ART AND ADVERTISING
There is a distinct connection between art and advertising. There are three major visual arts, sculpture, painting, and architecture. Of these three arts, very effective advertising is made possible by sculpture and painting. A formal definition of art is “For a work of art is the definition in comprehensible form of essential truth as the artist becomes aware of it in experience.” A relationship arises between a work of art and the observer that is complex, intangible, and undemonstrable and varies greatly with each observer. The beauty that results from obtaining a complete understanding of a work of art is derived from the sense of enrichment, of greater breadth and depth in the life of the observer when he realizes this beauty as a lasting and vital contribution to his life. The artist must bring out two factors in any work of art, namely objective facts of the subject which the artists attempts to bring out in his analysis and the synthesis of the results of that analysis. A photograph is distinct from art. It is a record, essentially a mirror image, of the facts of appearance and contains little if any of the timeless and characteristic quality necessary of a work of art, if those facts are to become significant.
There are three arbitrary, but distinct groups of artists working today: fine artists, commercial artists, and illustrators. The difference between artists is determined by the intended audience. The fine artist produces a single piece of art, which is displayed in showings, galleries, and museums, and expects his audience to come to him. The commercial artist goes after an
audience numbering in the millions, by producing inexpensive printed reproductions. Another difference is that fine art virtually never incorporates a written message whereas commercial art virtually always includes one. The illustrator produces pictures, drawings, and illustrations under supervision of an intermediary in the commercial art field.
Advertising can be called controlled, identifiable persuasion utilizing means of mass communications. “Professor Max Wales told his classes in advertising at the University of Oregon: ‘Often advertisers choose to promote product benefits that are psychological, emotional, even silly. To explain these benefits in words proves embarrassing. Or ridiculous. So advertisers explain them indirectly—through art. The art director, then, rather than the copywriter, writes the ad.’ Wales cites the many ads showing products being enjoyed in luxurious or intriguing settings.” The purpose of advertising is to bring together all of the various elements into one area to achieve an interaction that will communicate a message within a given context. The message may be conveyed and even manipulated by carefully juggling the visual elements. These elements are essentially words, photographs, illustrations, and graphic images, combined with a controlling force of black, white, and color.
The purposes of advertisements are: (1) to attract attention to itself; (2) to enlist the viewers interest; (3) to show the viewer a means of satisfying a want or need through purchase of the product or service. If the advertising advocates an idea, the ad is designed to create an affinity for that idea; (4) to convince the viewer to buy the product, service, or idea; (5) to show the viewer how and where to buy the product or service or to take some specific course of action. It is readily apparent that the best way to promote an advertisement is to carefully craft an art work to carry the message to the intended audience.
TV commercials must overcome two major handicaps, one being the hostility the audience harbors for this kind of advertising, and the other being the excess number of commercials prevalent in any given time period. There are three major categories of commercials: (1) the story; (2) the slice-of-life commercial; and (3) the testimonial. The parameters used to evaluate the commercial are based on the following: (1) what king of persons see the commercial?; (2) do they understand it?; (3) do they remember it?; (4) does it alter their opinion of the product?; (5) will they buy the product?. These are parameters that the commercial artist must adhere to when he designs a commercial. Any type of advertisement, whether of the printed medium or the electronic medium, requires artists with good abilities to design intelligent material so that an intended audience can be induced to act in some manner.
Posters conveying a visual message, have been used for several thousand years. Hence, posters are really another advertising media. The Hammurabi law code is one of the earliest posters known in history. It was inscribed on a diorite stele, eight feet in length (a granite rock), and contained twenty-one horizontal columns above which appeared a bas-relief of King Hammurabi and the Sun God who delivered to him the laws of the Kingdom. This earliest poster is dated somewhere between 2067 and 2025 BC.
In early nineteenth century England, almost all pictorial posters were of the letterpress-only kind. which led to difficulties with some of the illiterate London bill-stickers who tended to
stick the posters upside down. A breakaway from the non-pictorial poster was led by the Royal Academicians, members of the Pre-Raphrelite coterie, the St. John’s Wood Clique. “In 1871, Frederick Walker designed a powerful poster for Wilkie Collin’s Woman in White, a stage adaptation at the Olympic Theater. Engraved on wood by W. H. Hooper, it showed a heavily draped woman with her finger at her lips opening a door on to a starry night—a good device for drawing the eye into the poster and for holding it there by mystery and suspense.” Walker is quoted as saying “I am impressed on doing all I can with a first attempt at what I consider might develop into a most important branch of art.” Walker’s friend Henry Stack Marks, best known for his paintings of bedraggled storks, designed ‘Monks Shaving’ as a poster for Pears Soap. It was most unfortunate that advertisers gave it the rather inappropriate caption: ‘I have found (it) matchless for the hands and complexion.’ Although the picture is dominant, the poster shows no conception of the product and the message is lost. An effective poster needs clarity of both the picture and printed message to be successful. “The jovial diner-out, the man of knowing palate, may pass by the more pedantic poster, but may gather where he shall find Bordeaux without stint, or Champagne or rare liqueurs.”
“But it is not for nothing that we live in the age of advertising, and under the reign of the ad captandum. Crafty publishers said a book could be its own advertiser. It sported the most brilliant colors like a mountebank on parade; it made its bid from the window of the bookshop and threw dust in the eyes of the credulous passerby. But heaven forbid that I should say anything derogatory of advertising, which is a necessity of our day and the very soul of business, especially in bookselling.” It is established that a desire for advertising overrides artistic intention in reference to the illustration of book-covers. In fact, the more insignificant and commonplace the book, the louder was the cover. The vogue of the illustrated cover was started about 1885 by a true artist, noted as one of the most original and subtle of his time, Jules Chret. Chret was already known for his superb posters, which were eagerly sought after by collectors, and adorned almost every painter’s and sculptor’s studio. Jules Levy, who know Chret well, was the first to appeal to the great artist to design an ornamental design for the cover of books he published. The poster mania during the latter part of the nineteenth century furnished material for some rich and curious collections, which generated a whole branch of commerce and industry. Previously, only a few posters by E. Delacroix, Nanteuil, Daumier, Gavarni, Henri Mannier, and Manet, made up the entire branch of this art. Chret’s arrival on the art scene generated an entirely new industry. He produced hundreds of posters that were in high demand, and every painter was ambitious to become a Chret—but non licet amnibus.
From 1880 to 1900, the poster was transformed from a vulgar disfigurement of the streets into an art form and even a collector’s prey: at dead of night, the real fanatics would steal out with damp sponges to take the coveted Chéret or Lautrec off the walls. The poster also acted as a carriers of ‘that strange decorative disease’, Art Nouveau. Before the 1880s, posters had been modeled on, or only slightly adapted from the academic painting; now the painters began to take their cue from the posterists
Max Beerbohm made a cynical observation in the 1930s that “we need another war—to bring out the best in our artists and to kill of the worst of them.” One of the best wartime postrists, Ashley Hovinder wrote after World War II that the war expanded the opportunities for the artist in many ways, even though the emphasis shifted away from advertising commercial products as the war progressed. The majority of official posters were modern vivid designs of almost all the combatant countries except Japan. Japanese art design in military posters was pedestrian compared to the avant-garde art displayed in Japanese posters of the late nineteenth century. Poster themes of World War I were designed to attract recruits, but the mass conscription’s in World War II shifted the themes to a patriotic basis. From the end of World War II until the early 1960s an uneasy skirmish and compromise developed between photography and graphics in the poster. The Swiss school of designers began using photography widely in posters in the 1930s. The movement toward photographic posters was intensified by the competition of television which brought images of products right into the home with convincing realism. Today, most modern posters are mass produced but still require the work of artists to convey a message.
The magazine cover has been designed with imagination and beauty by many of the most celebrated artists in the world. Some of those with international reputations are: Henri Matisse, Pablo Picasso, Henri de Toulouse-Loutrec, Salvador Dali, and Andy Warhol. “For various reasons, when the cause was right or the magazine beautiful enough, artists of high caliber produced magnificent lithographs, photographs, oil paintings, charcoal and water color drawings especially for the magazine cover.” With the emergence of the new, modern magazine at the end of the nineteenth century, artistic illustration in advertising came of age. Legions of artists, diverse in sensibilities, obtained work illustrating for periodicals. Some of these artists were former easel painters who wanted to introduce the Art Nouveau to a mass audience. Other artists were primarily interested in experimenting with the new media of the magazine, which could reproduce art photographically and also print in color. Analyzing the work of magazine cover artists from a wide variety of countries, artistic persuasions, and many eras, yields a fresh perspective of the art over the past 150 years. Before the mid-1920s little difference existed between fine and commercial art. Artists around the turn of the century “saw art as art and did not see it as less grand just because it was reproduced for a magazine (as some would suppose today). Rather, cover work enhanced their reputations because more people became aware of their work.” Magazine covers have been an important contribution to our cultural awareness and historical understanding, presenting a visual record of human ideas and social movements as well as significant historical moments. Magazines reigned for about a century as the primary visual record of everyday life until displaced by television in the 1950s. In fact, magazines recorded the excitement created by three major inventions of the last century—the bicycle, the automobile, and the airplane. Today, our primary visual medium is probably television, with both good and really horrible advertisements
This report has shown that some of the earliest advertising employing art was the Hammurabi law code engraved on a granite rock approximately four thousand years ago. Since that time advertising art has been employed on posters, book covers, and magazines with the expressed purpose of promoting a product or idea. Today, much of the advertising we are exposed to is from the electronic medium, mainly television. Some of the television commercials are artfully done, but a larger per cent of them are quite poorly done. A recent television commercial showing two supposedly German engineers driving a Porsche automobile across America. During this sojourn, the two German engineers acquire treasures from various regions in the United States. This advertisement conveys a vivid visual message employing art. The viewer is led to believe that he can discover the good life by simply buying a Porsche.
These advertisements that we are daily exposed to in both the print medium and the electronic medium use artists to show the visual message clearly. In art, objects are represented in terms of an implied line to encourage us to see a similarity between objects that are quite different. “The tree, the tall building, the column, or the standing figure become connected in our mind by virtue of their verticality.” These are art techniques that are used daily in advertisements to attract our attention. Advertising is really an art in itself, since each of us perceives reality in a slightly different manner, some more so than others. As a philosopher once observed, “There’s no such thing as reality, only our perception of it:” This means that each of us will interpret art in advertising in our own unique way dependent upon our particular system of beliefs of reality.