'A stick figure hits upon the idea of shoes.'
Not perhaps the most awe-inspiring story ever told, but in 1987 it won an award for the BMP advertising agency, thanks in part to the creative talents of the man behind some of British television's best-loved characters.
Throughout the 1960s and '70s, Gerry Anderson was one of Britain's biggest producers of television drama with shows such as Stingray, Thunderbirds and Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons. Prior to this, Anderson worked in advertising, creating commercials for television. But by the late 1970s, Gerry Anderson was finding it harder and harder to get projects off the ground. So it was that he found himself once more working in the advertising industry, creating innovative concepts to promote everyday products and brands. Though a number of other projects finally saw fruition during the 1980s, Anderson continued to accept advertising commissions too.
In 1987, BMP were commissioned to create a new brand campaign for the Royal Bank of Scotland and Anderson was duly hired. The result was 'Shoes'.
The advert, lasting just 40 seconds, illustrated the concept of supply and demand in the form of a scene where, in a crowd of spindly, pin-footed creatures, one such figure realises that what is needed in their world is nice shoes. He goes to a Royal Bank of Scotland financial advisor and soon after we see him selling his shoes to the populace and then sitting back and enjoying the benefits of a good plan well thought out.
The figures were designed to look like the sculptures of the Swiss surrealist artist Alberto Giacometti and animated through the process of stop motion. Having traditionally worked with string-operated puppets, Anderson found using stop-motion methods a challenge. Quoted in a recent biography of his life, Anderson noted that:
It was very difficult getting 20 Giacometti-style figures - with pointed legs - to stand and move about... We had to find a way of making them walk 'naturally'; I didn't want them to look mechanical.
To help Gerry visualise the movement of these figures, he employed the services of performers Andrew Dawson and Gavin Robertson, fans of his work and stars of the mime-based Thunderbirds FAB stage show.
The finished ad featured a segment from Benjamin Britten's distinctive 'Playful Pizzicato' from A Simple Symphony Op 4. The quirky music was the perfect accompaniment to such an unusual way of marketing a bank. This approach, albeit unusual, received universal acclaim and the following year, the campaign was awarded the Silver Arrow by the British Advertising Industry.