Nine months into American living and my tolerance for advertising is at an all-time low, and as someone who works in the industry, I’m supposed to like ads an awful lot more than the average person. I cringe at every one of the cliched metaphors and ridiculous analogies.
Want to show how a depression drug makes you feel better? Cue a change from dreary black and white film to a screen filled with color and light. Need to demonstrate how good an air freshener smells? Enter a grandmother walking around her house sniffing a billowing curtain like her life depends on it. Or try to convince young women that they need a more convenient birth control pill? Why not show a group of synchronized swimmers throwing off their flowery swim caps with reckless abandon? Ok, so the last one is more original, but no less annoying.
If you don’t believe me, watch this.
With this in mind, when my friend invited me to go and watch Art&Copy – a film ALL about advertising – I went along intrepidly, hoping that it would restore my faith in the industry somewhat. From Bill Bernbach selling the Volkswagen Beetle by telling consumers to “think small,” to Dan Wieden telling us to “Just Do It” for Nike, to Jeff Goodby asking the oh-so-simple but incredibly effective “Got Milk?” question, Art&Copy featured the kind of inspirational advertising that makes you proud to be associated with the industry.
I’m not sure I’d go as far as my friend Dylan (and writer of the excellent Most Contagious blog) in saying that it is “art form worthy of adoration” but the ads covered in Art&Copy were incomparably better than the trash that gets in the way of my weekly Gossip Girl episodes (and before you comment, no Gossip Girl is not trash, it is high quality, high brow entertainment and that’s a fact).
However, although Art&Copy reassured me that there have been some wonderful adverts in years gone by, the film did not feature any of the new generation of advertising stars and other than a quick look at TBWA’s ipod ads, did not feature any recent work, nor did it address digital.
So I left with a warm, fuzzy feeling about the great work of past advertising, but probably with more questions than answers about where the industry is going today and what it stands for.