Art & Copy

Art & Copy explores the fascinating and mysterious world of advertising, which includes interviews with the talented minds that created famous taglines such as “Where’s the Beef?” and “Just Do It.” It reveals the work and wisdom of some of the most influential advertising creatives of our time — people who’ve profoundly impacted our culture, yet are virtually unknown outside their industry. Exploding forth from advertising’s “creative revolution” of the 1960s, these artists and writers all brought a surprisingly rebellious spirit to their work in a business more often associated with mediocrity or manipulation. George Lois, Mary Wells, Dan Wieden, Lee Clow, Hal Riney and others featured in Art & Copy were responsible for “Just Do It,” “I Love NY,” “Where’s the Beef?,” “Got Milk,” “Think Different,” and brilliant campaigns for everything from cars to presidents. It is fun to watch these commercials again, if you’re old enough to remember them, and hear expert opinions about why they were so successful. A survey of the glory days of advertising. This film features some the better known ads in recent times and offers a brief history of how modern advertising came about from those who have been in the business for a long time. Documentary director Doug Pray has assembled a great tribute to modern advertising’s early pioneers. One ad man declares that he turned Tommy Hilfiger into a global brand, and the goes on to show how he did it. We get a few blurbs about how Nike’s “Just Do It” campaign prompted some guy to ask out the girl of his dreams, and some gal was motivated to leave her abusive husband. This is a brilliant documentary that exposes the best of the best in the world of advertising. This film is less about advertising at large and more about the people, the individual cells of the organism of advertising. Art & Copy is not a documentary about the evils of advertising, nor is it a cautionary tale, nor is it a comprehensive study, which is hard to do in 90 minutes. It is narrow in focus (but no less enjoyable) as a look inside Advertising’s creative revolution. Art & Copy is narrow in focus the same way the movie Helvetica is about a single Typeface and not the industry of type designers nor all the fonts known to man. Brought back some great memories of the years with the ‘madmen’ on Boul Mich in the Windy City and the changes from conservative caution to the splendid and clever art that has come to be. I have been in the advertising business since 1970. I started at Leo Burnett, which was in the throes of the creative revolution Chicago-style — i.e. it had cultural conflicts between the new wave of the 1960s and the tried-and-true Midwestern, archetypal approach that was Leo’s signature (think Marlboro and Tony the Tiger). The film brought back rich memories, but more importantly gave a context and flow to this period of Advertising’s Reformation, in which the old doctrines were called into question. I was in advertising as an Art Director. The truth is I could have built a house with all the story boards I presented that were rejected. Good, fun, clever ideas. At the end of this glorifying documentary a sad fact is mentioned: the agency environment has to be cool and upbeat because there is so much rejection, i.e. sheer waste. It’s not natural to the human spirit. The message of this film is that advertising is not always about trying to get you to buy lots of things you don’t essentially need. We can’t deny that advertising is a part of our lives whether we want it there or not, but watching this film gives some insight on why it shouldn’t always be regarded as a necessary evil. They even admit, ‘Hey, we are the devil. We are trying to sell you things we may not even believe in.’ Sure, we’re being manipulated–may not buy the product–but certainly appreciate being entertained by the talent. When it is done well however, in my opinion it is art. I do believe a great ad is a great ad, at face value. No one has to buy into anything that they don’t want/need to. Similar to liking the cover art on an album, but not liking the music. If you are one of those people who can’t wait for the Super Bowl so you can be sold on masterfully manipulative commercials, then this one might be for you. Whatever my reservations–of which I have many–and however jaded I may be about this industry and the harm that a lot of the companies represented have done–which I am–I have to say that this was a deeply fascinating movie. A brilliant, thoughtful, and artfully done meditation on the history and potential of advertising. An excellent film for anyone interested in the world of advertising and the nexus between art and commerce. A great inside look at the world of advertising. Worth watching. I was drawn in because I love Mad Men and was captured by its artistic style. I found this film very inspiring. I highly recommend it. Documentary 2009 NR 90 minutes.

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