Tony Kaye shooting the Black Farmer TV ad

Tony Kaye, The Black Farmer and the ‘greatest sausage ad ever made’

Two mavericks, a West Country farm and some sizzling meat – is this the way great TV advertising should be made?

The February Food and Drink issue of CR includes an interview with Wilfred Emmanuel-Jones whose remarkable life story has taken him from the army, through the kitchen, to a successful career as a TV director, running a marketing agency and, now creating the Black Farmer brand of meat products.

CR Feb issue feature on The Black Farmer founder Wilfred Emmanuel-Jones
CR Feb issue feature on The Black Farmer founder Wilfred Emmanuel-Jones

But the impetus for the piece came some months earlier via a typically cryptic message from the director Tony Kaye. He had, he promised, “something wonderful cooking here”. When we met for a cup of tea, Kaye told me about the commercial he had just shot with Emmanuel-Jones. It would be, he smiled, “the greatest sausage ad ever made”.

Tony Kaye filming Wilfred Emmanuel-Jones in The Black Farmer TV ad. Agency: Big Eyes
Tony Kaye filming Wilfred Emmanuel-Jones in The Black Farmer TV ad
Wilfred Emmanuel-Jones leads a troupe of Morris Dancers in The Black Farmer TV ad
Wilfred Emmanuel-Jones leads a troupe of Morris Dancers in The Black Farmer TV ad. Agency: Big Eyes

Some weeks later, Emmanuel-Jones pops by the CR office to show us a rough cut. The ad, made with agency Big Eyes and written by its CD Martin Galton, is indeed spectacular, even without the final music and grading. It features Emmanuel-Jones himself, leading a troupe of Morris Dancers across West Country fields and playing guitar with a Flamenco dancer. Such scenes are intercut with projections of massive meat products onto the walls of a farmhouse. “I want to challenge stereotypes about what it means to black and British. [The ad] celebrates rural Britain and making things that appear to be uncool cool,” Emmanuel-Jones says. “I didn’t want a standard food ad. If I’m going be in it then I wanted people to think ‘what the fuck is that about’?”

Tony Kaye on set. Photograph by Emily Whitfield-Wicks
Tony Kaye on set. Photograph by Emily Whitfield-Wicks
Tony Kaye shooting the Black Farmer TV ad. Agency: Big Eyes
Tony Kaye shooting the Black Farmer TV ad. Agency: Big Eyes

Despite being warned about his reputation for ‘difficult’ behaviour (something Kaye has made an effort to renounce in recent interviews) Emmanuel-Jones was convinced that there was only one director that he wanted to work with on the project. It’s evident when we meet to do the interview for the magazine that he enjoyed the experience.

“He’s a difficult little fucker,” Emmanuel-Jones laughs, “but talent needs managing.” In his previous life as the director of the BBC’s Food and Drink programme, Emmanuel-Jones had ample experience of this, frequently clashing on set with some of the big name chefs that the show introduced to Britain’s TV screens.

Wilfred Emmanuel-Jones and Morris Dancer in The Black Farmer TV ad. Agency: Big Eyes
Wilfred Emmanuel-Jones and Morris Dancer in The Black Farmer TV ad. Agency: Big Eyes

In Kaye, he recognised a kindred spirit – throughout our interview Emmanuel-Jones references his own ‘attitude problem’ and the difficulties it has caused him. In Kaye he saw someone with a similar single-mindedness and commitment to creativity. His wife, he says, told him that watching the pair of them together “was like watching two lovers!… this commercial demonstrates what could happen when a creative and a client really work together.”

To create memorable, distinctive advertising, Emmanuel-Jones argues, clients must work directly with creatives, just as he did. “I will say to anybody thinking of working with an ad agency, ‘bugger the suits, they are an absolute waste of time, you want to build a really good relationship with the creatives’…if you go back to the heyday of advertising, it came about when creatives were gods. The moment when the suits took over, the creatives got pushed to the background.”

No doubt this will be music to the ears of many CR readers, as will his desire to see an “age of the creative” where courageous brands can access the visionary talent that can transform their fortunes.

“Agencies need to work with people who are small and courageous, if you are a careerist marketing director you are not going to be courageous,” he says. “When you think of the great Guinness Surfer ad there was a mentality that the creatives were in charge, that the client would want to be linked to this piece of art. That’s where we need to get back to because art will sell. I want to make art”

Wilfred Emmanuel-Jones in The Black Farmer TV ad. Agency: Big Eyes
Wilfred Emmanuel-Jones in The Black Farmer TV ad. Agency: Big Eyes

But I like this line from our interview: “People work for you for two reasons – to pay the mortgage or for glory. I like to work with people who are seeking glory”.

Whatever ‘glory’ means to you, we could all do with more clients who share that attitude.

The Black Farmer commercial, which was created by Big Eyes (CD: Martin Galton) will be on screens in February. Watch this space. CR’s February Food and Drink issue is out on January 21

Update: After month’s of anticipating the ad was released in April 2016. Read full story here

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