Newsmaker: Mitchell Kaye and the "paranoia of being average"

Ask around the industry about Mitchell Kaye, CEO of new venture The Academy, and a common canine theme emerges.

Mitchell Kaye: focusing on developing talent
Mitchell Kaye: focusing on developing talent

Described as a "rottweiler" in PRWeek not so long ago, this time the Mischief founder is compared to a four-legged friend with a slightly less fearsome reputation, though no less tenacious.

"I've always likened him to a terrier that would get a grip of your trousers and not let go," says Frank PR group MD Andrew Bloch admiringly.

"I have a lot of time for him and the fact he is hugely ambitious. He has a hunger that means he will stop at nothing to win a bit of business."

Kaye's ambition is well known, as is an ability to back bark with bite when it comes to seeing his vision through, resulting in the kind of success at Mischief that led to Engine acquiring the agency in 2011.

His singularity of vision has earned him widespread respect, if not universal love. One witness to Kaye's time at Engine says it was "very much a one leader business, in which you're either on his team or not", while another adds "he is aggressive in going for stuff, sometimes to the extent of pissing people off".

Kaye acknowledges that his way of getting things done may not have pleased everyone, saying: "When you make big decisions and are ambitious and impatient in equal measure you can sometimes divide opinion, but I think the most important thing is to be respected and earn respect through what you do."

No success is down purely to ambition, however. An ability to nurture talent and a respect for great work is typified in the key relationship between Kaye and his Mischief creative director Daniel Glover, a coupling that worked so well that the pair have launched The Academy as a 50:50 venture.

As well as sharing a "paranoia of being average", Kaye defines the relationship thus: "Dan and I have clear roles and strengths. My job is predominantly to make the business successful and Dan's is to make sure the work the agency does is the best it can be. We have clear areas of responsibility but we complement each other."

Outlining his and Glover's vision for the agency, Kaye maintains that too many rivals still lack the ability to combine strategy with creativity. The Academy will attempt to reach a broader audience than the "predominantly news and media" target he concentrated on at Mischief, and will focus strongly on "collaborating with the very best in our industry and beyond".

Perhaps tellingly for a man whose drive has won him friends and foes alike, when asked what lessons he learnt from his time at Mischief he highlights the desire to "build more time into teaching and developing staff".

"We chose the agency name because the word academy has dual meaning. The first is that it sets the highest standard in its area, and the second is that it implies a place to learn.

"Every agency has two audiences, with one being clients and the other being staff. Clients want the highest possible standards, while staff want an agency to teach them, nurture them and develop their careers. The Academy is set up to do both."

A more inclusive approach, maybe, but no doubt Kaye will be snapping at the heels of his rivals in no time at all.

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