Soho loves a comeback story, but will it love Tony Kaye? The
enigmatic, self-proclaimed artist surprised many last week when he
folded his London office, Tony K, to join RSA. His decision to enter the
company's directorial ranks, taken after lengthy discussions with the
head honcho, Ridley Scott, seems likely to revive his profile in
Kaye's Los Angeles office will continue to produce work for the North
American market. However, he has decided that the flow of UK work was
not as extensive as he desired. The closure of Tony K marks the end of
an old breeding ground for interesting talent but could provide Kaye
with exciting possibilities at RSA.
"The news is a bit of a shame because I've always associated his
production company with a fantastic environment for fresh emerging
talent," Steve Henry, the creative director at HHCL & Partners,
"He has always attracted interesting directors and helped to launch
them, but has also spoken of how tiring it was for him to do. That may
also be why he's decided to close shop."
It's no secret that Kaye's arrival at RSA will open the way for both
commercial and feature projects - news that should light up the eyes of
those creatives brave enough to wrestle with his eccentric mind and
trigger a new interest in his work in the UK.
"Basically, if you're not doing the latest commercial and not on
terrestrial TV, you're not even considered by agencies," Mark Borkowski,
the head of Kaye's representative, Borkowski PR, says of why the
director has been absent from British screens for some time.
Kaye himself has had little time to run his operation on British soil,
leaving no production company to properly represent his interests in the
UK. The lack of recent work has done nothing to diminish the mad, bad
and crazy reputation that tends to precede him. Those creatives that
back away from Kaye as a result cite the McCann-Erickson/Bacardi debacle
of two years ago, when the ending of Kaye's ad was refilmed to his
He reportedly called the client and agency various names, flew into
London from LA with Marvilla (the Dominican Republican boxer and star of
the Bacardi ad) and parked a ten-piece rap band on a flat-bed truck
outside McCann's headquarters, where spirited voices shouted
anti-Bacardi sentiments, trying to "embarrass the enemy into
capitulation" as Kaye so succinctly expressed at the time.
Those creatives that continue to step away from Kaye know they pass up
the opportunity to work with a genuinely legendary director. Kaye has
continued to collect a variety of international awards in recent years,
including this year's Lifetime Achievement Award at the Clios, and his
undoubted genius has never been wholly overshadowed by his
Coaxing subtle performances and capturing them with vivid attention to
texture is just one example of Kaye's many abilities. There is no
denying his aptitude to create spectacular visual and emotional pieces
of communication and it could be that the RSA deal will make agencies
more comfortable about embracing his eclectic tendencies, side-stepping
the reputation that precedes him and allowing the director full
Unsympathetic clients will always have the right to step in and change
the work and, yes, Kaye will have to become somewhat pragmatic when this
happens. Commerce and art have always made uneasy bedfellows in
commercial production - it's just that other directors have experienced
less public pain reconciling the two.
"You can never discount anyone with the amount of talent that Tony Kaye
possesses," Henry adds. "There is always an element of chaos with Tony,
but his remarkable creativity comes out of that chaos. When we've worked
with him, we've always been happy with the results. He's pure talent
that just has to be harnessed somewhat. Hopefully RSA will provide an
environment where Tony can flourish even more."
Kaye's move to RSA may be the perfect breeding ground for him to finally
cast an anchor in the London market once more, provided the company can
channel his creative prowess while treating him with the dignity he
demands, and provided Kaye can resist biting the hand that feeds him.
This could mark the end of Kaye's persona non grata in Soho, and a final
opportunity for him to prove his self-discipline within a highly
respected production company.
At present, all indications are that RSA will strongly support one of
the most influential directors the world of advertising has had the
pleasure, and occasional displeasure, of experiencing.