“Do you want to say anything now Tony? You want to sing a song? He says he wants to sing a song.” Two of adland’s more ‘colourful’ characters, Tim Mellors (right) and Tony Kaye (left), gave a talk to the M&C Saatchi creative department last week…
It wasn’t what you’d call a conventional lecture. About 50 people gathered in the rarefied atmosphere of the seventh floor of M&C’s Golden Square offices, where partners Maurice Saatchi et al sit at two long glass tables along the sides of a large open space with views over central London. M&C creative director Graham Fink, who organised the event as part of a series of talks at the agency, admitted that he had no idea what his two former colleagues were going to do. Kaye has something of a track record when it comes to public appearances, having once delivered a D&AD President’s Lecture dressed as an orthodox jew. This time, he arrived with his guitar.
Tony Kaye’s Volvo Twister commercial
Lionel Bart, who wrote the musical, Oliver, stars in this Abbey National ad, written by Tim Mellors and shot by Tony Kaye
By way of introduction, Fink showed a few commercials that the pair had worked on and a particularly grisly scene from Kaye’s American History X movie. As Mellors began to talk, Kaye fiddled about with his guitar, periodically disappearing into a back room, wandering about and generally adrift in a world of his own.
And so the evening went. Mellors talked in an entertaining, if frustratingly rambling way about his life in the business while Kaye, who suffers from a speech impediment, scribbled on long sheets of art paper and stared out the window. Periodically, Mellors, very much in the role of straightman, would invite Kaye to contribute, which he usually chose to do, with painfully screwed up face, through the medium of song.
Mellors, however, as befits someone who is a trained therapist (as well as chief creative officer of the Grey ad agency) was a bit more enlightening, at one point admitting an uneasiness with his chosen profession: “We learn about people’s appetites and then we over-feed them – I’ve always had difficulty with that.”
“This is a business that drives you to be egocentric,” he said, following another of Kaye’s ditties. “I couldn’t possibly have sat here in the past with Tony because both of us would have wanted to be the centre of attention [pottering about with his guitar at the side of the room, Kaye seemed to be doing quite a good job of that]. But even though the business encourages you to be egocentric, what determines the quality of your work is the quality of your relationships with other people.”
The star system is alive and well in advertising, where you’re only as good as the number of recent awards won – it’s what ensures career progression for creatives who are endlessly indulged. And yet those creatives are entirely reliant on others to produce the work – contributions that are not always adequately acknowledged.
“I can’t tell you how to do better work but I can tell you to value your relationships with other people,” said Mellors.
And then after some more musings about life, universe and everything, Kaye finished with another couple of self-penned songs. Quite what the eager young M&C creatives made of it all I’m not sure but both were an endearingly eccentric reminder of the kind of outsize personalities that advertising, before it became so boringly corporate, always seemed to provide a haven for.
Incidentally, Kaye’s most recent work is this seven-and-a-half-minute music video for The Hours, in which Sienna Miller over-acts horribly as she appears to go through some kind of stage school breakdown. Damien Hirst is credited as art director: allegedly, we hear, he persuaded La Miller to take part by giving her a painting worth £1.5 million…