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The Relationship between Art and Advertising

The Relationship between Art and Advertising
When you ask people what art they enjoy, most will point to Da Vinci or Tarantino or Hemmingway. You may be hard-pressed to find someone who points to an ad and calls it art. That doesn’t mean that an ad isn’t art. In fact, one can argue that since the dawn of advertising, the two have gone hand-in-hand. 

Art is an integral part of advertising, both as inspiration and as part of the execution. Art is meant to elicit an emotional response in its audience. Advertising does the same. The only difference between the two is that ads are an argument for something, while art is a commentary. In every advertising medium- from print to radio to digital and beyond, there is an ad that was inspired by a work of art or executed by an artist.

Some of the greatest artists in the world got their start in advertising. Andy Warhol was an advertising illustrator for Glamour magazine before he founded the pop-art movement. F. Scott Fitzgerald was a writer at Barron Collier while he was publishing short stories (yes, writing counts as an art). Art, being such a personal thing, draws the conclusion what they learned in the industry must have had some impact on their work To say that advertising cannot make great art is to pretend those individuals weren’t artists. 

Advertising and art have similar, if not identical, aims- to make an impact on the world. With the expansion of the types of advertising available (digital, radio, out-of-home, social media, to name only a few), so too are its possibilities expanded. What started as an industry that made print ads for department stores has grown far beyond its origins. It’s no longer about making catalogues that sell products to make people’s lives easier. It’s also about raising awareness for non-profits and global causes. It’s about helping people’s messages reach a wider audience. Similarly, art is about sharing a perspective or a message. Both want to leave an impression.

Advertising, in its many forms, is getting increasingly adept at making a mark. Ask anyone who was a kid in Canada during the 90s about the House Hippo and watch as they affectionately recap fake facts they learned from an ad meant to educate viewers about critical thinking. Sing the opening “bada ba ba baaa” of the McDonalds’ jingle in a crowded room and someone will sing ‘I’m loving it’ back to you, as if you had started an impromptu karaoke song. Ads make a mark that last a lifetime, just like art. 

Art belongs with advertising, pure and simple. There might always be people who argue that advertising isn’t art, but there are also people who argue that the Earth is flat; it doesn’t make them right.