I’m somewhat familiar with the world of advertising, though admittedly most of that knowledge comes from watching Mad Men. Either way I love advertising (well, advertising done well), so I was excited to see that Art & Copy was at Full Frame.
Art & Copy features some of the most influential art directors and copywriters behind some of the most famous ads of all time. These are the ads that have shaped pop culture – Apple’s 1984, Budweiser frogs, Nike’s ‘Just Do It.’
People scoff at advertising. Like, literally – when a factoid popped up in the film that said the average city dweller is exposed to 5000 ads a day, peopled scoffed. But advertising is what makes the entertainment system work; it’s what puts TV on the air and magazines on shelves. This isn’t really a surprise – publications are folding or downsizing all over the place because advertising revenue is down. This is even flooding over into online news media.
People want everything free and uninterrupted. I like free stuff (and I believe news should always be free), so I think giving 30 seconds of my attention is a fair trade off to watching The Daily Show online for free. It’s pretty simple – you don’t watch ads, advertisers stop spending money because no one’s watching them, and then studios don’t have money to make shows.
Of course part of this is to blame on advertisers. If all ads were great and entertaining, we’d be just as excited to watch the ads than the program, like the Super Bowl (though now that the Super Bowl ads are all online I just gained four hours one Sunday a year).
For every car dealership who puts their screaming kid in a commercial, or Billy Mays yelling at me about how my detergent sucks, there’s a fair balance of mediocre commercials as well as those few gems, and I’m okay with that. I’ll put up with it for good, free TV.
If you get one thing from Art & Copy it’s that advertising is hard and good ideas are rare. “Oh, it’s only 30 seconds, how hard is that?” Well, in that 30 seconds you need to cram a beginning, middle, end, send out your message, create a scene, create characters, emotionally connect with the audience and, oh, sell your shit. And after reading this paragraph, your time is up.
And for print ads, as you just read above 5000 ads are competing with each other a day. Talk about trying to stand out.
One very cool story in Art & Copy was the idea of bringing the Art Director and Copywriter into the same room (thus, Art & Copy). The Art Director is mainly responsible for the visuals while the Copywriter handles the copy, or text. Having the two work together is standard practice today, and you’d think that should just be common sense – they’re producing one final product, the visuals and text should work harmoniously together, but no, which is why a lot of old ads are sketches of happy family with big blocks of text under it. The revolutionary firm that did put the two together was new, scoffed at by the old, large firms (lots of scoffing), and, of course, they kicked ass (Think Small).
Art & Copy is on the festival circuit now. Catch it if you can.
Post script – found this behind the scenes footage from Apple’s 1984 commercial: