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?