Profile: Eugen Beer, Kaizo - Beer vision to boost Kaizo's PR creativity

Eugen Beer aims to get Kaizo on the pitch list for all interesting projects

'Like a blank canvas waiting to see some fantastic brush strokes,' is how Eugen Beer describes Kaizo, the PR agency he joined as creative director last week.

Beer - whose agency Beer Davies has now become part of Kaizo - claims PR credits ranging from 'killing off' the OXO family to promoting Hello! magazine, launching US ice-cream firm Ben & Jerry's in the UK with 'on-cow advertising' and grabbing headlines for PG Tips' revolutionary Pyramid tea-bag.

He also had a role in the 1997 'Pink Street' stunt for Mattel's Barbie, for which a Salford street was painted day-glo pink. The subsequent battle for credit is well documented, of course, and is one of the industry's less-dignified episodes (PRWeek, 8 February 2002).

It is the creative spark behind such campaigns that Kaizo CEO Crispin Manners has been seeking. He says: 'We wanted to fix a perception that we were not the most creative of agencies - this deal solves that at a stroke.'

Kaizo - which also bought Rosemary Brook's eponymous agency just under two years ago (PRWeek, 8 June 2001) - now works in sectors ranging from tech and IT to food and transport.

Expect Beer to lead a push for more mainstream consumer clients - or, in his words, 'products that are dead boring and need a lift' - fighting for work against what he terms the 'big, stodgy' PR agencies.

The Midlands-born, public-school educated Beer owes his unusual name - once ripped off in a Roger Mellie sketch in cult comic Viz (which Beer Davies formerly promoted) as 'Eugen Lager' - to his father's Slovak-Hungarian roots.

He dropped out of university to become a rock photographer and music journalist, before taking on his first PR job in 1977, when he launched music PR firm Pilsner Publicity.

Pilsner - 'yes, named after the beer' - promoted alternative Midlands bands. He remembers, with visible fondness, Malvern's The Tights: 'We were trying to get this post-punk, pre-new wave stuff on the air.'

In 1980 he teamed up with schoolfriend Gareth Davies, plugging bands and promoting books for publishers such as Pan and Penguin. They moved to London in 1987, with Beer saying work volumes consequently trebled.

The Independent arts editor David Lister remembers that period well: 'The gatherings at Eugen's flat of journalists, agents and industry movers and shakers to watch This is Spinal Tap on video turned into important and unpublicised networking evenings. He has a tremendous knowledge and enthusiasm about music'.

Back then, he worked alongside Mark Borkowski and Neil Redding, both of whom today run their own PR agencies in the entertainment field. The former rented space in the same office and the latter cut his PR teeth with Beer Davies for four years, handling celebrity clients.

Beer says: 'Our basic principle (with launch PR) was: "If this was a Pink Floyd album, how would we do it?" This doesn't work anymore - PR is at a really difficult time, every agency has had a bloody time.'

Borkowski says: 'Eugen had a spectacular time making money handling regional radio publicity for lazy London agencies.'

Through the 1990s, Beer Davies grew to an office of 16 but, in 1999, Davies departed - Beer refers to this as their 'John (Lennon) and Paul (McCartney) situation' - to set up Chapple Davies, taking the music client list with him.

'Beer Davies grew to be a wonderful PR engine,' says Davies, adding: 'Sadly, with our success certain attitudes started to creep into the company that I simply couldn't live with.'

Borkowski says: 'I don't think Eugen has the patience to deal with today's brand managers. These people are frightened for their jobs - Eugen's a creative, not an accounts person.'

Beer, who says he misses a time when 'people wanted to be brave', insists his philosophy that 'PR will always work if the calls go in' remains unchanged, despite his view that the media has become increasingly 'PR-resistant'.

Back in his Pilsner Publicity days, Beer could only dream of his present lifestyle: he lives on the fringe of Regent's Park and owns a renovated farm-house in Umbria, where he spends long weekends amid 160 olive trees.

He describes himself as 'a conservative with a small "c" and a bleeding-heart liberal'. But he hastily adds: 'Occasionally you want to throw things up in the air and have some anarchy.'

So is this what lies ahead? 'Kaizo,' he says, 'has got to be on the pitch list for any company that wants to do anything remotely interesting'.

Beer says he has been hired to 'think the unthinkable and then be pulled back'. If past exploits are a guide, he will need some reining in.

HIGHLIGHTS

1977: Founder, Pilsner Publicity

1980: Founding partner, Beer Davies

2003: Creative director, Kaizo

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