Skip to content


Reaction to first Point

Comment by William Bottin

I do not believe that objects appearing in commercials are pieces of art, although we mustn’t forget they surely are art-ifacts and that the Latin term Ars is considered equivalent to the Greek term Techne. Let’s not forget the best term to define the profession of a graphic designer used to be (and possibly still is) “commercial artist”. On one hand this could be enough to give all advertising the status of piece-of-art, on the other is the advertiser is an artist, what does make the “pure” artist different from thr advertiser?
After all both advertisers and a good number of “sensational” artists are desperately looking for attention and they do so by trying to shock they audience (advertisers appeal to possible consumer groups, and artists want media coverage and buyer’s interest - that might be considered just one of the many consumers groups).

Many people in advertising think of themselves as some sort of artists, “creatives” at the least. The word “creation” would imply the concept of bringing to the world something that wasn’t there before, which is an exaggeration: after all most of advertising is still based on the ab-use of sterotypical thinking and reiteration of cultural standards. Contemporary advertisting of cleaning products and home appliances for instance is not at all distant from McLuhan’s analysis in “The Mechanical Bride” (1951) and it appears to me that, even if the processes of secularization that have occured in the past fifty years allow advertisers a certain degree of discretionality when they portrait unstereotypical social behavior and non-traditional family values, our commercials are still examples of very conventional thinking. I suppose this lack of creative freedom (or, worse, creative ability) of contemporary advertisers may be due to their clients’ mental narrowness: after all corporations’ commercial interest do not go well with the risks of thinking outside the box.

Market economy started a long time ago and I think we should look at the way corporations choose how to communicate going back to the market economy of religions at the end of the 16th century. Think of the Gesuits for instance: they were at the pinnacle of they success back then. They had obtained Vatican acknowledgements and subsequently different branches in various European countries opened to fight the British heretics and deal with the “devilish” Luteran competition. The name itself Iesu Societas makes one think of a sense of commercial efficency of some sort. The Gesuits’ communication wasn’t of course a collection of tv advertisments or a dvd showreel: they used entire architectures filled with whole series of frescos. They would send their novices to study and pray in places surrounded by frescos potraying grand-guignolesque scenes of martyr, massacres, mutilations… all specifically commissioned by the Iesu Societas to (commercial?) artists of the time. Back then, nobody would question whether those frescos where “pure” works of art or, rather, advertising campaigns for the uprising and competing market of religious belief. However the violent imagery in the frescos was not coinceived by the artists themself, but by a sort of commitee that established a set of rule, a compedium of truculent advertising, which included bleeding, deformed, sufferening and generally unpleasant depiction of Christ and unidentifiable be-headed Saints. Surprisingly enough, the contemporary Gesuits are now the ones fighting against violence in television and videogames.

Going back to the question, I believe (although not religiosly) that the relationship between art and advertising dates way back to religious propoganda campaigns and I don’t think that the “promises” about the “magic” of any advertised product and the allure of any contemporary tv commercial are less political or less ritual than the promises of salvation and the threatens of damnation conveyed by commissioned frescos.