Ron Collins died last week.
He was one of the people who made UK advertising the best in the world.
In the days when it really was the best in the world.
One of the stories everyone knows about Ron is the Sooty story.
Apparently he was sitting in his office while a student was showing him his portfolio.
Ron had a Sooty puppet on his hand.
The student laid his book on Ron’s desk.
Ron flicked over the pages.
As he looked at the book, so did Sooty.
Eventually Ron closed the portfolio.
Sooty whispered in Ron’s ear.
Ron said to the student “Sooty says your book’s shit.”
That’s the story.
The only slightly iffy part is, it isn’t true.
But, as Churchill said, “Never let the truth spoil a good story.”
And that is a good story.
I always assumed if you hear a story about someone it must be true.
No smoke without fire, and all that.
Until recently, I met an account man called Rick Sear.
He used to be a trainee at BMP when I was there.
We were reminiscing about the old days and he said “I remember the time you drew all over Rick Cook’s office and Raymond Chow made you wipe it off.”
I said, “Hang about. That wasn’t me that was Hamish Pringle.”
What had actually happened was Rick Cook, a copywriter, had been taking the piss out of Hamish, an account man.
Rick was very good at taking the piss.
And eventually Hamish got so fed up he said “You’re a turkey (Rick’s nickname) so you should have a cage.”
And he drew criss-cross lines all over Cookie’s glass office.
Ray Chow was the office manager.
He was a Chinese cockney, and he’d been in the Marine Commandos.
Ray said to Cookie “Come on Rick, clean all this off.”
Rick said he wasn’t doing it.
Hamish put it on, make him wipe it off.
So that’s what Ray Chow did.
And you had an account man having to get down on his knees and use lighter fluid to clean indelible marker off Cookie’s office, while the entire creative department stood around jeering.
That’s what made it memorable.
When I reminded Rick Sear about that, he said “Oh you might be right. Pity, because I’ve dined out on that story.”
Personally I think it’s a better story with Hamish, anyway.
As we were discussing it Amanda Walsh said a similar thing had happened to her.
She said “Someone told me a story was going around town that, when I was MD at WCRS, I’d made another account handler go home before a meeting and change her dress, just because it was the same as the dress I was wearing.”
And Amanda swore it wasn’t true.
More recently, Ben Kay repeated a story on his blog: If This Is A Blog Then What’s Christmas?
It was about the award-winning copywriter Indra Sinha.
Apparently, when Indra was working at CDP, he opened the sixth floor window and pissed out of it.
All over the people in the street below.
Again, a story worth repeating perhaps.
But, again, not true.
To Ben’s credit, when he found it wasn’t true he immediately retracted the story and published an apology.
Not many people would bother doing that.
Knowing all this makes us ask ourselves, how many of the stories we love to tell actually happened?
Did Al Midgeley really dangle an account man out of Saatchi’s fourth floor window, by his ankles, just for taking some transparencies off his desk?
Did Tony Brignul really knock out an account man for changing his copy?
Then knock him out again when the account man said his changes had improved it.
Did Al Waldie really say to a client in Germany, as a passenger train was passing at a level crossing “I see you’re putting windows in them now then.”
Did Frank Lowe really get all his top art directors into his office to watch as a Mercedes Benz dealer drove all the different coloured cars past his window?
Just so he could get them all to decide which colour he should choose.
Did Gary Lace really………oh, he did?
If in doubt, I think we all prefer whichever version is more interesting.
Which is probably why Churchill said,“A lie can be halfway round the world before the truth has got its boots on.”