Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Advertising & Art

I discussed this connection last week with my flatmate Julien. After reading this post from Christos I wanted to share my thoughts about it here. It feels like I have to go back to the beginnings of my advertising perception for this:

Since I can remember I loved to draw. When I grew up I wanted to be an artist, but after a rather early encounter with Adobe Photoshop I fell in love with digital art, and I studied to become a Graphic Designer. I very much enjoyed illustration, packaging, web design and branding. After some freelance jobs it became somewhat boring, and I recognized that I had the wrong approach – my aim was to make things beautiful, nothing further. While doing this I didn't think about the ideas behind the design, the core inside.

To explore this side of things I took ad concept courses at my college. I adored them. It was purely all about thinking and hunting for these really good ideas. I fell in love with advertising (as I knew it at that time), still my ideas were focused on simple, mostly visual executions. Making things look good – the process I still long for today – weren't compromised. After deciding on an idea I could still do the art direction and design of an ad. I just felt very right. When the possibility came up I came to the UK to study advertising further at Bucks University. There I realized that ad ideas need to be based on consumer insights, and product truths – there has to be a deeper core than a visual joke.

On this way I lost the feeling of doing art. Christos says that advertising for him is art. I have to disagree. Advertising is not art.

Why does advertising exist?
It has a clear purpose, to sell, to change behavior, to make people aware of a brand.

Why does art exist?
In my opinion the reason for art to be there – it is only the existence of it. Real art doesn't have a purpose. Some artist try to communicate a message with their work, at this point, I think, it looses the whole point of art. The art in this kind of work becomes a medium to transport the message. Art is there, to be looked at, not necessarily to be understood. Art doesn't ask anything of you, you don't need to buy anything after looking at it. Art isn't demanding, it is giving and wants only your interest in it.

Advertising cannot be art, it needs to compromise, it has to carry a message, it has to push the brand. In order to appeal to people it has to be new or/and entertaining. This is when art comes into play. Advertisers copy it, oh wait no, they get 'inspired' by it. Some examples:

Flat Eric by Levis = French puppet from Mr. Oizo music video
Honda's cog = Der Lauf der Dinge by Fischli and Weiss from 1987
Guardian Campaign Art Direction = Design exhibition poster by Olivetti

Advertising gives art a reason, it commercializes it. It fits the current trend in the industry to take a very simple proposition & strategy and execute it as creative and different as possible, like the new Cravendale adverts. The message (milk matters) is so generic and simple, it advertises the whole milk category, only the very left-field execution (the style is done by an artist again) makes it belong to the brand. That's why advertising sometimes relies on art.

The closest advertising comes to be art is when brands let artists create it. The Smirnoff ad from Michel Gondry is a good example for it. Also the adicolor videos white, pink, red, green, yellow, black.

If you want to be a good creative in advertising, confront yourself with as much art as possible. Today it's: whoever finds it first and can stick a brand at the end of it, wins.
If you want to be a brilliant creative in advertising, don't be in advertising, be an artist, they are the true creators of great work, all the directors, script writers, painters, designers,musicians and urban artists. Kudos to you.

Can anyone please change my opinion and tell me that I'm wrong? I'd love to be a creative and artist at the same time and make advertising that is art. Maybe I'd have to separate these two things?


Scamp said...

You can be an artist and work in advertising too, why not? Only trouble is it often takes a long time to create art. e.g. Fischli & Weiss film probably took ages. We haven't got that time. That's why we have to look for existing stuff...

Anonymous said...

Ok, but that means we're not creating but converting. Why do we call ourselves creatives then?

Anonymous said...

Hey Val,

Definitely a nice conversation.
We should have more like that.

To enrich the debate and launch another subject.

If advertising is not Art, all ads produced are Artefacts, prototypes, unique objects.

And this objects are definitely crafted by the hands. Given the small number of people involved I will call people who design advertising Artisan, Craftmans.

Creative are not artist. But Artisans.

This raises many questions : Artisan were extinct during industrial revolution. Is there an industrial revolution of advertising coming ?
Can the intellectual production process be optimized, streamlined ?
Will the future creatives be chain workers ?

Le Jetliner Rieur

Anonymous said...

hey val,
nettes poster!
wenn du deins hast, dann muss du ja noch meins haben. war ja auch in der huelle.

Anonymous said...

marco? do you mean the one with the cat? i have the container with the posters in germany so i will look up on the weekend, bu i doubt i've still got yours in it.

@rieur: never, no streamlining the process please, it should be creative shouldn't it? but some companies are trying to invent 'idea' processes, personally i think it's bshit.

Adsurd said...

lovely debate my friend! but it;s along discussion, however i have to admit that i agree mostly with your opinion on the subject i just always have in my mind that advertising is a form of art.. i might post for that.


Anonymous said...

I used to try and do both...be before I was taken; to the other side.

graoutso said...

I think there is no point trying to define if you are an artist or not. Neither is there a point to define whether advertisement constitutes art or not. There is no way that you will find a definition of art. After all, definitions are restrictions that exclude many aspects. You can never be sure if you have the perfect definition. from my point of view there is no diferrentiation. It all ends up in aisthetics. Thats what counts. In 100 years time todays' ads will be treated as art and indesposable parts of the history of culture.
My advice would be:
Stop worrying about the titles and the identities! If you claim your work as art, then it is art. Thats the only criteria to consider something as art. The rest is details. Just create. and the only sure thing I could say about art is that it carries the power of creation and inspiration. If you have these 2....you're an artist whatever the others might think..

Anonymous said...

graoutso, i very much like your opinion, you have some points i have to agree to, especially the last one – well said.

Adsurd said...

Graoutso, nice to see you here my friend!!! i think you are totally right! i will have to agree with you
real good analysis.

lauren said...

hey wal! stumbled upon this post - i'm way, way behind here. and here's my two cents' worth:

i think you're absolutely right in the advertising must communicate something [which will shift units]. i do think art still has to communicate something in order for it to be interesting, but it is not bound by commercial or capitalist restraints, which is why it's so fucking important.

i actually think it's really important to keep the two separate, because once artists cross into advertising, they cease to have the freedom of expression, but need to be 'on brief' - that is important for getting the job done. as soon as advertising creatives believe that they are creating art, they are hiding the fact that they're trying to sell something [that, perhaps, is unnecessary and that doesn't always feel good].

this is not to say that either is right or wrong, creative, or uncreative, or both cannot be beautiful, but i think the distinction is important, like the difference between fiction and non-fiction, between liberty and restraint.

Anonymous said...

hi lauren, great to get an artist point of view. distinction is important indeed, where it gets interesting though is when both sections cross and are inspired by each other, which is fine in the end. we all know that everything has been done, we're all recycling in a way and trying to do things better.

i think you're approach to inspire agencies with art is great!! original.

Anonymous said...

Oscar Wilde once said "all art is quite useless"