Years ago we used to do animatics, to test commercials before they ran.
The best illustrator for this was a guy called Harry.
Harry had a rep called Al Spartley.
Al was from Essex, and drove a BMW.
One day Al told me he’d bought Hitler’s socks.
My first question was, how much for?
Al said he’d paid £4,000 (and this is 20 years ago).
My second question was why?
Who wants Hitler’s socks?
Are they clean or dirty?
Are they worth more if they’re washed in soap powder or left soiled?
Can you smell Hitler’s feet?
Al said it was a one-off chance to get Hitler’s socks, and he couldn’t pass it up.
My third question was, how do you know they’re Hitler’s socks?
Have they got a little swastika pattern on them?
Al said he had a letter of authentication.
I repeated the question, how do you know they’re Hitler’s socks?
Hitler hasn’t signed the socks has he?
They haven’t got a serial number on.
How do you know someone didn’t keep the letter, but switch the socks?
Anyway, what does the letter say, “I, Adolf Hitler, hereby vouch for the authenticity of the attached footwear, and verify these are the socks worn by me during the establishment of the Third Reich.”
I found the whole thing very strange.
But that’s what museums are based on I guess.
People are fascinated by things that they wouldn’t otherwise notice.
Like a pair of socks.
Just because they belonged to someone famous.
So it’s not the actual object itself that we like.
In fact it’s everything that isn’t the actual object that intrigues us.
It’s what goes in our heads about it.
I used to argue a lot with Paul Arden about Duchamp’s bottle rack.
Why should I pay hundreds of thousands of pounds for that particular bottle rack, which isn’t even signed?
If I think it’s beautiful, why don’t I pop down to the shops and buy the identical thing for around a tenner?
Paul said it isn’t the same, that particular bottle rack is worth more because Marcel Duchamp chose it.
Like a photographer choosing an image with a camera, the artist chose that particular bottle rack.
Anything else is at best a copy.
While that may be intellectually true, even Duchamp couldn’t tell the difference between that and another bottle rack.
And, personally, I think that was Duchamp’s whole point.
It’s a modern take on “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.”
I think he was saying the exact same things exist all around us and we don’t even see them.
But put something in an art gallery and we notice it.
Because someone has told us that it has meaning.
That it ought to be separated off from everything else and considered as more worthy of our attention.
We don’t trust ourselves to work out what things are valuable or not.
We let someone else, an expert, an artist, a museum curator, do that for us.
The same is true of awards.
We don’t have the confidence to trust our own judgement about what’s good and bad.
We need someone to do that for us.
Some certificate of verification that something is more worthy.
We need someone to tell us what’s good.
That’s why we need all the advertising awards schemes.
And, more than that, that’s why clients need The Gunn Report.
To tell them which agencies are winning more awards.
Therefore which agencies are better.
I think it’s a bit like saying Michelangelo is a better artist than da Vinci because he painted more pictures.
Or Van Gogh is a better painter than Gauguin because his work is in more museums.
For me, The Gunn report is the “Hitler’s Socks” of advertising.