Profile: David Brain, Burson-Marsteller - B-M exercises its Brain power/B-M’s recent appointment of David Brain surprised many in the industry

As David Brain leads a guided tour of his new employer’s offices, flinging open doors and enthusiastically interrogating his new colleagues about their roles at Burson-Marsteller, you sense he has the energy for the task ahead.

As David Brain leads a guided tour of his new employer’s offices,

flinging open doors and enthusiastically interrogating his new

colleagues about their roles at Burson-Marsteller, you sense he has the

energy for the task ahead.

This is confirmed by the people who know him and were initially

surprised that he took the job of managing director of the marketing

practice at B-M, an agency which in the UK is not best known for its

consumer work.

Most say they expected him to land at a strong consumer agency such as

B-M’s sister firm Cohn and Wolfe.

Martin Thomas, managing director of Cohn and Wolfe, worked with Brain at

Paragon Communications in the late-1980s. ’David’s a highly motivated

individual with a strong personality. He’s a good account man and very

competitive. Anyone who survived during that period at Paragon had to


After leaving Paragon in the early-1990s Brain then worked in the Far

East for six years before returning to the UK three months ago. He came

back with no firm job offer on the table. Brain returned because his

wife, whom he met in New Zealand while working as managing director for

public relations firm Baldwin Boyle Shand, became pregnant and they

decided to settle in England.

Brain says he chose the B-M job because ’there is an intellectual

infrastructure here I haven’t seen before in a PR agency’. He will drive

forward B-M’s consumer practice but says the division will never become

a publicity house churning out press releases - ’we’re too expensive and

I want to work higher up the value chain’.

Nevertheless he has much to do at a more fundamental level. Brain’s

division relies almost solely on one client, Unilever, and he says the

first task is to win work for the Unilever brands it doesn’t currently

work on.

Brain has widespread experience outside consumer PR. He speaks with

enthusiasm about the skills he learned during a two-year stint at Batey

Ads in Singapore.

He has also worked in-house at Visa International in Asia, a role which

was government relations-oriented, and at previous agencies has worked

on large-scale corporate accounts for clients including Prudential

Assurance and Singapore Airlines.

Tim Sutton, chief executive of Charles Barker BSMG and a friend of

Brain’s, says: ’David is bright. He’s an agile thinker who is also


He has all the virtues of a hard worker but is extremely focused on

results and quality. He was talking about the importance of evaluation

back in the late-1980s.’

However, Brain also knows how to enjoy himself. ’Socially he seems

extrovert and used to love the bar scene. But marriage has probably

calmed him down,’ says one friend. Brain agrees with this analysis and

can’t wait for the arrival of his first child and the pleasures of

family life.

However, there is still something of the ’man about town’ lurking within

him: ’I’m definitely a city animal. The bigger, the dirtier and noisier

the place, the happier I am,’ he says.

At B-M Brain reports to Eric Gerritsen, the agency’s European, practice

chairman for consumer marketing and will run a 30-strong team. Outsiders

feel that he will fit in at B-M while offering a healthy contrast. ’He’s

the antithesis of the old-school PR man,’ says Sutton. Brain himself

feels that the structure of B-M, with its emphasis on global accounts

and strategic planning, will suit him perfectly.

His move to the agency certainly wasn’t an obvious one and is the

latest in a sequence of surprise career choices. Previously he has

jumped from a UK consumer agency to cover a corporate role in Asia then

left the comparative security of this job at Visa to buy an equity stake

in a New Zealand PR firm. ’I’m something of a serial risk taker,’ jokes


Though in the final analysis there is nothing risky about Brain’s

decision to join B-M. Those who know him think his battling nature will

win through. ’David will fly there, if given the freedom,’ predicts



1990: Board director, Paragon Communications

1992: Corporate affairs director, Visa International, South-East Asia

and Australia

1994: Managing director, Baldwin Boyle Shand

1996: Group strategic planning director, Batey Ads

1998: Managing director of UK marketing practice, Burson-Marsteller.

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