The film opens on an audio recording from Howard’s funeral describing him not as an adman, but as a master of propaganda, and it’s ability to do good in the world. Visually we are immersed in an animated scene bringing alive an allusive ‘third man’ type character - never quite visible, but always behind the scenes pulling the strings to make world changing ideas happen.
We are then introduced to his daughter Sarah through her voiceover, she was three when he died and so never had the chance to know him, her only memory of his shoes in the hall of their San Francisco apartment and yet she’s spent her whole life hearing all these larger than life stories about him. The visuals alternate between the rare family photos of Sarah and her father together and animation of his shoes coming to life.
Next we discover the Firehouse from which he ran his ad agency and created an epicentre of ideas. John Steinbeck, Buckminster Fuller, Tom Wolfe & Marshall Mcluhan were just some of the visitors he brought together, so that he could set in motion his next madcap plan to change the world.
Whether it was creating a nationwide craze for paper airplanes, saving his local radio station from closure by creating the Beethoven Sweatshirt or devising an ad which saved Grand Canyon from being flooded for profit; he did it with “mischief, laughter and well, just the sheer desire to tear life open”.