Dentsu, Tony Kaye deal never existed - Tony Kaye and PartnersDentsu, Tony Kaye deal never existed - Tony Kaye and Partners

SHOOT Story, based On Interviews With Kaye Studio Execs, Was Inaccurate.

TOKYO - A shoot story earlier this year reporting a creative/production affiliation between Dentsu Inc., Tokyo, and Tony Kaye & Partners (now Tony K.), London and West Hollywood, was inaccurate (SHOOT, 3/6, p. 1). Such a relationship never existed, according to Dentsu executives.

SHOOT's article was based on interviews with director Tony Kaye - who's since announced his intention to stop directing commercials in order to focus on running the studio - and David Wardlaw who at that time was at the helm of Kaye's U.K. operation. The reporter who conducted those interviews accurately conveyed the comments of Kaye and Wardlaw. Unfortunately, those comments did not accurately reflect the reality of the situation.

"We as a company have to endure a bit of bashing here," said Kaye upon being confronted by SHOOT over the erroneous information. "We - and I take full responsibility for everyone concerned - have acted in an incorrect way; certainly incorrectly in the formalities...within the courtesy of Japanese business and without question in our supply of information to you."

Prior to filing the story, the SHOOT reporter placed a phone call to Dentsu and received no response. Dentsu contends it never received any message. SHOOT regrets that it didn't connect with Dentsu at that time.

Dentsu executives read the story in late March but didn't voice their objections to SHOOT until a couple of months later. That notification from Dentsu came after a second reference to a Dentsu/Kaye affiliation appeared in a story (SHOOT, 5/8, p. 1) reporting a creative/production relationship between the Kaye studio and Saatchi & Saatchi, Auckland, New Zealand. (The deal between Saatchi, Auckland, and Kaye was confirmed at that time by a Saatchi representative.)

Dentsu and SHOOT began an informational exchange whereby the agency presented a chronology of what happened between it and the Kaye studio. In June 1997 after the Cannes International Advertising Festival, a Dentsu contingent headed by Hidekazu Aizawa, senior manager of the Dentsu Creative Division's Information Resources Department, visited three production houses in London: Tony Kaye & Partners; RSA; and Paul Weiland Film Co. (Aizawa was incorrectly identified in the March 6 story as a creative director in charge of an international creative project team.) Dentsu explained that every year it approaches three or four producers/production houses for an introductory meeting. This routine practice allows the agency to as it explains "check quality" and the state of the business. Dentsu said that during this initial meeting, Wardlaw expressed interest in pursuing some business with the agency.

Wardlaw related to SHOOT in its March 6 story that Dentsu asked him "How do you guys do it?," in reference to Kaye's performance in winning multiple Cannes Lions. A Dentsu representative said that remark was taken out of context and was meant as a compliment to the Kaye staff and should not be construed as the agency asking for help in understanding the concept of quality. (In fact, this year Dentsu garnered a Silver Lion for its Japan Tobacco spot, "Bench," directed by Keith Rose of Velocity Afrika, Johannesburg. Dentsu's team on "Bench" included creative directors Koutaro Sugiyama, Hiroshi Komatsu and Tooru Tsuya, copywriters Komatsu and Takuya Isojima, art directors Kazumi Murata and Jun Yoshihara, and producer Natsuo Amemiya.)

Dentsu said its initial meeting with Kaye resulted in Wardlaw requesting and gaining permission to visit the agency in Tokyo and make a presentation. According to Dentsu, that presentation in August '97 highlighted Tony Kaye & Partners' abilities but no business came from it nor did Dentsu staff make any definite plans or any indications to Wardlaw that assignments would be forthcoming.

Then nearly six months later in February '98, according to Dentsu's timeline of its dealings with the Kaye studio, Wardlaw sent Aizawa a proposal via e-mail. That proposal, related Dentsu, read that "because production business in Asia is somewhat different from the West, Tony Kaye & Partners would like to learn the Asian/Japanese practices" and in return the production company would like to show its "special brand and style of production to Dentsu." In its London facility, Tony Kaye & Partners would provide experience and training to Dentsu staff producer(s) for free while at the same time learning Japanese techniques and styles from the Dentsu staff. During the course of this "exchange training," Tony Kaye & Partners would receive some agreed amount of production work from Dentsu.

Aizawa answered that he wasn't sure about Dentsu's interest in the proposal. According to Dentsu, Wardlaw said that he would send the agency a sample schedule of a training exchange program and asked Aizawa to give the proposal an official review. Aizawa said that staff in his department and his superior would indeed review the new proposal and the forthcoming sample schedule. Dentsu said that Wardlaw further suggested that he come to Japan in late February to better present and discuss his proposal. He visited Dentsu on Feb. 18, 1998 and met with Aizawa and a few others. No deal or agreement whatsoever was made, stressed Dentsu. Shortly thereafter, Wardlaw and later Kaye granted interviews to SHOOT which resulted in the March 6 story.

In that story, Wardlaw also remarked that Dentsu was seeking to adopt a more sophisticated, Westernized commercial style and that the agency sees China as being the key marketplace for them; a marketplace that's "more culturally aware" of Western and international standards of advertising. Dentsu took issue with these points, noting that it has a track record of sophistication in advertising. Dentsu added that it views China not as THE key but rather one of a few key growth markets as evidenced by the agency's newest office there. In terms of Western influence on China, Dentsu's impression is that the number of Western foreign agencies in China was quite high compared to the number of Chinese and other foreign agencies. Thus the marketplace is becoming quite accustomed to a Western agency style.

In the course of that same story, SHOOT related some generalizations about agencies in Japan - based on Wardlaw's input - which too proved inaccurate. For example, the story reported that as typical of Japanese agencies, Dentsu does not have a TV department or maintain staff producers. The fact is that Dentsu alone is involved in about 2,000 commercials per year and maintains a production do many agencies in Japan Dentsu has a staff of 82 producers in Tokyo. Also the story mentioned that if Dentsu wanted to connect with a top-name director in the states, the standard process involved hiring a Japanese production company which would then contract the U.S. house. While this was true at one time, said Dentsu, the present-day reality entails three options when using foreign production companies and dealing with language barriers: hiring a freelance representative or coordinator who represents foreign production houses as a go-between; using a Japanese production company coordinator; or having an agency producer deal directly with the foreign house. From the 2,000 commercials produced annually by Dentsu, about 200 use overseas suppliers such as production companies, casting studios and post houses.

SHOOT regrets and apologizes for the inaccuracies.