CLOSE-UP: Is Soho ready for the return of the enfant terrible? - Tony Kaye's RSA move will see his return to the UK ad scene

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.


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