Outside of William Shatner, there's little room in advertising for the grotesque or the bizarre. Which is too bad, says Marc Hartzman, senior copywriter at FCBi, New York, and fan of deformed 19th-century circus performers and other sundry curiosities.
For the most part, Hartzman, 29, has to get his jollies outside his day job. He produces a zine, Backwash, devoted to oddities great and small, and has now published Found on eBay, a book outlining some of the stranger offerings put up for sale.
"I started thinking, 'There's probably plenty of stuff out there that would be objectively bizarre to anyone who would look at it,' " Hartzman says. Among the things he turned up: a two-headed calf; a Siamese-twin M&M; a penis-shaped Cheeto; "The Soul of 1 Human Being"; a baseball signed by Oprah; a supposedly authentic hair of Abraham Lincoln; and a John F. Kennedy garden gnome from 1963. Hartzman's personal favorites include a goat-toenail bracelet ("Imagine the process of creating that, collecting that many goat toenails and stringing them together. It's just very strange") and a deer-poop paperweight ("I love the craftsmanship that went into it").
To give the book a twist, Hartzman e-mailed odd questions to the sellers, and got some responses. To the purveyor of "Dog Repellent from 1933," he wrote, "Is this here something I can put on my leg to keep the neighbor's dog off? He's cute and all, but I don't go that way. Thank you!" The response: "This product is older and is likely for DISPLAY or AMUSEMENT purposes only."
Hartzman arrived at FCBi from Pedone & Partners only a few weeks ago, and he's not sure how often he'll be able to indulge his personal taste in his new job. But he's willing to try. "We have conservative accounts," he says. "I'm not sure how far they'll let me go. But I'll see if I can push them."