Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Advertising vs. Art (English Version)

What is advertising? According to “La mejor publicidad del mundo” (The world’s best ads), broadcast every Saturday evening by TN Channel (, advertising is art. If so, we could ask Dr. Americo Castilla, Former Executive Director of the National Museum of Fine Arts (, for a free space to exhibit commercials, graphics and radio spots next to masterpieces of local painters like Xul Solar, Petorutti and Enio Iommi.

But, is it really art?

The Cambridge Dictionary defines the word “Art” as:

1 [U] the making of objects, images, music, etc. that are beautiful or that express feelings
2 [U] the activity of painting, drawing and making sculpture
3 [U] paintings, drawings and sculptures.
4 [C] an activity through which people express particular ideas
5 [C] a skill or special ability

With a quick overview I didn’t find any definition tied to "commercial purposes." Copywriter and art director’s intention to generate impact is always important, but may the customer be interested to see all his invested budget turn into a work of art? If this profession would lose its core task, subordinated to marketing objectives, perhaps there it could fight its place to become the “8th art”.

A great example is a commercial put on the air on summer 2007 in Argentina called “Que te clavo la sombrilla” (“I stab you with a sunshade”, which in Spanish has sexual connotations). It was produced by the ad agency Del Campo Nazca Saatchi&Saatchi for the former mobile company CTI. All its production cost 800.000 pesos (around US$ 230.000). Once it was launched, people started singing the spot´s song or downloading the ringtone version to their cell phones. You could hear it also sometimes in renowned nightclubs and discotheques. To summarize, the commercial just installed an ephemeral sticky song in the society without any strong bond with the brand. You could notice it because people, when asked, remembered the commercial, not the brand.

Going back to the meaning of “art”, it is also "a manifestation of human activity which expresses a personal and uninterested point of view". The opposite happens when it comes to create an advertising campaign. The creative director puts all his energies to come up with a brilliant idea, if it was already used never mind, because it can be recycled (plagiarism) to win a Golden Lion instead of finding the best way, based on the client’s brief, to accomplish all the marketing objectives. Strategic thinking and dynamic creativity are left by side.


  1. In my own opinion... maybe advertising similiar with art, but it's definitly not art.
    In some other way i said:
    New Product/ Branding/ Rebranding = Advertising
    Art doesnt need all these stuff above.
    Art just an Art. It's expressed the maker feels. Not all peoples cant understand the maker feels or expressed.

    I guess that's all for now.
    Sorry for my bad english.

  2. As I told you personaly, I belive you are wrong in two major points.
    1) Te clavo la sombrilla, was a MAJOR hit in sales, and people DID remember it was CTI the brand. Sales are facts, not opinions.
    2) You are not explaining your point as in how art is against advertising in this particular ad.

    Based on what I have read in your colums, I belive you need to do much more real work and less studiyng so as to have a clear view on how does a real agency work.

    Advertising takes art into consideration to make more beatifull its expresion... Its the same close mindness that states that graffitis are not art... they are, its street art, as well as advertising is an art. The moment you choose to design an ad in a particular way to make it more beautifull, you are creating art.

    Ask Andy Warhol if advertising is not an art... he based his hole Pop Art movement in advertising...

    You say that when the objective of an ad is to sale a product, it no longer art. Let me ask you one thing, When a painter paints its paining, doesnt he want to sale it? Isn´t it that his objective? It is, and that does not diminish the fact it IS art, as well as advertising is also an ART.

    1. hello, i am currently working on publication about the conflict between art and advertising, and found this article interesting.

      @fogster your argument doesn't work. the objective of advertising is to sale another product. art does not attempt to sale something outside of itself. therefore art and advertising have different objectives.

      andy warhol's famous campbell soup paintings were not about campbell soup ads, they were comments on pass production and consumption.

      anyways, i do agree however definitions are sometimes arbitrary.


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