We are seemingly increasingly surrounded and bombarded by a surfeit of mind-numbingly boring TV ads, bereft of any creativity and starved of any inspiration.
Whilst some of this sorry band of underachievers, largely through sheer persistence, succeed in ingraining themselves in our subconscious, the majority of them drift past us unnoticed, failing to produce a flicker of emotion let alone alter a mindset or motivate behavior.
Once upon a time, telling a stranger in a bar or at a dinner party that you worked in advertising elicited a mixture of envy and admiration. Now, however, and especially in the United States, telling people that you work in advertising is greeted with the same looks of antipathy and disapproval that I imagine you would receive if you told them you were a Republican, a freegan or a vegetarian.
Last night I went to the IFC with a few friends to see Doug Pray’s documentary Art & Copy, hopeful that this might restore my faith in the ad industry and remind me why I was inspired to become an Ad Man as a youngster, when I probably should have still harbored aspirations of being an astronaut, professional footballer or rock star like most normal kids my age.
The film offers an insight into the minds and lives of the most influential advertising visionaries of our time and the stories behind some of their most famous campaigns.
Hearing advertising luminaries like George Lois, Dan Wieden and Jeff Goodby extolling the virtues of creating ad campaigns with the capacity to inspire people, and to change the way they think or feel, did not so much make Art & Copy a documentary that celebrated or glorified the whole advertising industry. To have made such a film would have required myopia of epic proportions.
Instead, the film served as a poignant reminder that when done well- and that’s a big when- advertising is indeed an art form worthy of adoration, capable of producing messages that can propel a slogan into common lexicon and capture the zeitgeist of a culture.
There will undoubtedly always be ads that irritate, infuriate and disrupt, but whilst there are still those individuals with the vision, passion and artistry to create messages and stories this inspiring, I’ll keep getting out of bed in the morning and I’ll continue to see a glimmer of light within the deluge of waste.
Possibly my favorite ad showcased during the film: