clients including Ecover and First Direct, he left to spend a year

in South America, meeting, for the first time, many of his Brazilian

mother’s family.



The day after our initial meeting, Brooke phones in breezy form. Five

hundred people have now signed up to FilmFour after a trial launch in

Scotland. Noel and Meg Gallagher have accepted an invite to the launch

party. In fact the only glitch in his plans seems to be that I have

discovered he has a famous dad.



’It’s not that I hide it,’ he says. ’It’s just that I don’t want to be

known just as his son.’ Given Brooke’s career trajectory to date and the

glowing references from all who have met him, such a scenario seems

highly unlikely.



BIOGRAPHY



1989-1990: MBA, Stirling University



1990-1995: Account director, St Luke’s



1996-1998: Director of marketing Paramount Comedy Channel



Present: Head of marketing and development for C4’s FilmFour.



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