Thursday, 5 March 2015

Why Advertising?

What’s so great about advertising? What interests you about it? It’s an industry that comes in for a great deal of flak. Advertising is to a lot of people a shorthand for dishonesty. For superficiality. For the soulless materialism which, it is alleged, is consuming our world. Obviously I disagree with that assessment. I hope you do as well. But why choose advertising?

I’ll tell you my first impulse towards it. I enjoy self-expression. Be it writing, or talking, or any other form of creativity. Communication interests me.

But it’s always been drilled into me that you have to be practical. It’s not enough to be artistic because the world is full of artists big and small. So use it in a way that can also sustain you, in a sustainable way.
Hence, advertising. Creativity, but corporate.

That’s a bit unsatisfying as an answer though. I think there’s more to it than that. Because I don’t see advertising as just caged artistry. Advertising is practical art.

What I like about advertising is that it’s all about expressing ideas in the most engaging way possible – and it’s like any kind of art form in that regard. Maybe it’s a bit idealistic to say that adverts are a form of art. But both are essentially about communicating ideas.

In advertising the idea is often pre-determined. Perhaps “sell more toilet cleaner” is not enough of an artistic impulse. Perhaps that disqualifies it from being “real” art. But Renaissance painters weren’t obsessed with the purity of their work. Trust me, they really weren’t. Art wasn’t respected in the same way back them. So they did most of their work to order. It wasn’t art for art’s sake, just a way to make a living. Art was an industry – with clear standards, competition, and a vicious love of gold. It still resulted in some of the greatest works in human history.

(There’s at least one post to be written about Renaissance art and advertising. It will come.)

In any case, the execution of the ideas is where so much of the interesting work lies anyway. An idea is important. But ideas change as you express them.

Moreover, with advertising, unlike other art forms, there’s a clear way of finding out how well you’re expressing those ideas – in the commercial success of your advertising. You learn quickly how best to communicate to your audience. It’s art with energy, art with focus, art with fight.

So there it is. I like advertising because I like art, and I’m interested in communicating ideas. And advertising is like art after a couple of Jaegerbombs.

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