When a young Graham Fink went for an interview at what was then Britain’s most famous and glamorous advertising agency Collett Dickenson Pearce they told him they were not hiring juniors and were looking for applicants with experience. So he returned the following morning in a long coat and carrying a walking stick, his hair dyed grey, his face wrinkled by make-up.
“They thought it was hilarious, looked at my (portfolio) book and gave me a job. I’m a determined guy and nothing was going to stop me,” he says, before reflecting on another less successful stunt, a little later at his career, this time at WCRS, another blue chip agency. Just three months into that job, Fink had written a script for a television commercial.
“I wanted Tony Kaye to direct it. Tony was a wild guy and WCRS didn’t want him, so they cancelled the meeting. I saw red and had a little creative tantrum. I threw a Yukka plant across the room, broke the television and resigned, saying ‘I stand for great work and you’re trying to stop me.’”
This Yukka tantrum is one of the more printable of the many tales from the tearaway years of “Finky” as he is known in London’s adland. He now holds down the prestigious position of executive creative director of M&C Saatchi (founder and executive director Lord Saatchi). So it never did him any harm.
In fact, within 12 hours of Fink’s petulant outburst, the legendary creative Paul Arden had hired him at Saatchi & Saatchi and doubled his salary. That’s advertising for you. “It was really about passion,” says Fink. “But that was in the 1980s, I’ve calmed down a bit now.”
The plant chucking also helped to cement Fink’s relationship with bad boy director Kaye, who he has just lured from Los Angeles, to make the spectacular new Lucozade work that makes its television debut on Saturday (30 May) to coincide with the FA Cup final. Kaye, the director of the film American History X, (a depiction of American Nazis, starring Edward Norton), has for years been largely cut off from London’s adland, hanging out in Hollywood with friends such as Mickey Rourke.
Fink is delighted to have secured his talents. “I’ve known Tony a long time and we are good friends – he was at Colletts when I was an art director. People say he’s mad, he’s not mad, he’s a little bit eccentric and uncompromising, he says what he thinks but he’s good as gold to work with.”
One of many stories told about Kaye, 56, concerns his direction of a rum commercial, made in the Dominican Republic and themed on boxing. The client didn’t like the ending to Kaye’s film, and flew out another director to reshoot it. The British director thwarted the plan by “kidnapping” the boxers who featured in the ad and hiding them in a hotel until they were hunted down by private detectives.
The Lucozade work, predictably, is remarkable. The campaign was shot in the Crimea, with post-production in Kiev, it compares the achievements of sports men and women from different decades. The improvements made in sporting endeavour – and in the refinement of the glucose-drenched orange beverage – are reflected in the campaign title: ‘Evolucozade’.
Rather than use archive material, Kaye shot the lot, from the George Best era footballers in prototype colour to the pre-war athletes, who were filmed in monochrome with hand-cranked cameras. “There’s lots of black and white photography but all of that was shot,” says Fink. “We styled everyone with make up, mullets, moustaches, sideburns and old sports gear.” Kaye also shot six online ads and brought in the great designer Neville Brody, who founded style magazine The Face, to do the graphics.
In the past, Kaye has transformed the reputation of brands. His “Twister” work for Volvo, showing the car being driven through the chaos of a tornado, “made a boring dull car fantastic sexy exciting and tough”, in Fink’s view. He has just sent Kaye to Australia to shoot a campaign for Ladbroke’s. “He’s been a bit in the wilderness,” says Fink of Kaye. “One of his best mates is Mickey Rourke - they’re similar and both returning to form at the same time.”
Fink, whose love of good drama once extended to climbing onto the window ledge at Saatchi & Saatchi and threatening to jump, also has a taste for film directing. He worked at the Paul Weiland film company, directing a Brit nominated music video and a short film (executive produced by Lord Puttnam) that was nominated for a Bafta.
Lured back to adland three years ago, his office at M&C Saatchi is a homage to risk-taking creativity; a portrait of Pete Doherty swigging gin out of a tea cup, paintings by the American urban artist Michael De Feo. He also runs the FinkTank, originally a production company and now a resource for young creatives, who flock to events that include talks by luminaries such as Gary Oldman and Trevor Beattie. Across his pocket notebook, he has elegantly scrawled “fink!” He quickly recognised the value of his name in a business like advertising. “It’s short and always memorable,” he says. “But I knew that if I started doing mad stunts to get remembered I had to have the work to back it up.”
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