No one likes adverts. They may make you chuckle occasionally, but really you're just humouring them until Downton Abbey takes over. I hadn't even begun to think of them as a form of art until I saw the new John Lewis Christmas advert earlier today. It cost the British retailer £1 million to make and a further £6 million to purchase the airtime in which to broadcast it. That's £7 million on advertising a bear and a hare. Madness. Have you seen it yet? If not, it's below. It's cute, but not seven million quid cute. What surprised me, though, was how unlike a typical advert it was, how, and I hesitate to use this word, "artistic" it appeared. The quality of the animation puts early noughties animated films to shame, and even Lily Allen has come out of retirement to provide her vocals. Do we not consider film and music as examples of art? Of course we do, so can we not the same of adverts? No, we bloody well can't.
I have put the question of whether advertising can be seen as art to friends, colleagues and family, and they all agree that it can be. They inevitably reel off adverts they remember over the years - if it involves surfing horses it must be art. Another example of marketing which appears artistic is Louis Vuitton's latest advert, which has already garnered over five and a half million views on YouTube. It features David Bowie performing a mish-mash of his latest single in the midst of a Venetian ball, and there is even a hot-air balloon arriving into an abandoned St Mark's Square. The production value is certainly high and it is, like the John Lewis and Coca Cola (the herald of Christmas) adverts, certainly easy on the eyes, but that is not enough to justify them as pieces of art.
Ask yourself why those with talent paint, why they make films, and why they make music. Money will always be involved, it is with everything, but more than anything else these artists seek adulation, recognition and reputation. Some desire their work to transcend generations, others view it as a form of self-expression, an articulation of their emotions and thoughts. I can't tell you who directed the John Lewis and Louis Vuitton adverts, and nor can a quick Google search. Adverts are not reviewed, their direction is not questioned and the standing of the actors is not queried. And I can say with some confidence that they are not a form of self-expression. Their sole purpose is as it always has been - to increase brand awareness. You can't tell me that Sean Bean demanding that I "be more dog" is in any way artistic, not unless you're a pretentious prat, in which case get out of my article. But it's done its job, here I am thinking and writing about it. I can fawn over how cute the dog is, or how great Sean Bean's voice is, so long as I know what it is they do and sell. That is not to say, however, that adverts are in no way admirable, we all have our favourites. Here's mine:
In his book Ignore Everybody, writer Hugh MacLeod maintains, "Art suffers the moment other people start paying for it. The more you need the money, the more people will tell you what to do. The less control you will have." Advertising is designed to manipulate its audience. There is no freedom of expression, advertising directors are pressured and paid to produce a form of marketing which lures customers.
Advertising is everywhere, it is something to which we are subjected. But art is something to be appreciated, not tolerated. Irrespective of how dressed up it is, an advert is an advert. Whether it be for Daz or Dior, their primary purpose is universal and identical - to make you buy their products, nothing more.