"I wish people more often cited the marginal and the maddening, the absurd and the abstruse from the world of art, academia and literature."
Is advertising an artform? This is a question we’ve been asking ourselves for generations. Some people say yes; some people say no. The debate goes on.
But for some reason, it feels like we’ve been talking about it a lot lately.
Just this week we had an article in FastCompany about “Turning Advertising into Poetry” (see picture above) and a lengthy BBH Labs post about there not being enough high-brow artistic pretentiousness in advertising. We can’t get enough of this art vs. advertising discussion right now.
So what is it about the world today that’s prompting this conversation? Is advertising cyclical in nature — are we just going through a DIY phase right now — or is something else happening behind the scenes? Something bigger and potentially game-changing.
I was reading a book by Richard Lanham the other day entitled The Economics of Attention and in it he speaks directly to this issue. He argues that modern art, from Dadaism on, can be understood and defined by its ability to garner one thing: attention.
This made me think about the advertising world today. Is it really any different? Sure, we have more obvious commercial interests, but aren’t we in the business of getting people’s attention in a so-called attention economy? I’m talking eyes and ears and feet. Traffic. That’s what business is all about; that’s what gets people to the point of transaction. (And for online businesses, traffic is usually enough to make a healthy profit.)
The point I’m trying to make is: maybe the distance between art and advertising is actually shrinking. Maybe it’s not just a DIY fad that we’re going through, but a larger industry shift towards artfulness and craftiness. And maybe, just maybe, we need to adapt and start embracing the power of art to garner attention.
"A brand is a living entity - and it is enriched or undermined cumulatively over time, the product of a thousand small gestures."